Whether you are an entrepreneur starting up your own businesses or a head chef out there looking for ways to improve your current menu, it is essential to remember your single most important and valuable tool. If executed right, it will provide variety to the consumer while at the same time market and push your business and its products forward.
Ahead are some vital points which I feel should be considered when creating a new menu in order to sell your products and your business to its maximum potential, while doing everything possible to beat and stand out from your competition!
A well designed and well-executed menu can increase a restaurant’s profits by as much 15%. Therefore it is always wise to put plenty of thought into it. Overwhelming your patrons and yourself with too much detail on elaborately designed backgrounds can be a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, all products and relevant information should always be included, and not doing so would only detract from potential sales. But you should always organise and edit your information in a well-presented manner before starting the design process, and then try to ensure in its creation that it is as clear and user-friendly as possible.
If using photographs in your design, budget permitting, it is always better to hire a professional photographer to take quality pictures of your food. Using images from a digital or phone camera are often not as good and likely won’t stand out as well. Casual eateries and take-away’s, in particular, tend to rely more on the excellent quality representation of their dishes to entice consumers.
Once you have proofread your new menu and it has been launched or re-launched keep an eye on what sells the most. Over time it is usually possible to charge a little more than usual for the main favourites through small incremental increases while having the majority of items selling at an average to good profit margin. By making a healthy profit on the majority of your dishes, it then paves the way for allowing some possible ‘loss leaders’. Most businesses have these, and they can at least help with general turn over.
Marketing your product
Once you know your competition well enough, you can then identify what your own Unique Selling Points (USP’s) are. This can help you formulate your marketing strategy. If you find that you don’t particularly have any USP’s that distinguish your business from your rivals, then you need to work quickly toward creating some and then use those same assets to sell your business. This will help you to survive, or if done well enough, prosper!
A USP can be anything from perhaps an award-winning Chef to a particularly popular signature dish or maybe the super-efficient service you provide?! Whatever it may be, you need to begin building on it and then integrate it into your marketing messages through either your waiting staff, bar team, chefs or managers.
Make use of technology
Today it has become an integral part of a person’s life and can prove to be essential in the world of business warfare. It has become the number one way of getting your message across. People like to be connected 24/7, so making sure your restaurant has free Wi-Fi is always seen as a plus.
If/when building a website, try to ensure it is mobile-friendly as people more often now tend to look up places to eat on their mobile phones - usually through apps. Again, budget depending, providing digital tablets to order food, mobile payment options and tableside payment stations for convenience not only make it quicker and easier to spend with you but helps you to turn tables faster.
Whether through email or SMS marketing or via cost-efficient social media platforms, stay in touch with your customers by regularly updating them with vital information or any other content you feel will be useful to them. Your friendly, informative messages will help you stay on their minds, and they will hopefully repay you with repeat business.
Staying connected to your competition is also vital to keep you up to date with their marketing techniques - this can be done simply by subscribing to their email list and following their brands on social media.
Train your staff to deliver exceptional service! It’s safe to say that in the hospitality industry you can never be too polite, and that’s what your staff need to learn and understand - if they don’t already. It is vital to ensure all employees are polite, courteous and professional. Taking up weekly meetings with your staff to reiterate the rules can be effective, and those meetings can also be used to ensure staff have adequate knowledge of your menu products and your services.
It can be frustrating for customers when front of house staff have little to no knowledge of products. Your guests should get the best treatment and be made to feel welcome, special and important from arrival to departure and only your staff can ensure that happens.
Installing a state of the art POS system can take care of your inventory management and customer information issues, thus making your business more efficient and customer friendly. For instance, through a POS system, you will usually know what your clients are ordering, and it can help you keep track of the availability of specials. It could also, as an example, inform wait staff that a certain number of diners are saying office workers and therefore, lunch service should be quick and efficient to accommodate their tight timeframe. Technology can assist in delivering the perfect service, but there is no substitute for well trained, obliging, knowledgeable staff.
To beat your rivals at their own game, you must know them well! Visit them occasionally to find out about their ambience, food quality and service standards etc. You will then be in a position to compare them to your own and take any necessary action to either keep up with them if you aren’t or with some collective thought and brainstorming you can surpass them and become the next best thing to try!
When putting together your new/next menu, take a look at what your competitors are charging for the same kind of food items/meals. This shouldn’t however necessarily be the deciding factor for you as your competitors will likely be in a different financial position and their pricing and/or retaliatory price slashing may not be profitable or indeed sustainable for you.
Above all, as a chef, I would say the quality of your food produce and dishes are the most important thing in the battle for consumer patronage. You can make all the changes you want, be it menu redesign, price slashing, cutlery polishing or buying in new equipment or furniture but in the end it pretty much all comes down to the quality of your food! Your dishes should be appealing, appetising and consistent to retain and encourage customer loyalty.
It may take you some time to identify the ‘secret recipe’ that makes your business stand out above and beyond your rivals. My advice would be to keep all of the above in mind and systematically begin working through them to discover which can work best for you! Finding a winning formula usually involves some degree of trial and error. I’m confident though that with both pragmatic and innovative thinking, patience and perseverance we can all be winners! Good luck!