Restaurant menus. For many years the size of the restaurant menu was vast, if not mammoth. The thinking was that by offering more options, an eatery was broadening its appeal and diners would stay loyal. However, what really happened for many restaurants is they ended up with a bloated menu that offered a plethora of choices that spanned several continents and cuisines that challenged even the sturdiest attention spans.
Research shows that most menus crowbar in far more dishes than people want to choose from. A popular study from Columbia University revealed that people actually prefer fewer choices – as it makes the decision process that much easier. “As we complicate menus, what we’re actually doing is tormenting the guest,” says restaurant consultant Aaron Allen. “When the guest leaves they feel less satiated, and part of it comes down to a perception that they might have made the wrong choice.” If you leave with a bad taste in your mouth, you’re less likely to come back. And in an industry where repeat customers account for about 70% of sales, getting diners to return is the ultimate goal. By offering too many choices, it not only makes it harder for diners to make a choice resulting in ‘diner confusion’, but it can also be overwhelming for the staff and making it difficult for chefs to keep up with varying orders.
A smaller menu can improve efficiency and quality, and can be a fairly straightforward way for restaurants to cut costs. It can help streamline and improve the ordering process and service, and help create a more efficient and far more cost effective kitchen. By offering fewer items, eateries can more easily standardize food quality, avoid the waste from estimating demand for longer lists of foods, helping to boost profit margins. The simplification of a menu allows your restaurant to really focus on what it does best and improve the overall customer experience.
A simplified menu can also yield more sales! Consider the success of limited-menu fast-casual chains that focus on a particular cuisine, such as Chipotle and Five Guys. Similarly, LongHorn Steakhouse, over time eliminated nearly 30% of its menu offerings, and focused on what it did best i.e. steak, and saw a 3.8% increase in same-store sales at the steakhouse in one quarter alone.
And it seems that smaller menus are becoming the norm. Towards the end of last year, large chains like Ruby Tuesday cut 30% of its menu, Chili’s slashed their menus by 40%, even Dunkin’ Donuts is experimenting with a reduced menu, and Noodles & Company also cut down its menu last year.
With large chains cutting their menus and getting rid of costly-to-make items, and other major brands like Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Papa Johns offering limited menus, is it time you took a closer look at your menu? But where do you begin? Is there a perfect amount of choice for a menu? Well, a study from Bournemouth University in the UK has sought to answer this very question! The study’s findings show that restaurant customers, across all ages and genders, do have an optimal number of menu items, below which they feel there’s too little choice and above which it all becomes disconcerting – and the golden number seems to be seven.
While you could say there is no concrete answer to how many items a restaurant menu should have on it, menus have grown too complicated and complex. When serving your customers, avoid the temptation of offering a huge selection of items and instead focus on simplicity. By reducing the size of your restaurant menu you can create a more efficient service, improve overall customer experience and have a huge effect on your restaurant’s profits.
If you haven’t done it already, maybe it’s time to evaluate your menu and trim the excess.