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Ok, so last month, I wrote about the number of copies of a menu a restaurant might need and how one might go about calculating that number. This month I will come at the same question but in terms of how many versions of a menu does a restaurant need?
I fear that too often, this subject is not given enough thought. Too often, the menu is low down on a priority list.
A restaurant's menu is the single most crucial piece of marketing there is. Let's face it 99% of your customers hold and read this. In the vast majority of cases, the menu is the essential sales tool of a restaurant.
Think about it. You and your team will put hours, even days, into planning the food you want to serve and what you want your restaurant to be known for. Please don't waste that effort by just handing the list to a designer and telling them to arrange it on a sheet of paper. I'll say it again; please think about it.
The One Pager…one page, one version. The only menu in the house.
Lots to be said for this for many reasons.
Simple is good for both the customer and the operation.
If you give your customers one page to read, there is less likelihood of something being missed. There is less likelihood of too much choice (a common problem).
A one-pager will help a speedy order - folded menus can sit on a table unread for precious minutes as they are just too easy to put down.
A one-pager means there is no chance of the wrong menu being offered at the wrong time. A la cart getting handed out with the Pre Theatre. Breakfast is still being offered when the kitchen has moved on to lunch.
One Menu for each Meal
Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Three versions.
If you have that sort of market, it makes sense. There are not many occasions people ask for bacon and eggs for dinner. And lasagne is not likely to be a big seller first thing in the morning. Of course, there are exceptional circumstances, but having a menu for each time of day will help control what orders are coming into the kitchen.
I feel it is better not to show your customers something that they 'can't have. It's best not to show them the big breakfast fry up if your kitchen cannot cook it at 7 pm. So better to have it on a separate menu that is put away out of sight in the evening.
Out of sight, out of mind.
One Big One Small
This is my favourite.
Starters and Mains. Appetizers and Entrees. These are the big ones.
Desserts and Hot drinks. This is the small one.
How often have you looked at a menu with both starters, mains and desserts on it and mentally juggled with having either the starter you like or the dessert?
It happens. People will choose one of the other. If they choose the starter, a good waiter might convince them to have a dessert too. But if they decide the dessert rather than the starter, you've probably lost that sale. This menu set-up avoids that choice having to be made, or at least tips the balance back in your favour. The customer sees the starters and the mains and, at this point, is not thinking about the desserts. You hit them with that later!
Once the mains a cleared away, hand over the hot drinks and dessert menu anyway. Don't ask; just do it. There is generally a good margin to be made in desserts and hot beverages, so give them their own menu and sell them. Hell, you could even put a dessert wine on there too. This really will help your average spend per cover. If you leave it on the main menu, it is too easy to ignore.
Table d'hote, Set Lunch or Pre Theatre Menus
So these are in addition to your main ( and dessert) menus
Traditionally these are used to build sales at times that might not be as busy as you'd like. Generally, they are a package that offers the customer good value and helps the kitchen get some quick, easy wins.
Since they really should be limited in their offer, I believe they should be smaller, physically, than their main menu counterpart. If these menus are smaller, it makes sense to present the customer with the main menu; you might just get an upsell.
Veggie, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Menus
These dietary requirements and choices are becoming more and more common.
At the moment, most restaurants cater for these but indicate the items with tiny icons and colouring. That works, but again, you are showing customers things they can't have, which is always an irritation.
Why not develop a menu that is specifically for each o these groups? It's not easy, but it can be done with minimal operational challenges if your chef is serious about it. The customer that wants to eat from these menus is going to feel loved and cared for. So often, these are the people that will drive the eating out decision in a large group. If other restaurants are not looking after them, why shouldn't you?
This is Gold. Parents will pay more and travel further to keep kids happy!
More and more, like special dietary requirements, if you look after them, they come back, and they talk and tell their friends.
If you welcome children in your restaurant, giving them their own special menu will be a good thing.
Wine Lists, Drinks, Cocktails
If you are serious about any of these, it is worth giving them their own separate menu.
If you have more cash tied up in your liquor than your daily food, please give them the attention they and your cash flow deserve.
I don't know a great deal about wine, I hope to have an expert here soon, but one thing you MUST NOT do is literally treat your wine list as a list.
Please, please, please do not list your wine in order of price from lowest to highest or vice versa. It has been proven that it frustrates the sale of higher-priced wines.
If you just want to sell the house wine, then fine put it front and centre, but if you have exciting wines that make you good margin, then emphasize them.
It is widespread for wine and drinks suppliers to offer to provide wine lists and menus as part of the deal in stocking their drinks at no cost to the restaurant. While this clearly has the advantage of not having to pay for your menus, there are things to be careful of. Your wine supplier should be able to give excellent tasting notes and help provide accurate information, but you are giving up a certain amount of control. Unless they offer sale or return ( rarely, if ever), it is your stock to sell. You will be left with it if you can't sell it. Don't be bullied into taking things you don't want or being forced to buy volumes to justify prices.
Getting a free wine menu might not be as free as you think!
So there we have a few ideas about the number of versions of a menu you might want to use. It always will depend on your market and your offering, but there are a few things to consider in each case.