A restaurant menu is more than just pretty pictures and a detailed description of your food. It’s the identity of your restaurant and the main reason customers return to your establishment.
The National Restaurant Association reports there are more than 1 million restaurants in the US as of 2020. So how do you stay relevant in the competition?
Restaurants change menus to feature select items that keep things exciting for customers. No one likes to eat the same thing repeatedly (although some people do!). You should update your restaurant menu to reflect seasonal items, but at the same time ensure there aren’t too many items that clutter the menu and confuse guests.
In this article, we’ll list the reasons why you should update restaurant menus, and some tips on what you can do next to keep up with current trends.
Why Do You Need to Update Your Restaurant Menu?
Running a restaurant business includes such a long laundry list of to-dos that sometimes, updating the menu may be the least of your concerns. But it’s more important than you think. We’ll explain why keeping current on trends is important for menus.
1. Palates Are Always Changing
Customer’s palates are always changing, and it’s beneficial for you to listen to what they want and adapt your menu. Reviews and talking to your customer base will come in handy when finding out what they’re looking for or what they’d like to try next.
Palates also change based on what is trendy in the market. For example, when the salted caramel craze hit the market, customers were keen to try it. Restaurants were smart to jump on the bandwagon and introduce variations of the dessert on their menu. Some even introduced drinks with that flavor profile.
Do your research on up-and-coming trends and what’s possibly going to be in season soon. Think outside the box and explore ways you can set a trend, instead of just following one. Work closely with your team to decide if the new menu items will work will all franchises, or if you should only select a few locations.
2. Food and Dietary Trends
Food and dietary trends often come and go. For example, low-carb options were a big hit during the Atkins Diet fad, and we have been seeing vegan trends rising to popularity in the last year years.
Aside from changing flavor profiles, incorporating the latest dietary trend will attract a broader customer base. A group of friends is more likely to visit your restaurant if your menu can cater to all of their dietary needs, whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.
You can keep the classic bestsellers on your menu, but you also don’t want to lose out on the competition. Your menu doesn’t have to be overly complicated to include all the current trends, but featuring some new items can be exciting and make your restaurant more approachable to customers. A good menu has a balance between classic and new dishes.
3. Fluctuating Ingredient Prices
The price of ingredients is always fluctuating. Most restaurants will adjust to that by just increasing the price of their menu items or reducing the portion size. This doesn’t always work and can sometimes come with a negative response, especially if your customer base is already familiar with your pricing and portions.
Your menu should be a healthy balance of profitable and popular items. Sometimes the market price for a certain key ingredient is too high, leading to a much smaller profit margin for that dish. This is probably when you should consider taking that item off the menu and replacing it with something new and equally delicious at the same price.
This is very common with seasonal items. Take advantage of the changing seasons and incorporate something fresh that has available ingredients at decent prices. Not only will you be able to maintain your profits from that item, but you’ll also be able to keep your menu trendy and updated.
3. Labor Is Changing
Getting the right staff for your restaurant is always a challenge. The restaurant industry is slowly getting back on its feet following the pandemic, and though there is a demand for restaurant staff, there is also a demand for higher wages.
Reconsider your manpower and the number of items on your menu. Do you really need a staff of 20 to keep up with a menu of 200 items? Downsize your menu to include select items that are bestsellers and trendy. This will also help your staff keep up with the menu and better promote it to your customers. Keeping a menu that’s concise and clean also means you can keep your kitchen staff happy by not overburdening them.
How Often Should You Update Your Menu?
Deciding when and how often to update your menu depends on your location and customer base. If you’re in an area that’s abundant with local farmers and seasonal items, why not consider updating your menu seasonally?
You can feature seasonal items two to four times a year. For example, introduce pumpkin-flavored desserts in the fall and fresh strawberry parfaits in the summer, when these products are at their best harvest. If you decide to keep up with the seasons, find out how you can work closely with your local farmers to get the best quality products. Showing your support for local farmers is also a great selling point for your restaurant.
The other option is to update your menu annually. Tie this in with your marketing strategy and plan to launch new items on the anniversary of your restaurant’s opening. But keep the timing of introducing a new menu consistent every year.
How Do I Change the Menu for My Restaurant?
Changing a menu for one restaurant is easy enough. But if you’re introducing a new menu to all or some of your franchises, deciding how to do it can be confusing.
With support from a company like Crisp Management, you’ll be able to streamline your menu with their menu management platform. The platform allows you to customize your menu to include different products, combos, discounts, and more. You can also decide to push your menu to just a few locations instead of all the franchises.
Update Your Restaurant’s Menu Today
You may think that because your business is thriving, there isn’t a need to update your menu. While there is no need to fix what isn’t broken, why not seek improvements that can possibly lead to new customers and more profits?
Some of the most successful menus are both profitable and flexible. Change is a constant thing in the restaurant and culinary world, and a fluid menu will ensure your restaurant keeps up with current industry trends.
If you’re overwhelmed with how and when to change your menu, contact us and we’ll help you manage and streamline your menu according to your business needs.