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Avoiding Menu Bloat: The Bottom-Line Value of a Lean, Mean Menu

By Jennifer Wiebe

Falling into the trap of adding more items to your menu for variety alone can be damaging to your bottom line. The trouble with big menus is that unprofitable items can lurk unnoticed.

Menu items that aren’t moving cost you money every day in stocking, storage, and potentially spoiled ingredients. Not only that, but a bloated menu can slow down customer decision making and decrease kitchen efficiency.

Let’s break that down.

Stock and spoilage. Managing food cost is important, so stocking ingredients that aren’t selling is a bad idea. Spoilage eats profits.

Speed of service. Order entry time on the phone, at the counter, and table turns for dine-in are critical performance factors for any restaurant. Slow-moving clutter in your menu increases the time your guests need to read and make a selection. That extra delay can extend through an entire meal period, slowing down service and sales for everyone.

Kitchen errors. Slow-moving items pose an added challenge to kitchen staff too; when the restaurant is busy, it’s difficult to prepare an unfamiliar item quickly, without errors, and in the proper portions.

So how well do you understand your menu?

The most balanced and profitable menus are those where every item comes close to contributing equally to gross profits—either through margin or sales volume. While this may seem impossible to achieve, it’s a goal to strive for.

Review your item sales in the POS regularly, and low-margin items that don’t sell well. Printing a new menu may cost you much less than absorbing ongoing losses.

A properly constructed menu helps you minimize spoilage and manage food cost. Nothing helps your bottom line more than the top line: fast table turns and properly prepared and portioned items will result in consistently happy guests and top-line growth.


Posted by Jennifer Wiebe

Occasional contributor of On Point, Jennifer led the marketing for SpeedLine from 2002 to 2018. She loves, books, yoga, playing at the beach, and commenting on bad TV with her family.

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Tags: point of sale, Restaurant Management

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