Two young African Americans work on their menu

A lot of folks in the media and the hospitality industry are talking about how labor shortages, supply chain issues and an impending recession are affecting restaurants. The common advice in regard to these issues is to tighten up operations and simplify menus, which is great but I think this is something that small restaurants in particular should be doing already.

It’s always good business to simplify your menu. Offering a tight menu forces you to get really good at producing your core items, helps increase word of mouth traffic to your restaurant, and creates a better, more profitable menu. 

Let’s dive into the details. 

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

It’s very hard to do 100 things really well. When you focus on 5-10 items, you’re typically going to have much better results. Simplifying your menu ensures that you’re going to get that handful of items right, that they’ll be consistent, that they’ll be delicious and attractive to your customers. 

The most successful Mom-and-Pop restaurants, food trucks and even the Big Chains know this. They don’t “spray and pray” that whatever they throw on the menu will be good or add items just for fun. They have a method to their menu and it starts with perfecting a small menu and testing what their customers want (and don’t want). 


Increase Word of (Hungry) Mouth Guests

Keeping a simple menu helps tremendously with word of mouth traffic to your restaurant. When a customer comes in and loves your food, they’re going to tell their family and friends. A few of those family and friends will want to come in and try that food, too. If your menu is too big and too complicated the customer will a) be overwhelmed by options, b) might not find what they’re looking for, and c) the consistency of your product might suffer. 

On the flip side, if you’re known for a few signature items it’s much easier for customers to share their experiences, for your staff to make recommendations, and for you to consistently deliver on those expectations. People want to be told what to care about. That’s why people ask for recommendations at restaurants. They want to know, “What’s the #1 thing I should try so I can make the most of experiencing your restaurant?” Have a clear, consistent answer and watch what happens!

Menus that Make Money

In addition to telling in-person guests why they should care about your restaurant, you need to also think about the impression that your menu makes and if it’s optimally designed. I cannot tell you how many times I see a menu that is just something that’s been thrown together in Word with no thought about signaling to customers what to order. It’s hard to see because I know what a huge difference a well designed menu makes. 

When you go out to a big chain, that restaurant’s menu has been tweaked and designed over and over again to make something pop out. It’s not a random coincidence that the item is typically something that’s inexpensive and uncomplicated to make. The goal is to boost sales of these items that are easy on your budget and easy for your kitchen. 

You can also take this same idea and apply it to a signature dish that maybe has a little bit higher food cost or is a little bit more complicated to execute. In this case, you want to position this item as something that people will specifically come to your restaurant for and differentiates your restaurant. 

>> Menu Management doesn’t have to be complicated. Learn how to instantly and easily update your menus with Table Needs Menu Management.

Working ON your business 

If this resonates with you, then take it as an opportunity to simplify your menu. Start with an objective look at what’s working on your menu and what’s not. Draw attention and recommend the items that are working in your favor. For products that aren’t totally working, maybe because they have high food costs, experiment with the recipe and see if you can bring that cost down a bit.

All these little tweaks are part of working ON your business, not just in your business. It’s hard to find the time and the headspace to get into that objective mindset. I get it! Most mom-and-pops are just trying to get through the lunch rush but if you need help with menu design or thinking more strategically about your offers, then there are people like Table Needs who can help. 

Ready to tackle your menu? Start the conversation about Menu Management with our team today.

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