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How Does a Restaurant Decide to Change Their Menus?

Our Business Resource Consultants work with our customers to help ensure they have menus that can be easily executed in a profitable manner. In this article, BRC Emily Grenier shares her guidance on menu changes in restaurants.  

There are a host of reasons that restaurants choose to change their menu. Sometimes it’s as simple as a price changes; sometimes it’s streamlining for efficiency or profitability; sometimes it can be a complete overhaul as a restaurant changes their service style. Here are some of the popular reasons for menu changes: 

  1. Trends – Whether inspired by the latest TikTok video or by the chicken sandwich wars of 2019, restaurants may try to add menu items to embrace trends. This could reflect a particular menu item (brussel sprouts, kale, or avocado toast), a dietary trend (vegan, plant-based, keto, etc.) or a cuisine from a particular part of the world (like Mediterranean, Caribbean, or Southeast Asian). Following these trends is frequently fleeting with a quick rise and decline in popularity. These items may best be offered as limited time offers. 
  1. Shortages or Price Changes – Especially in an inflationary period like we’re living through right now, menu changes are sometimes the result of the inability to consistently procure product or the increase in prices. Whether this is the result of a shortage like we are expecting to see in the pollock market this year due to quotas or the result of a price crunch like we see on chicken wings, restaurants are likely to entertain viable substitutions.  
  1. Population Shifts – The pandemic has accelerated some existing trends of population shifts. Baby boomers are retiring in large numbers, selling their homes, and moving from colder to warmer climes. Millennials are leaving urban apartments to buy their first homes in the suburbs. For a restaurant seeing an influx of new residents, changes in the menu may reflect dietary preferences of these new populations. This could mean adding crave-able favorites that suit the tastes of new residents. 

Since menu streamlining is poised to be a Hot Trend in 2022, according to the National Restaurant Association, let’s help by educating ourselves about trends, shortages, and population shifts. 

Be aware that many restaurants will likely follow the same path in making changes: 

  1. Assessing the current menu to be sure that it is efficient. More than ever, it will be important to streamline inventory and labor to grow sales and profits.  a. What goals do you have with this menu change?  b. Are you streamlining the menu? c. How are you planning to use items that are already in your inventory? 
  1. Researching and requesting information about trends and availability.  a. What trends interest you that you can execute with your current staff & equipment? b. What shortages concern you right now?  
  1. Tasting and testing potential new items with the help of business and culinary specialists. a. Can you see this idea being executed by your staff? b. How will you handle push-back from staff who is uncertain about this change? c. Do you like the flavor profile, size, consistency, portion? 
  1. Setting the portion, procedure, and price for the menu item. a. Have you used Sysco Studio ( https://syscostudio.com/login) to know how much gross profit you make every time you sell this plate? b. Can you repurpose prep that is already being done to create this item? c. Have you updated your restaurant training manuals & procedures to reflect the new menu? 
  1. Changing the menu and training staff. a. Would you like to explore Sysco’s printing services on demand? (https://syscopod.com/Account/Login) b. How are you introducing these new menu items to the staff? c. Has the staff tasted the dish? 
  1. Selling the new menu to staff & guests a. Is your kitchen staff selling the new dish to the staff? b. How are you teaching the staff to explain the new menu item(s) to guests? c. What are the sizzle words you want the staff to keep in mind?  d. How do you take it to the table and explain it to guests? e. How are you featuring this on social media and your website?