The menu is the linchpin for every restaurant. If restaurants were cars, the menu would be the engine. And everyone knows a car’s engine is critical to its performance. The same holds true for a menu and a restaurant. As such, by optimizing your menu you will improve your business performance.

Menu reengineering is a vital strategy for achieving menu optimization. This article will guide you through the menu engineering process of how to analyze your current menu’s performance, and how to reengineer it for improvement. Let’s get started.

What is menu reengineering?

Menu reengineering is a business strategy and systematic process for building a powerful menu. In essence, it involves the analysis and redesign of your menu to increase sales and profits, drive operational efficiencies, and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The Menu Reengineering Process

Menu reengineering is the process of breaking down your menu item by item, analyzing each item’s performance, and then making adjustments based on those data and metrics.

The four key Steps to Menu Reengineering

The four-step process begins with an assessment of your “as is” menu. It concludes with an optimized “to be” menu and strategic layouts and architecture for your menu communications tools, including your mobile app, website, menuboard, printed menu and any other menu communications tools you may have.

Step 1:  Menu Assessment

It all begins with a thorough review of your current menu strategy, if your brand has one. Many brands don’t have a written and clearly articulated menu strategy. A proper menu strategy prioritizes your food and beverage categories and products and establishes how each will grow your sales and profits in accord with the brand’s business plan.

 Next determine your current menu strengths and weaknesses, item by item. Then create a list of key criteria and rate each menu item on these. Examples include sales, total food costs, operations complexity, price, margin contribution among others.

Identify key opportunities relative to your individual menu items. This could include determining what makes your star products popular and applying these principles to another item.  Other opportunities could be to cut costs on select items without sacrificing quality and rebranding high profit, but medium selling items to generate increased customer awareness and interest.

Now it’s time to look externally to see how your menu compares with and differs versus your key competitors. Do you have unique and craveable signature items that your guests can only get by visiting your restaurants?

Step 2:  Menu Simplification

It is critically important to conduct a TURF Analysis to determine the shortest list of menu items to satisfy the vast majority of your customers.  Streamlining your menu will speed up back of house menu item preparation time, reduce inventory levels and improve customer ease and speed of ordering.

Use menu operations analytics and item complexity ratings to further streamline your menu. This could entail simplifying the preparation of certain items and eliminating those that are determined to be too labor intensive.

Now it’s time to develop an optimized food and beverage menu based on the data, analytics, and metrics generated and assessed in Steps 1-2.

Step 3: Menu Strategy

With your new, optimized menu in hand, establish clear and measurable business objectives for it.

Based on these objectives, prioritize your food and beverage platforms, categories and items.

Maximize revenue and profitability by establishing appropriate pricing parameters and increasing prices on low risk and price elastic items.

Develop a new menu strategy based on these actions.

Step 4:  Menu Architecture

Take your new menu strategy and use it as a guide to reorganize your key menu communication tools (mobile app, website, menuboard, etc.).

Allocate more real estate and prominent positioning to your highest selling and margin items along with those deemed important for strategic reasons.

Now develop optimized menu strategic layouts and architecture in schematic wire forms for each of your menu communication tools.

So, there it is—how to reengineer your menu for optimal performance. It should be noted this process will take some time, because sound menu reengineering requires solid actionable data and strategic direction. That being said, once the menu reengineering process is completed, the next step is the development of an enhanced menu communications and design program. This program will use the strategic menu layouts and schematics developed in Step 4 as a framework for the design of your new communications tools.

Tom Cook is a Principal of King-Casey. For more than half a century, King-Casey has been helping restaurant brands grow their businesses and dramatically improve the customer experience. King-Casey’s solutions are firmly grounded in insights derived from hard data and analytics relative to consumer behavior. King-Casey provides a complete range of menu optimization services including assessment, research, menu reengineering, menu strategy, and menu communications. King-Casey and Personica recently started working together to help restaurant brands optimize their menus and pricing strategy.

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