Benefits of simplifying your menu
Trying to maintain an overly complex menu is one of the most frequent hospitality mistakes that restaurants make. While it can be hard to recognise at first, a lot of issues with food service performance can be traced back to the menu and how well it is structured.
Simplifying your menu does not mean that you’re dumbing it down or offering something of inferior quality – it’s simply an effective means of engineering future profitability. Reducing the complexity of your menu minimises the complexity of your entire operation, helping you maximise productivity and ensure every service is a success.
A streamlined menu means reduced prep and ticket times, allowing you to serve customers more quickly. It also helps you to free up inventory space and make inventory management a whole lot simpler, allowing you to get the maximum value from every ingredient you stock (which also helps to reduce food waste).
Streamlining your menu can feel like you’re taking choices away from your customers. However, changing trends have indicated a preference for less-structured menus that allow customers to customise dishes the way they like, rather than menus that confuse them with an exhaustive list of options.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw restaurants pivot to delivery service as a necessity, with menus being reduced to selections that travelled well and did not put undue strain on understaffed kitchens. With sit-down dining starting to make a comeback, many restaurants are choosing to continue with smaller, operationally optimised menus that allow them to serve more customers with lower overheads.
Tips on how to simplify your menu
Successfully streamlining your menu requires more effort than simply removing items – every option you continue to serve needs to work harder to earn its place. Here are some tips for simplifying your menu.
- Look at which dishes share ingredients and start a process of elimination. Dishes that have unique ingredients but don’t sell well can be eliminated, while those that share key ingredients can become variations of one primary offering.
- Reimagine complex recipes so that they’re easier to prepare.
- Focus on appetisers and snacks that can be used to round out a full meal or serve as shareables, lighter options, kid’s meals, and more. Ensure these items are served with excellent accompaniments, such as the authentic sauces from the MAGGI Taste of Asia range.
- Try enhancing versatile and simple menu items like soups, salads, and sides to make them more exciting while adding minimally to prep time.
- Add variety and seasonality to your new menu by embracing specials and limited time offers. This allows you to keep your menu feeling fresh and exciting, despite it being pared back.
“Doing a limited offering really well is a smart move for any business which benefits the bottom line and enables the team to focus on what is important”
– Mark Clayton - Executive Chef, Nestlé Professional
- Improve the cost-efficiency of different menu items by tweaking the recipe and portion size. For example, if a certain dish is routinely left unfinished by customers, it makes sense to reduce portion size.
- Take advantage of products that allow you to cut down on prep time without sacrificing quality. For example, the MAGGI Gravy Mixes range has something simple and delicious for any occasion, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
- Account for different party sizes and how they affect the mix and amount of menu items ordered. Be aware of the capacity of your kitchen so that you can serve large gatherings just as reliably as small ones.
- Optimise your menu so that it accounts for product availability and inventory rationalisation. This will help you save money and ensure you can reliably serve every menu item each service.
- If you have a dessert menu, focus on offering a few popular, easy-to-prepare staples while leaving room for seasonal twists. Try leveraging Nestlé Docello Dessert Mixes to produce a variety of tempting dishes while cutting down on prep time.
- Consider revising recipes to cater to delivery orders by making them more portable and easier to reheat etc.
- Don’t eliminate so much that your menu becomes unrecognisable – you should still maintain your brand identity and keep popular, signature dishes at the forefront.
- Involve the entire team – simplifying your menu only works if every staff member understands it and is in sync with one another. Consult with BOH and FOH staff for insights into how your menu is performing and tweak accordingly.
To help inspire you, here’s an example of a simple menu from The Occidental in Auckland: