The Hidden Goldmine in Your Restaurant

    Menuboard optimization is a key path to boosting sales and profitability.

    Outside Insights | September 30, 2021 | Tom Cook
    Menu at deli.
    Unsplash/Tim Mossholder
    An optimized menuboard is only as good as the menu strategy that is driving the effort.

    There is a goldmine waiting to be harvested in most quick-service and fast-casual restaurants. The reward can be found in menuboard optimization.

    Today, menuboards have taken a backseat to tech-driven ordering methods and solutions, such as online, mobile app, geofencing, personalization, and predictive technology, among others. To many, menuboards (particularly non-digital) are perceived as “old-school.” That said, those who think this way are missing out on a proven opportunity to increase their sales and profitability.

    The proven opportunity is not run-of-the-mill menuboard design. Too often the focus of menuboard design projects is on branding related graphics and aesthetics. While important, these do not directly improve the bottom line. Effective menuboard optimization is data-driven, utilizing consumer insights and analytics. These should then be interwoven throughout a comprehensive process consisting of:

    1. Menu Performance Analysis

    This involves a comprehensive review of revenue performance of menu items, their related transactions, and their relationship with other menu items. This leads to an understanding of the specific food and beverage menu items that have the highest potential for attachment, price increases, etc. Featuring those items can provide the highest likelihood of successfully growing sales.

    2. Menu Strategy Refinement

    An optimized menuboard is only as good as the menu strategy that is driving the effort. So, it’s important that management takes the time to thoughtfully develop or refine a menu strategy. They must establish how the individual menu items should be categorized and prioritized, and how each will contribute to realizing a brand’s business objectives. It's the menu strategy that helps drive a menuboard optimization initiative.

    3. Menuboard Architecture Enhancement

    Using the menu performance analytics and the refined menu strategy, it's time to optimize menuboard architecture. This step involves two sequential activities: first, the development of several optimized menuboard strategic layouts in schematic form (focusing on product placement and space allocation); and then, the preliminary visualization of these strategic layouts (to be used in the next step: consumer insight validation).

    4. Consumer Insight Validation

    This is typically an online, quantitative survey. It’s a quick and cost-effective method to determine which of the new menuboard strategic layouts resonate best with customers. This allows for the identification of one or more of the strongest strategies to carry forward.

    5. Menuboard Design

    The “strongest” schematic strategy/strategies identified in the previous step are developed into final menuboard designs and production artwork (the physical look, structure, photography, graphics, branding, colors, language and typography).

    6. Store Test Marketing

    The final step is the testing of one or more of the new optimized menuboard designs in actual store environments. Customarily, the test should run for 8-12 weeks to identify which of the optimized menuboard designs best meets the key performance indicators and will be rolled-out across the entire system.

    Time and time again this process has generated enviable ROI. As an example, a Top-20 quick-service brand realized a $15 million increase in drive-thru sales by optimizing its drive-thru menuboards.

    Importantly, the benefits of menuboard optimization can best be summed up by the comments of a CEO of a well-known chain: “The return on investment for menuboard optimization far exceeds almost any other strategy for increasing profits.”

    These are words of wisdom, and they are also true.

    Tom Cook is a Principal of King-Casey [www.king-casey.com]. 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 drive-thru innovation, and 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. You can email Tom at tcook@king-casey.com.