The food and restaurant business is a highly competitive one. Hence, entrepreneurs and marketers in this field are always thinking of ways to differentiate. Experts will tell you that the devil is in the details. So with restaurant marketing, your best strategies aren’t always “out there,” but in your current practices. Take your restaurant menu for example.

Sometimes, we don’t think much about our store menu, believing that as long as all our bestsellers are visible, we’re all good. But the menu is arguably one of the highest converting marketing tools in your business’ arsenal. There has been a growing practice called menu engineering, which looks into every detail of a menu and helps restaurants understand how they can use their menus to increase restaurant profits.

How can you use menu engineering to increase your profits? Here are some good starting points to look into if you want to turn your menu planning and designing into a science that maximizes restaurant growth and sales.

Draw attention to high-profit margin items

When pursuing a culinary arts degree, you probably learned about food pricing. High sales items aren’t always your most profitable entries to your menu as food preparation costs might eat into your profits. One of the best practices of menu engineering examples is to take a look into the profit margins of each item on your menu and tell you which one brings the most net income to a restaurant. 

When engineering a menu design, try to draw people’s attention to high-profit margin items. You can also use popular but low-profit items to decoy people into buying high-profit entries. One practice that successful restaurants do is bundle high-profit and low-profit items for a discounted price. As per the menu engineering grid, high-profit items should go on the upper right corner as that’s where more popular and quickly selected items go on a menu.

Use pricing strategies

A menu pricing strategy could become the make or break factor that determines a restaurant’s profitability. There are many tactics that restaurant owners and managers can deploy to encourage purchase. Sometimes, those strategies can be as subtle as putting prices next to the items to help people navigate through menus easier. Other times, it could be as bold and blatant as adding slashed prices to food bundles, such as pairing a $30 Pizza with a $20 pasta plate and slashing out $50 and putting $40 next to it. 

An important aspect of determining pricing strategies is determining your profit margins on plates. Generally, fine dining restaurants will put up higher profit margins to allow for more room to add complimentary service and add-ons, going anywhere between 70 to 75%. Quick-service restaurants will have lower profit margins (around 50 to 60%) because customer turnover can also be faster. Determine how much of that margin can be allotted to discounts on bundles and specials to avoid eating into profits. Some restaurants work through a menu engineering worksheet to help them discover pricing sweet spots that maximize profit and product popularity.

Update your menu every season

Much of food consumerism has to do with providing fresh ideas as often as possible. There’s also the added factor of seasonality to certain food preferences, such as the rise of shakes and coolers in summertime or fruit cake during the Christmas season. That being said, a menu should evolve with the seasons through the year and through the years.

Taking time to review your menu and update it will help drive more repeat customers as it gives something fresh with multiple visits. Apart from revising menu selections, a restaurant can also opt to change the specials and offers to give the feeling that your business has added new items to the menu without changing much of the restaurant’s back end. 

Study fonts and readability

Another aspect of the menu engineering formula is the selection of fonts. It might not seem like much to the naked eye, but typeface choices play an integral part in a menu’s performance. One study reveals, for instance, that restaurants that use italicized fonts give an upscale and high-quality image.

Apart from typeface selections, menu designers also need to look at the font sizes, arrangements, orientations, and many other things. Naturally, one might think that bigger and bolder fonts might draw the most attention, but that’s not always the case. Trialing various font designs and then A/B testing them could also be an effective way to determine which font types and sizes might work best. 

Maximize color psychology

Close to 85% of consumers say that color influences their buying decisions. So it makes sense that colors will probably play a big part of your menu strategy. Naturally, a restaurant might use its brand colors on a menu, but playing with shades itself could make the world of a difference. 

Colors can invoke various emotions. For instance, putting prices in red might not be the best idea as red often indicates a red flag and veers people away from numbers as it will indicate an expense of loss.

Every Bit Matters

A menu is more than just a list of options. It’s a way to present a hierarchy that will direct and highlight the products that bring the most satisfaction to the customer and most profit to the business. So, every bit matters when planning and engineering your menu’s contents and layout.

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