3 Menu Challenges: Maximize Your Menu Mojo

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Is your menu tired? Does it need to be revamped? Are your sales stagnant?

Maybe your menu has lost some of its mojo.

Let’s get funky and get that thing back to it’s prime!

Your menu is—without a doubt—your number one marketing and profitability tool. It’s sad that most throw it together without seriously considering the long-term impact it has on their brand.

What exactly is mojo? It’s that secret sauce, that magical spell cast upon your guests. It’s the stuff that people have a hard time describing about because it’s more of an emotion.

Mojo is what separates the great from the outstanding.

We all want it, yet few can translate it to their menu. Why? Because they’re looking for it in the wrong places! Mojo isn’t how creative you can be. It’s not how many different menu items you offer. It’s not the cool pictures that sprinkle your menu. It’s not the fonts that you think are cutting edge.

Menu mojo is more about the journey you’re taking your guests through. It’s about a promise. It’s about triggering memories. It’s about telling your brand story through food and beverage.

Surely, you’ve been to a restaurant or bar, looked at their menu, and said, “I don’t get it.” The venue seems to be all over the place, trying too hard to be different when they just need to be great at being themselves.

Challenge 1: Who are You?

When guests look at your menu, they should have a strong sense of who you are. This is where harnessing your menu mojo starts: you have to know first. If you’re confused about what your brand story is and what you believe in, your guests will be confused as well.

Don’t go for the “we’re a fusion concept” bullshit. A fusion of what?

Too many chefs and mixologist today use the word “fusion,” to the point that it has become more like confusion. While trying to feed out egos, too many of us have bypassed the most important trait: being outstanding!

Your menu needs to me a reflection of your greatest hits! Those items that you knock out of the ballpark night after night.

I know it’s easy to get bored executing the same menu night after night, month after month, year after year. That’s the curse of success—when you create a dish or drink that becomes your signature, you better make sure that item is always available on the menu.

Check this out: Brand Identity Separates Bars and Restaurants from Successful Destinations

Now, before you throw a pity party, put yourself in the shoes of Mick Jagger. How many times do you think he has sung “Satisfaction” since they recorded it back in 1965? Don’t ever complain about having a hit.

Challenge 2: Your Team Needs to Execute Flawlessly

Coming up with a creative menu is easy. Pulling it off consistently with the team you have is the tough part. There are slight variations in technique that are often overlooked when training a team, so you need to ensure that everyone is doing it the same way—your way.

This ties into everyone knowing exactly what the standards are, and how to execute evert dish or drink. There’s no room for creative interpretation—your menu recipes need to be nonnegotiable! Your team can do it your way or they can hit the highway.

Brand reputations in an oversaturated market—like we’re experiencing now—can be very fragile. One day, you’re the golden child of brands. The next day, you’re the target of mockery and disdain, complete with “starring” in memes. Ask Chipotle…

How do you ensure your team is ready for the demands of high volume and the pressure of the rush? Train them until they don’t have to think about it. Don’t just train them until they get it right (which is what 99 percent do), train them until they can’t get it wrong.

Effortless execution comes from persistent practice!

Make sure your training is comprehensive and engaging. Train your team using a variety of learning formats. Some people like to read, so you’ll need written training manuals. Some are visual learners, and for those you need training videos. Most learn by doing it, and for that they need hands on training with a dedicated trainer.

Check this out: How to Create a Hiring System that Works

Don’t make the common mistake of letting anyone who happens to be available conduct training. No—not all trainers are created equal. If you want real consistency within your brand, you need consistent training and trainers.

Challenge 3: Know Your Numbers

Remember, your menu is your number one profitability tool. It’s a sad day when restaurants aren’t run like a business. You must know what every item on your menu costs to make.

Not knowing this foundational information is a crime against your brand.

Let’s put this in perspective. Look at your smartphone. Whatever brand you have, one thing is for certain: that company knows the exact cost of every single component. And they have a team that’s always working to improve their device quality while negotiating better prices from their suppliers. That needs to be your role as well.

Say you don’t have time? Bullshit.

Say you don’t have the resources? Find them.

Say it doesn’t matter to you? You’re leaving money on the table—probably a lot of money.

They say that the national average profit percentage for restaurants in the USA is just 5 percent. That’s because most don’t know the costs of their menu items. They don’t train for consistency. They don’t want to look incompetent for not knowing their numbers, so instead they avoid them. Denial will never get you the restaurant or bar or profits you want.

I was working with a client and I asked them what their food cost was. They told me it was 32 percent. Then they asked me a question: “Is that good?”

My reply was equally as simple: “I don’t know.”

Let me explain. You can’t just pick a food cost number out of thin air and expect it to be a measurement of success or failure. What you need to understand is the gap of where you are now and where you could be. For that you need to know your theoretical food cost.

Theoretical can be called perfect or ideal cost. The number representing your purchases against inventory is called real costs. If your theoretical is 24 percent and your real food cost is 32 percent, you’re leaving eight percent on the table.

I honestly think that the average profit for restaurants is so low because people don’t take the time to know their numbers.

Getting more menu mojo isn’t about being hip, cool or trendy. It’s about being practical and having solid foundations in place. Foundations like brand identity, comprehensive training, and financial stability. Once you have these three challenges rock solid, then—and only then—should you go to updating the look of your menu.

Check this out: Why Bar and Restaurant Operators Should Use Activity-Based Costing

Graphic designers want your menu to look beautiful, and I respect that. I want your menu to be profitable as well! Tackle my three challenges—your bottom line will thank you.

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