April 6, 2023

How To Optimize Restaurant Menus For Maximum Profits

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Is your menu the optimal combination of items your restaurants can offer?

There might be no perfect answer to this, since every menu – even those that have been relatively stable – is constantly evolving in response to changing consumer tastes and preferences. However, with every iteration, you can get closer to hitting that perfect spot of maximizing both customer satisfaction and profitability.

While sales data is a great indicator of how well a menu item is performing, it hardly paints the full picture. Just because an item is a top seller, doesn’t mean your customers are happy about it (it might just be the cheapest or the easiest thing to add to cart!). Similarly, just because an item is not selling, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to become a crowd favorite — you might not be promoting it enough and are leaving potential revenue on the table.

Collect guest satisfaction data on each menu item

If you still stop at asking customers to give only a thumbs up or down to their overall dining experience, you’re leaving out vast amounts of valuable insights on how people actually think and feel about your food and services.

Rather, you need to break down each guest experience into different operational categories, and make the feedback as actionable for your team as possible.

This is where a causation-based approach like Tattle surveys come in very handy: Tattle can collect up to 55 data points per survey using a very intuitive user interface, so that you get the richness of data while customers organically complete the surveys at an average 94.7% rate.

What’s more, you can collect actionable feedback specific to each menu item. This is highly transformative to restaurant operations. Traditionally, even if you’re diligent enough to collect a “Food Quality” satisfaction score, your team wouldn’t know which items tend to cause a negative experience. Furthermore, different menu items are prone to different operational issues. Meats tend to experience problems with doneness, whereas fries might receive complaints about sogginess. To complicate things even further, the same food item might experience different issues when consumed on or off-premise. While a burger would come out hot and juicy for a dine-in customer, it might cause negative experiences if the toppings spilled or the patty is too cold when reaching the hands of the customer.

This is why it’s crucial for restaurants to start collecting menu item level feedback, and observe patterns around not only which menu items tend to cause a negative experience, but also which operational areas need to be improved in each channel.

A great example is how the accuracy score (one of the factors under guest satisfaction) varies for build-your-own menu items vs. standard items. Across the board, fully customizable menu items tend to see lower accuracy and satisfaction scores than standard menu items, simply because the back-of-house teams haven’t made the same order thousands of times. Due to the higher likelihood of human error, build-your-own items might be an attractive draw to customers, but a huge challenge when it comes to execution. As a result, we recommend restaurants to promote and incentivize the purchase of standard menu items over build-your-own options, since we know customers will likely have a more positive experience.

Identify your non-core hero products

To go one step further, we encourage restaurants to find the underlying items that are frequently involved in positive experiences. Those are your customer delight products that are strongly correlated to your guests having a great experience and coming back in the future.

For example, at Blaze Pizza, the Sea Salt Cookie was discovered to be that non-core hero product. When guests added the cookie to their order, the chances of them having a positive experience was more than 2x what it would be if they did not order it.

As a result, the brand launched a campaign incentivizing people to include the cookie in their order, in an attempt to increase overall satisfaction, increase customer lifetime value, and increase repeat visits over time. Moreover, people will develop the habit of adding that item in future visits, thus increasing your average basket size in the long term too.

Invest in high satisfaction items

When you rank menu items by separate sales and satisfaction scores, it’s common to see the same ranking — after all, you want your top-seller to also be a crowd pleaser. However, what’s even more common is when those two rankings don’t align.

In fact, for most restaurants, their satisfaction data and sales data don’t match 100%. What’s bringing in the most revenue might have lots of room for operational improvement to boost satisfaction and therefore drive more revenue in the long term. Similarly, what’s not selling might in fact be a potential cash cow that the restaurants aren’t investing enough in promotions.

That’s why we recommend restaurants to identify items with high satisfaction scores first — those should be your primary revenue drivers since you have higher confidence that customers will have a great experience ordering those. If they’re also key revenue drivers, then great, you could continue fine tuning those items but overall you’re on the right track. However, if those items are buried on the menu and not ordered much, perhaps it’s time to adjust your menu design or marketing strategy to shine more light on those potential crowd favorites.

In addition, it’s also worth looking at whether your top-sellers, or those that you’re spending the most marketing dollars on, are indeed leaving your customers with a positive experience. If not, you need to either re-allocate your marketing budget, or identify the operational issues related to those items and improve their satisfaction score. With a survey like Tattle’s, you’d be able to uncover specific operational issues for each item, such as order accuracy, temperature, presentation, texture etc., and set action items from there.

In summary, don’t overlook the importance of guest satisfaction data, as it tends to be the leading indicator of success or issues before anything is reflected in your sales numbers. Restaurants that prioritize guest satisfaction and can derive actionable insights from those measurements tend to be better set up for success, and achieve sustainable results over time.

Want more?

Watch a rapid demo of the Tattle platform!

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