Menu Optimization: Hit Pay Dirt with TURF

    Now might be a good time to give your menu another once-over.

    Customer looking at menu.
    Unsplash/Will Esayenko
    TURF can demonstrate the potential changes to customer satisfaction by making substitutions to the optimum solutions.

    A notable research instrument that delivers multiple menu optimization benefits is a TURF analysis. TURF, an acronym for Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency, is a mathematical procedure for optimizing sets of choices.  In simple terms, TURF provides two types of information:

    • The shortest lists of menu items needed to satisfy the vast majority of customers and
    • The average number of items that each customer would find on that list that they might like to order


    For example, a fast casual client had 37 core items on their menu. A TURF analysis revealed the menu could be reduced to 25 menu items (33 percent reduction) and still give 91 percent of guests their first or second choice of menu items. Moreover, those guests would have multiple reasons to return—on average they would find 2.2 of their preferred choices available on the menu.

    Within the contexts of the lists mentioned previously, TURF demonstrates the potential changes to customer satisfaction by making substitutions to the optimum solutions. For example, if food operations says it is too labor intensive to keep offering a particular menu item, TURF can show what other menu items might be substituted with minimal downside to customer satisfaction. All of the previously mentioned can be collected in a thorough and well-constructed TURF analysis.

    Moreover, a TURF analysis can be run for an entire menu in aggregate or based on individual menu components. For example, separately identifying the optimum salad choices, the optimum entrees, the best list of soups, the best desserts, etc. And, by appropriately adding questions about price/value, menu optimization research can also provide important direction for fine-tuning pricing.

    Taken together, menu optimization research built around a TURF analysis delivers multiple benefits that are immediate and direct.  These include:

    • Identification and ranking of menu items that generate incremental reach
    • Identification of revenue driver menu items (items that are price elastic and can withstand price increases)
    • Determination of items that drive customer loyalty
    • Streamlined menu through retirement of specific products that have little consumer affinity
    • Faster and easier customer ordering (through the reduction and simplification of menu items)
    • Increased customer throughput as a result of reduced order times
    • Operational complexity improvements due to streamlined menu
    • Reduction in service time (through elimination of labor intensive menu items)
    • Assessment of new product ideas to determine those with the strongest potential for expanding customer base
    • Utilization of data to optimize menu layout and merchandising of menu categories and items


    TURF is a fertile endeavor capable of producing abundant benefits that you and your brand will profit from.

    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 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