How to make your café or restaurant menu more profitable

2 March 2021

A menu is one of the most important sales tools in the arsenal of a café or restaurant owner, especially when in a window or shop door, it is a quick decision from a potential customer and ultimately if someone will dine in your establishment or not.

To make the most of your menu, it needs to be well thought out, and each item on it of course profitable, but how do you increase the profit of certain items?

A menu on a table

‘Menu engineering’. What is it?

Simply put, it is a way of using data (if you have it) of sales volume, and profitability of each dish. It is then a case of organising those items accordingly. It is still possible to do without that information, it just isn’t as concise or accurate.

You have 4 types of menu items:

  • High popularity with low profit. Consider increasing the price of this, so long as you are competitive in the local area still.
  • High profit, high popularity. Pasta dishes for example. You want to make these as noticeable as possible. Both in menu design, and also with your staff making suggestions.
  • Low Profit, low popularity. Dropping and replacing these are the most obvious solution. If you can’t get rid of them for whatever reason, try changing the price or sourcing the ingredients elsewhere.
  • High profit, low popularity. These are the unpolished gems. Try changing the price, description, or get staff to recommend these.

So what’s next?

Redesign the menu using ‘menu psychology’.

Use descriptive language

A Recent study has shown that a well written menu will sell 27% better that a ‘standard’ menu. Rather than just having ingredients, use adjectives, texture, or origins of the foods, people like a story to build a picture in their mind before the meal.

The use of images?

A study has shown images of the dish can increase sales by up to 30%. However, less is more, every subsequent image strangely decreases sales. Maybe just stick to a few best sellers, or high profit dishes.

Be careful with too many dishes

When given too many options a customer has a harder time deciding what they actually want. This can actually affect a customer’s experience by giving them ‘buyers regret’ with their choice and then seeing someone else having another dish they were considering. Also, if you have a menu with breakfast as well as lunch, and evening, it may well be worth splitting these down.

Eye movement

People tend to look at the middle of the page starting near top left and moving right, ‘known as the golden triangle’. As they work to the bottom of the page less information is taken in. Place your most profitable items towards the top!

Visual cues can also be used to highlight items. Putting a box around a best seller is a great idea.

Pricing ideas

Psychology studies show that removing currency signs from the menu can actually make customers think less about the price and more about the dish. I.e. having 4.5 rather than £4.50.

Final thoughts

Improving your menu design is a must and is often a fairly simple part of the business that is overlooked, or enough time not well spent on it.

It’s important to keep it updated frequently, and analyse what has worked well in the past. Get the staff involved with what they find easy to sell, even incentivise them and see the sales go up!

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