Knowing your menu complexity scores is good for business. By doing so, you can improve your profitability and bottom line.

If you’re not familiar with menu complexity scores, they represent a rating for each item on your menu in terms of its complexity. Read on to see what determines a menu item’s complexity.

A menu item complexity score is an overall rating assigned to an individual menu item. The individual item’s complexity score is determined by rating the product on seven key factors required to create the menu item. Specifically, the seven key rating factors, along with a brief description of each are as follows:

1. Assembly Average. The amount of time it takes, in either seconds or minutes, to assemble the product and package it.

2. Cook Average. The amount of time in minutes it takes to cook or heat the product.

3. Cook Assembly Rating. A rating scale from 1–7 (1 being easy and 7 being difficult) is assigned to a product.

4. The Total Number of Prep Recipes Used (i.e., Noodle soup requires broth plus noodles to be prepped resulting in two prep recipes).

5. Number of Unique Prep Recipes Used (only used in one menu item, i.e., teriyaki chicken and edamame are only used in the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl. Hence this menu item would have two unique prep recipes).

6. The Number of Unique Ingredients (only used in one item that doesn’t require any prep, i.e., mozzarella cheese which is only used in Lasagna).

7. The Number of Stations Needed to Produce the Item (i.e., sandwich station, panini grill, soup warmer, microwave).

After the seven key factor ratings have been completed for a menu item, the rating numbers are added up to form an overall complexity score for that individual item. This exercise is conducted for every item on your menu. Once menu complexity scores have been determined for each of your menu items, it’s the time to put these scores to use.

How Menu Complexity Scores Can be Used. High selling and/or high profitability items with low to medium complexity scores, should be given a high priority. They should be proactively marketed and merchandised to customers in all your menu communications (i.e., mobile app, website, menuboard and P2P messaging)

Low selling and/or low profitability items with medium to high scores should be downplayed with customers. In addition, they should be analyzed for simplification opportunities. For example, explore more efficient preparation techniques or cooking equipment. If simplification is not feasible, they should be considered for elimination from your menu. Note that a menu TURF Analysis (Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency) can determine the risk associated with deleting items from your menu.  In simple terms, TURF is a research instrument that determines the shortest list of menu items to satisfy the vast majority of customers.

There are multiple benefits that can be derived from knowing your menu complexity scores. That said, the No. 1 benefit is increased profitability, which results from reducing and streamlining the labor involved to prepare your menu and deliver it to your customers. These labor savings can be achieved by conducting a thorough analysis involving the seven key factors required to make your menu items.  Making improvements in these can have a significant and immediate impact on your labor efficiency and your bottom line.

Tom Cook is a Principal of King-Casey. Established in 1953, King-Casey is a restaurant and foodservice business improvement firm. King-Casey provides strategic menu optimization advice and a range of services to help clients manage overall food and beverage offerings affecting their positioning, reputation and business growth. For information, visit or contact Tom Cook at 203/571-1776 or email

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