Menu Engineering is a science. A lot of restaurateurs don’t give menu size and design enough food for thought (we couldn’t resist) when opening a restaurant. We will not be covering the details of how a human eye tracks across a page or focus on the psychology behind price perception but on how important it is to have the right amount of items on your menu.
Think about this, the amount of time it takes a customer to order off of an In & Out menu vs. a Cheesecake Factory menu. Although the concepts could not be more different from one another it is important to note that the longer or more complicated the menu, the longer it will take your customers to read through and decide what it is they would like to order. Time is money in the restaurant world. If you could turn a table just one more time a day think of how much more money you would have at the end of a month.
In addition to taking time and table turns into consideration when deciding how long your menu should be consider your ingredient list. The larger the menu the more ingredients. More ingredients means more inventory, prep time and possible food spoilage or waste.
Before you chop your menu down to just hamburgers and fries please consider that some menu diversity will help you appeal to a larger more diverse group. Consider the type of clientele you want to attract. If you are targeting families or live in an area with a lot of vegetarians you will need to have enough variety to appeal to these palates.
So what is the perfect size? Sorry to say there isn’t one. If anyone gives you a number DON’T BELIEVE IT. As the examples we used above there can be success with varying menu size. You will have to take multiple factors into consideration when making this decision such as; location (breakfast, lunch, dinner), demographics, restaurant size and dining area, restaurant theme, and of course your ability to execute each item on your menu well.
Don’t despair we do have some advice. We recommend you go over the menu you have now, are there a few items you could get rid of? Are there dishes in which you could change and use the same ingredients as other staple items on your menu to cut your inventory back? For example, are you using different cuts of a meat that you don’t have to when chicken breast or skirt steak could work for three or more items? We would also recommend training your FOH and BOH team to cater and encourage substitutions. We know this is a pain! Your FOH will complain that BOH makes their life hard and vise versa. However, remind them that both the customer is giving your restaurant the opportunity to make something they will LOVE and this is exactly why you have a restaurant, is to delight customers and have them return to your establishment on a regular basis. Allowing substitutions is a great was to help take some of the fear out of removing items from your menu.