By David Russell, founder and chairman of the Russell Partnership
Increasing customer demand for food, contributing more to the bottom line whilst improving the efficiency of stock turnover and reducing wastage… It sounds like a restaurateur’s dream. The reality is that assuming the foundations of any catering function are present – reasonable location, good health and safety, reliable food quality – optimizing the profitability can more often than not be enhanced through the process of menu engineering, a marketing approach to the pricing, positioning and promotion of food.
Competitive advantage is created by designing menu items that customers are most likely to be drawn to because of the uniqueness of an item or deal, for example a locally sourced rack of pork hoisin sticky ribs with two sides, and a pint of local beer for £9.99.
By focusing efforts on high contributing, high demand products, menus can be reduced in size. This allows back of house production to be simplified and efficiency improved. Also, with fewer menu items comes the benefit of reduced stock holdings, reducing waste food that once again would historically have deducted from the bottom line. A simplified menu also brings about the opportunity to streamline supply chain and where possible use local suppliers.
Forming relationships with local producers gives more control over product quality, is advantageous for marketing purposes and helps reduce carbon footprint within the supply chain. So is it worth doing the math and investing time in menu engineering and sustainable supply chains. We know for short-term budget improvements, medium-term profit improvements and long-term social and environmental benefits it is worth it.
A final thought to leave you with…The next time you choose an item from a menu it may be worth questioning whether your choice is really your choice or whether the menu has been engineered to help you decide more easily through item placement on the menu, a signature dish and price. If it has you will most likely be helping the bottom line and maybe also the environment!