Industry menus are getting smaller. Here are some tips on cutting back without losing excitement.

Inconsistencies in the supply chain, as well as price inflation and surging labor costs, have led to menus getting consolidated across all segments. Datassential reported that as of August 2021, 60 percent of restaurants had trimmed their menus since the beginning of the pandemic, with menus shrinking 10 percent on average.

But many chefs and operators considering a trim are finding out that some ingredients are more critical than others. So the question becomes, what are some factors to remember when it comes to streamlining menus in order to make them more efficient? And how can these things be acted upon without sacrificing some level of excitement?

Here are a few tips to factor in when consolidating a menu.

Count On Craveable Sauces

When trimming a menu, it’s imperative to have versatile ingredients in the kitchen. For that, chefs can turn to sauces that are able to be used in multiple applications, from an entree to an appetizer, or even served as a dipping sauce. Red Gold’s Fully Prepared Marinara Sauce is a good example: It improves kitchen labor efficiency and assures consistency while simplifying prep work.


As of November 2020, Datassential reported marinara appeared on 32.6 percent of menus and had shown growth between 2016 and 2020. One of the reasons for that growth might be owed to the fact that canned tomatoes and tomato-based sauces are plant-based and rich in lycopene, a nutrient that customers may know as an antioxidant. Marinara is then one of the key sauces that can help cleanse a menu by offering a health-forward ingredient that boosts immunity.

Use Proven, and Emerging, Winners

While burgers, chicken, fries, and biscuits have all been reliable, recession-proof menu offerings, there have been some other, perhaps more surprising winners that have withstood the pandemic. When designing a menu, keep in mind that at least one item should be plant-based, and call out ketogenic items on your menu, as Datassential reports they increased 63 percent on menus from 2020 to 2021.

Another tactic chefs can use is to apply a proven trend-worthy winner in a new way that is sure to create excitement. For example, a unique way to serve chicken parmesan in the quick-service space would be to add a marinara dipping sauce on the side to generate excitement, while chefs could opt to plate the dish in a format that has longer hold times.

Ramp Up Your LTOs

If your menu has to be trimmed down, it’s important to leverage your ingredients for more craveable LTOs that diners will connect with. And remember, consumers first eat with their eyes, so rely on photogenic culinary creations for Instagram-worthy dishes that bring traffic back to the restaurant.

To accomplish this, get creative. The secret is coming up with a unique application of an ingredient and turning it into a handheld, side, or snack they’ve never seen before. For sure-fire success, consider adding bacon or creating a family-size version of a dish for your takeout business.

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