Let your menu do the talking: Creating the perfect menu

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customising menus

In Kamila Sitwell’s recently published book ‘Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation’ she discusses the importance of your menu and designing it in line with your brand. 

Let your menu do the talking 

Your menu is your only advertising point that 100% of paying customers will study for up to two minutes with the sole intent to purchase – this is almost unheard of these days in marketing terms. When did you last see a TV ad that ran for two minutes? Your menu is an important opportunity for your customers to digest what it is you’re advertising, most probably online in the first instance while their appetite is whetted, followed by sitting at a table with it in their hands. 

It doesn’t matter whether you run a small café or a fine-dining establishment, how your menu looks and feels is reflective of both you and your brand. From the outset, it plays a crucial role in communicating your personality, standards and beliefs accurately. It must also meet your customers’ taste preferences and culinary desires. It tells them if you’re ethical or pretentious, if you’re well-travelled and adventurous, or if you’re local community focused. All these nuggets of information, therefore, need to be reflected in the menu and how you word it. 

Do restaurants and bars get their menus wrong? Absolutely! Not all, of course, but many make the same common mistakes. I want to help you understand the psychology of diners so you can recalibrate your approach to menu design and planning in response, selecting the elements you can improve upon and implementing customisation to satisfy your guests. 

Expect to excite customers so much that they’ll still be talking about your offering and recommending it to their friends and families long after their visit. Once it’s placed in their hands, your menu directly influences not only what they will order, but ultimately how much they will spend. 

In the following sections, I’ll show how you maximise the opportunity your menu presents to return the greatest profit while keeping your price points within the customers’ expectations. To achieve this, you first need to understand that the five main goals of a well-designed menu are to: 

·       Act as an effective communication, marketing and cost-control tool

·       Emphasise what the customer wants that matches what the restaurant/bar prepares and serves best

·       Achieve the required minimum average spend per head to realise sales goals and bottom-line return

·       Utilise staff and equipment in an efficient manner

·       Forecast the future menu sales mix more accurately

customising menus

Steps to take before planning and designing a menu 

Think of this stage in 360 degrees. No single vision will achieve a menu that hits all the right notes. To be clear and effective, it has to be a team decision from the owner and representatives of management, chef and customer focus groups. Reading and responding to feedback should be one of the first steps you undertake in designing a menu. 

A survey conducted by Gallup revealed that customers will spend an average of 109 seconds reading the menu. If it reads like a culinary novella, it isn’t necessarily going to have a happy ending. I’ll explain what this means in financial terms later on. 

An article posted by the blogsite HubSpot stated that choice is ‘the purest expression of free will – the freedom to choose allows us to shape our lives exactly how we wish’. This struck home for me. Having worked in and analysed the hospitality industry over many years, I’ve regularly seen frustrated looks on customers’ faces when they’re confronted with either too much or too little choice. Too few options feels restrictive, uncreative and unfulfilling, whereas a long list of dishes is overwhelming, and both scenarios often end negatively, with the customer either leaving or having a less-than-exemplary experience. 

The above is an extract from Kamila Sitwell’s recently published book ‘Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation’.  For more analysis and insights on how to respond in the competitive, changing world of hospitality by creating experiences,  Bespoke will help raise the restaurateur’s  game providing fresh insights needed to steer a course to customer delight, loyalty and ultimately business success.