Over time, a fresh restaurant concept can become stale. What do you do to stay current? Maybe you are considering an update but don’t want to alienate your existing customers? This guide will help you answer the question, “when should you change your menu?”
We’ll explore the topic by answering these questions:
- Why should you change your menu?
- How do you change your menu?
- How often should you change your menu?
Ultimately, the decision rests with you, the restaurant owner. But the answer to these questions will help guide you through the process of evolving and updating the dishes you serve in your restaurant.
Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure
Why Should You Change Your Menu?
It’s hard to maintain margins
When you first designed your restaurant’s menu it made sense. You designed it to make sure you had a healthy profit all those years ago.
But the market changes. If you’ve been struggling with maintaining the profitability of the food you’re putting on the plate it’s time for an update.
Do some research with your food vendors. What could you do to tweak your recipes to improve margins without lowering quality?
Perhaps it’s a matter of portion sizes? Large portions were on trend a few years ago but changes in eating habits means that many diners no longer demand overflowing portions.
Whatever the root cause is, when your profits are shrinking, that’s a great time to change your menu.
When tastes have shifted
American’s eating patterns have changed in the last 10 years, even the last five years. More and more people are eating a restricted diet such as vegan, gluten free or low carb.
Additionally, the emphasis for many diners has shifted to quality, seeking out what they perceive as “local”, “all natural”, and “fresh”.
If your restaurant profits have slumped it could be because younger diners and those on restricted diets are avoiding dated cuisine that doesn’t speak to modern tastes.
Local demographics have changed
80% of your restaurant business comes from people living in a ten mile radius. Over time the population in a given community changes.
For example, shifting from predominantly families to retirees, as the population ages. Income levels may go up or down as some communities gentrify while others decay.
Economics plays a big role in who chooses to eat out. And these dynamics change over the years. If your restaurant has been going for five, ten or fifteen years without any changes to the menu, you may not be adequately serving the residents in your community.
To generate renewed interest
Maybe you’re doing just fine with your existing menu but you’d like to introduce new items for marketing and promotions.
Posting new menu items are a great way to advertise. On social media it’s easy to share food pictures and get “likes”. And limited time offers can inspire F.O.M.O — fear of missing out.
Read More: Restaurant Kitchen Management
How Do You Change Your Menu?
Gradually or all at once
You may choose to change your menu all at once. This can be tied in with expanded marketing or a “grand reopening.” In general, big changes can come as a shock.
Changing your menu all once can be risky if you have long time, loyal customers who always order the same things. Refer to your sales reports to determine which items are your best sellers and are sustaining your business. Leave them on your menu for the time being, until you can test new items.
Instead, gradually phase in new menu items to make sure they can beat the sales and profitability of your old ones. As historic dishes make their way to the bottom of your sales reports drop them off permanently.
Since you’re changing your menu, perform new market research. Ask your customers what they like, what they don’t like and what they want more of.
Reevaluate the demographic makeup of your community with help from the chamber of commerce. Have median incomes increased or decreased? What types of restaurants have recently popped up around yours?
Can you conform your restaurant’s concept to more closely match the needs of your evolving clientele?
Find a common theme
To change your menu without losing a sense of your brand and your position in the market look for a common theme. Capitalize on the items that are most popular in your restaurant and expand those options.
If your garlic pulled pork french fries are fan favorites how can you use that as inspiration for a new dish? Pulled pork nachos? A sandwich? Find a winning theme and run with it to expand your new menu in a welcome direction.
How Often Should You Change Your Menu?
Let sales dictate frequency
The ultimate arbiter of your restaurant’s success is the almighty dollar. Your diners vote with their dollars when they like something — and when they don’t.
Change your menu with the frequency necessary to grow your business. Change your menu when items drop to the bottom of your sales reports. Don’t be afraid of change for the sake of increasing sales.
Pursue a constant evolution
Ideally you’ll always be inventing new culinary ideas in pursuit of new and returning customers. Long gone are the “good old days” of slow change.
We’re in a rapidly evolving world where information is exchanged at the speed of light. The battlefield is dynamic and the only way you’ll keep up is by testing your diners tastes and moving with them.
There will always be classics until they stop selling well enough to support your efforts.
Seasons and specials
Seasonal dining is a trend in the restaurant industry that doesn’t show signs of stopping. And it’s good for your bottom line.
As prices of perishable goods fluctuate through the year so should your restaurant’s offerings. While you’re able to maintain a healthy margin your guests have a chance at a limited time experience.
Don’t underestimate the power of limited availability on people’s consciousness. Dining out is an event, even if it’s picking up dinner for the family.
By offering specials or seasonal menu items you help your patrons shake up their regular scheduled meal with a little adventure.
Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure
The answer to the question “when should you change your menu” is another question—why did you stop changing your menu? If you’ve let your restaurant’s menu get tired now is the time to start experimenting.
Look at your sales and start chopping at the bottom. Re-evaluate your suppliers and ingredients to find opportunities to increase margins. Find a theme based on your strongest sellers and expand the menu by introducing similar offerings.
Renew your interest in market research to understand the needs of your community and what diners want. Pursue a constant evolution with your restaurant menu rather than drastic overnight changes.
Test products by offering them for a limited time. Entice guests and spark their curiosity with specials and seasonal dining.
This guide to changing your restaurant menu is part of the free resource library provided by Rezku. Rezku is a leading developer of restaurant management technology solutions, including point of sale.
Rezku POS makes running specials and updating your menu super-easy. You can archive items and bring them back any time. With a drag and drop interface you can access at any time, even on your cell phone, and changes to your menu are painless.