Marketing, Restaurants

Make more money with your menu: A simple guide to effective menu engineering

Follow along with us as we learn super tips to engineer a killer menu with guest expert Ryan Gromfin.

A menu that delivers both increased sales and happier customers? Is that even possible?

Yes it is. And we’ve invited chef, restaurateur, author, and speaker: Ryan Gromfin–aka The Restaurant Boss–to show you how.

For those of you who don’t know Ryan, he leverages his extensive experience owning and working in restaurants and 5-star hotels to help other restaurant operators increase their success. In the process, he has become the most followed restaurant coach in the world.

Ryan’s coaching services include online classes and private training for restaurant owners and operators. He is the author of Make It Happen: A Tiny Book for Building A Big Restaurant Business. Scroll down for a special offer on Ryan’s book.  

We invited Ryan to show you how to create the perfect menu with just the right mix of prices and products.

In this 20-minute video, Ryan will teach some little-known tricks to create the perfect-sized menu with the right mix of products and show you how to price them. Alternately, you can continue reading to learn everything Ryan covered in the video.

The menu as a tool

One can understand the importance of the menu as a tool by comparing it to a “sharp knife” for cooks–“it will do what you tell it to do, so tell it well”.

Therefore, if you “tell” your menu to sell your most expensive items that sell the least often, that is exactly what it is going to do.

This is why it is essential to know how to “engineer” the perfect menu.

Are you using your menu effectively?

What does it mean to use your menu effectively?

When you walk into a tire shop, for example, you see the list of tire types laid out, with comparisons of different tires to help you make your decision. It is a very intentional use of an item and price list.

Your menu is your most important selling tool. But is it doing the job you want to do? 

Is every item placed intentionally?

The question you need to ask yourself while deciding your menu is: is every item on it placed intentionally to achieve your end goal, or is it just a haphazard collection of items? 

Take the example of a taco restaurant trying to introduce a hamburger to its menu. If the hamburger sold well, the brand might lose its main selling point, which is selling really good tacos. The fact that the hamburger didn’t sell well is a positive.

Do you use data to drive your decisions?

According to Ryan, using data to drive your menu decision-making is a simple 4-step process:

1. Collect

This first step involves collecting data. Firstly, you need to know the prices on your menu, and how much they cost you. You can figure out an estimate on your own using a few invoices.

It also involves figuring out the popularity of some of your menu items.

2. Analyze

In the second step, you enter the data you have collected in step 1 into a tool called a ‘Menu Profit Analyzer’. This tool ranks your menu items for you. (Scroll to the bottom to get this for free with Ryan’s book.)

After you have entered all your data, it plots the items in the form of dots on a profit-popularity graph, which has four distinct regions.

  1. Winners are high-profit and high-popularity items. These should be advertised everywhere, from your menu to your restaurant windows, social media, and TV ads.
  2. Losers are low-profit, low-popularity items that you should get rid of or make major changes to.
  3. Solids are high in popularity, but their profit might be comparatively low. However, they get the job done and are dependable, so it’s okay to keep them on the menu.
  4. Challenges are high-profit, but low popularity, since they aren’t selling as much as they should. You could consider changing the name or something about the item to deal with these items.

Take customer reviews into account

When you’re analyzing your menu items, don’t forget to take into account the reviews and opinions of your customers. This helps add depth to the Menu Profit Analyzer and figure out what is bringing people into your restaurant. Reviews can provide information that the Menu Profit Analyzer doesn’t.

Take the example of an expensive bourbon being sold at below-market price at a restaurant. This is a huge crowd pleaser, as people would drive an hour to get the bourbon, and also bring company, which means business for the restaurant.

While prices, costs, popularity, and reviews are all essential, following your gut when it comes to deciding your menu is also important, although to a lesser degree than the rest.

3. Design

The next big step in menu engineering is the design, i.e. how the menu looks.

For this, you need to know ‘the flow.’

Source: Popmenu
Source: Popmenu

This refers to the order or flow in which people read a menu. Surprisingly, this isn’t your regular left-to-right reading flow. People tend to read the middle of a menu first, then the right corner, before moving on to the left.

Next in design, make your descriptions juicy. This means staying away from the “fluffy” words, such as prepositions and filler words, as much as you can.

Here, the third example is the most enticing way to describe meatloaf on your menu, rather than just saying “meatloaf”, or even “classic meatloaf”.

Another crucial element of menu design is photos–great photos. This point is of the utmost importance. These should be great, professionally taken photos rather than ones taken by your phone in bad lighting and strange angles.

In the absence of great photos, sketches can be used, too. Stock photography is also a good alternative that PosterMyWall has a great selection of.

You should only put photos of those items on your menu that you want to sell the most. Having too many photos, or a list of photos of every item gives a cluttered, unappealing look to your menu.

This sushi menu is an example of how using too many photos can ruin your menu.

As opposed to this, here’s a menu template from PosterMyWall. This template offers you only two spotlight positions to put your star item photos on.

Another great tip for menu design is to use Attention Grabbers. These can be:

  • Bolding
  • Boxes
  • Arrows
  • Icons
  • Anything else that gets people’s attention

Decoys are another design hack, and a clever way to use an expensive item on your menu to make a moderately priced item seem less expensive. An example is using a $42 steak to get people to notice a $17 burger underneath it–which is what you originally wanted people to buy, anyway. Thus, the steak serves as a decoy for you to sell the burger.

4. Tweak

The final step is tweaking your menu. This is a recurring step.

You should never stop reviewing, analyzing, and making changes to your menu. 

However, you should not make too many changes at once, because this makes it harder for you to tell which change helped you sell better. Do changes in stages that you can observe the efficacy of.

Get Ryan’s book and toolkit for free.

Click the button below to get Ryan’s book completely free (shipping costs not included). The book comes with the Menu Profit Analyzer, 60 spreadsheets, and 30-40 other resources to help you perfect your menu and develop your restaurant campaign.

If you’d like to learn more about Ryan, you can find him online at his website, or here.