Menu Brand Evolution

Increasing your Guest Counts, Guest Check Average, Profits and Being Relevant in the Food Community

There is a cautionary tale here for every company: If you don’t disrupt your own business, the marketplace will be more than happy to do it for you.

  • More vegetables & grains. They are becoming more and more popular.
  • Look at the amount of protein on each plate. Do you need this much? And by the way people are eating more and more vegetarian. It is ok to serve a vegetable dish and a tofu dish especially as a side dish.
  • Talk to your vendors about up “new products” that are coming to the market. Ask the vendors about what they see going on with other restaurants both locally and nationally. What are they doing? Where are they going? And take a look at alternative vendors.
  • Plate Presentations – People eat with their eyes. How do your plates look? We see what we call faded 80’s/90’s presentations. China, garnishes, height of the item on the dish, etc. should be reviewed by not only you but by some of your key staff. I’ve found it amazing what staff members have said about the existing plates (mostly I hear about sub-standard look and flavoring). I wonder why they did not tell the owner or the manager about their feelings.
  • Influences from other Countries – Asian, Indian, Mexican, South American, Italian, French and even regional American are showing up more and more on “conventional” menus. You can have more than one influence in an item as well. You can mix Asian with Mexican, French with Italian, etc. Here is an example: Spicy Prawn Masala Flatbread (Indian with Italian).
  • Utilization of Local and Natural – The implementing of both of these create a better value proposition. Be sure to put these words on the menu in the descriptor of each item. Do some research on these types of products with various vendors.
  • Preparation Upgrade – Change up the preparations. Here is one for you: Let’s say you have a Shrimp Louis. Not the most exciting dish in today’s world but what if you changed it to a Warm Asian Seafood Salad that would have shrimp, calamari, scallops, lobster with a Thai chili-lime vinaigrette, with cucumber, carrot, tear drop tomatoes, red radish, green onion, wilted baby spinach and peanuts. Sounds altogether different doesn’t it. It sounds “compelling” to me. It sounds like a signature item as well.
  • Signature Items – What is the buzz on the street of any of your items. MacDonald’s is known for its Big Mac. Canlis is known for its Canlis Salad. The Met is known for its incredible steaks. Goldberg’s is known for its Reuben. People sometimes go to these restaurants because they need a fix of that one item. What is your Signature item(s)?
  • Fresh Sheet Testing – The fresh sheet can aid in defining your Brand. Make it more interesting. Use more expensive ingredients that have a shorter shelf life. Be experimental.

Summary – This is evolutionary process is going to take some planning and time to execute and get your Brand moved. Be patient but move it along. Get ideas-Do your research, see what other restaurants are doing, talk to vendors, talk to your staff, etc.

Leslie Dillon, Consulting Chef for Restaurant Group, wrote this article. She does menus for new restaurants and menus that need rebranding. She excels at developing menus that are “profit driven and build sales”. She can do fine dining to fast casual. She develops “Turn-Key” F & B restaurant manuals which include: costed recipes with instructions, photos, station schematics, line check sheets, waiter’s “Table Talk”, prep sheets (all stations), and menu glossaries.

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