How healthy is your restaurant menu? By “healthy”, I’m not referring to the actual calorie content of entrees or the ratio of burgers to salads, but rather how the menu is performing. Is every item on the menu strong and selling well? Or is the menu sporting a bit of flab–dishes which seem to have gone out of style, aren’t selling well, and simply aren’t carrying their weight?
Every now and again, a restaurant menu has to be evaluated to determine its overall health, so that the restaurant can add new dishes and cut underperforming menu items to remain relevant and keep the dining experience interesting for customers By making changes every now and again, it can allow the restaurant’s menu to maintain longevity.
So does your restaurant menu need a little bit of work to maintain its health? If you’ve honestly evaluated your menu and determined that changes need to be made, then don’t worry–it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Here, we will offer suggestions for how to lighten your restaurant menu and improve its overall health for the long run.
What makes a “healthy” restaurant menu? As noted above, the “health” of a restaurant menu isn’t just about the nutritiousness of the menu items. It’s more about balance. Unless it is a restaurant with a specific theme, a restaurant has to have a good balance of types of dishes to suit a variety of tastes and preferences.
This is where actual the literal healthiness of the menu can come into play. For diners trying to eat healthy, a variety of fresh salads, soups, and a few lower-calorie entrees will be appreciated. On the other hand, for diners looking to indulge and really treat themselves, be sure to have offer comfort food classics or meat dishes like chicken or steak.
Try to give diners a good variety, without overwhelming them with too many choices. This is balance, and it will make for a pleasant dining experience for your customers without giving you as the restaurant owner too many ingredients to worry about.
Trends: should you follow them? A few years ago, gourmet foams were all the rage; now they seem tired and reek of trying too hard. Yet gourmet burgers are still going strong. How can you know which trends you should adhere to, and which ones you should dismiss?
It can be hard to know when a trend will take off and when it will fizzle. Rather than committing to a trend full-time as a permanent menu offering, offer it as a special; if it proves to be a favorite that your customers can’t do without, you can upgrade it to a permanent item on the menu.
Boost your restaurant menu: 8 tips for success. Does your restaurant menu need a boost or even a total rehaul? These eight tips can help improve your menu, and your bottom line.
- Go local. Local cuisine has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, and is currently one of the largest growing trends in the restaurant industry. See how you can incorporate locally produced food in your menu, and be sure to make note of it on your menu and marketing materials.
- Offer specials. Offering specials can make it accessible to give the diners a chance to try something new. It can also be a way to try out trendy items on your menu, and to create unique dishes featuring seasonally available ingredients. Specials can be single dishes, or an entire prix fixe menu. This can be a testing ground for a restaurant, and keep the dining experience exciting for customers.
- Three words: updated comfort food. Everyone loves the classics, like lasagna, mac and cheese, fried chicken, and meat loaf. If you can put a spin on these classics that is a little healthier and more refined, they will make a great addition to your menu.
- Allow customization (within reason). It’s a fact: people will want to alter menu items. Sometimes, this is so that they can adhere to a dietary lifestyle, for instance veganism or vegetarianism. Other times, the diners are simply picky. Regardless of the reason, be accommodating to these requests by allowing customization within reason. If the request is costly or time consuming, including an up-charge is sometimes appropriate.(Source: Flickr)
- Have options for those with food allergies or restrictions. There is a lot of awareness of food allergies these days. In particular, gluten sensitivity and intolerance are at an all-time high. There are plenty of restrictions too, including vegan diets, lactose-free diets, and so on. Be sure either offer menu items which are appropriate for common food allergies or restrictions, or offer dishes which can be customized to adhere to the diet in question.
- Tell the story of your menu items. Everything tastes better with a backstory. If an item on your menu has an interesting story that will make it a more meaningful culinary experience for your diners, share it! Include a blurb on the menu about it.
- Boost any benefits or special ingredients on the menu. If an ingredient is unique or special in some way, for instance “salad greens grown on the roof”, or “truffles from France” be sure to reflect that in the menu.
- Have options for kids (and not just chicken fingers). If people can bring their kids to a restaurant, offer options for them, too, so that the table isn’t occupied with non-paying customers. Fine, maybe you should have a few basics like chicken fingers or grilled cheese, but you get bonus points if you also have some more creative options.
Conclusion: Every now and again, every restaurant menu could use a little work. By taking the time to review your restaurant menu’s overall health, you can honestly evaluate the restaurant’s strengths, and where maybe you could trim a little fat. Boosting the overall health of your restaurant menu doesn’t have to require an entire overhaul, but can be done in small ways that make a big difference.
How healthy is your restaurant menu?