August 15, 2023

3 Menu Item Level Analyses That Can Set You Apart

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In the dynamic and competitive world of restaurant operations, crafting a menu that stands out requires more than just a list of dishes. It demands a deep understanding of customer preferences and an insightful approach to analyzing menu items at a granular level.

In this blog, we unveil a culinary treasure trove – three distinct menu item level analyses that have the power to set your restaurant apart. These analyses delve beyond surface impressions, combining both sales and guest satisfaction data to help you create the brand experience that has your guests coming back for more.

1. Sales vs. Satisfaction Analysis

Just because a menu item is making up a high percentage of your total sales doesn’t mean it’s set for good. A high sales number could be a result of many factors: promotional effort, placement on the menu, food photography etc. It’s not necessarily an indicator of:

  1. How much your guests like the product
  2. How likely they’re to visit again
  3. How likely they’ll recommend your brand to others

Satisfaction metrics, on the other hand, is a much better indicator of the above. The last thing you want is directing traffic to your top-seller through massive marketing campaigns, only to find out that that item is often poorly executed and receives lots of customer complaints. Not only will this harm your guest retention, but also it might implicate your brand reputation down the road.

On the other hand, you might be overlooking items on the menu that — when ordered alone or with something else — tend to notably boost guest satisfaction. That means that this item, when purchased, will likely give the guests a great experience and increase the likelihood of them returning.

You probably want to look through your menu items and put them in one of the following 4 quadrants:

menu item sales and satisfaction table

High Satisfaction; High Sales:

That’s definitely a keeper! Try to understand why these items are performing particularly well, and see if there are any tips you can replicate in other parts of the menu.

High Satisfaction; Low Sales:

Don’t overlook these items, as given the proper promotion, they could be your star items. As a rule of thumb, you want to drive traffic to items that you know will almost always guarantee a satisfactory experience (e.g. high food quality, high accuracy, fast speed of service etc.). This will maximize your chances of developing loyal customers who not only return for more, but might even spread the word for you.

Low Satisfaction; High Sales:

Beware of these items—it can be an especially tough call to remove them from the menu, given the high percentage of sales they’re contributing. However, it can be dangerous because if these items tend to be poorly executed (e.g. low accuracy, slow speed of service etc.), it could deter guests from coming back. Consider either taking them off the menu, or modifying them to improve satisfaction.

Low satisfaction; Low Sales:

Re-consider why they should still be on the menu—are they always included as a side to increase the check size? If so, are they bringing down the overall guest satisfaction when being included in an order? Maybe it’s time to rebrand them, adjust the recipe or simply nix them altogether.

2. Attachment

During McDonald’s July 27 quarterly earnings call in 2022, CEO Tom Werner called attention to the “fry attachment rate”:

“Despite pressure on overall restaurant traffic, the demand for fries remains solid as the fry attachment rate in the U.S., which is a rate in which consumers order fries when visiting a restaurant or other food service outlets, remains above pre-pandemic levels.”

It’s one example of how to consider the interaction between one menu item and the rest. Sometimes, simply by being included in an order, certain menu items can improve the overall satisfaction of that experience. Fries can be one of those examples (I mean, can you imagine the disappointment of having a Big Mac without the fries?)

While analyzing individual menu item performance is great, sometimes analyzing combinations of various items can give you even more surprising results. For example, one of Tattle’s partners found out that when guests ordered their signature cookie, the overall guest satisfaction was on average 2.5% higher! As a result, the brand launched a “cookie upsell initiative” where the company would either sell the cookie at a cost or give it away for free in exchange for a higher guest satisfaction. Over time, the increase in repeat visits, average check size and customer lifetime value more than made up for the cost of the “cookie upsell”.

Try to compare both order frequency and overall satisfaction of each item and rank them. Can you identify any side item that tends to go along with, and enhance, any main entrees?

Restaurant Menu Analytics and Menu Insights

3. Incident Involvement Rate

Another key analysis is to understand how often an item is involved — and is likely a cause — of a dissatisfactory experience.

In Tattle, this metric is called “Incident Involvement Rate”, which measures how often both an item and the overall experience are rated 3 stars and below at the same time. Needless to say, you want this number to be as low as possible, because that means even if an overall experience is rated as 3 stars or below, at least the item is not one of the causes of that.

One trick is to compare this metric across all your locations: do you tend to see a degree of consistency across all units, or only at certain units? If you have a consistently high Incident Involvement Rate regardless of the location, you might need to re-examine the recipe or the operational process. Either the recipe itself or the way kitchens are trained to prepare the item should be improved to reduce the Incident Involvement Rate.

However, if you typically see a low Incident Involvement Rate across the board except for a couple of locations, you probably need to visit those locations and understand what’s going wrong operationally, and re-train the staff there if necessary.

To understand how you can collect menu item level feedback, check out Tattle’s feature here. Having helped thousands of restaurant locations optimize their menus and improve their operations, we’re also more than happy to hop on a consultative call discussing your menu analytics and guest sentiment measurement. Feel free to reach out to us anytime by filling out this form.

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