In the ever-evolving culinary landscape, it’s easy to find ourselves enticed by the latest menu trends (before you realize, avocado toasts are already passé and somehow butter boards are in?).
From exotic ingredients and innovative cooking techniques to Instagram-worthy dishes, restaurants are continuously pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity. However, before we eagerly jump on the bandwagon of these enticing fads, it’s essential to take a step back and consider the potential pitfalls that come with blindly following the latest menu trends.
In this blog, we’ll delve into why it’s crucial to exercise caution and thoughtfulness when approaching these culinary novelties, ensuring that your menu innovations are indeed in line with your brand, demographics and competitive advantage.
“I feel like we should add more menu items that seem popular these days.”
Does this sound familiar to you?
You might have heard a colleague say it during a weekly meeting, or have thought about it yourself after noticing a new TikTok trend or move by a competitor.
However, let’s look at how this gut hunch may instead lead you down the wrong path.
Just because a certain food item or trend seems to be all over social media doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for your brand, operations, or customer base. While it can be helpful to take inspiration from trendy menu items from others, it’s important to tap into your own guest and operations data to make informed decisions.
Just because something is trendy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s trending among your demographics. And just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s the best initiative to pull off operationally. Here are three key things to consider to make a more informed and confident decision instead.
How to turn this “I feel” into “I know”
First, stay true to your brand and positioning.
If the popular item is already widely associated with another brand, simply adding it to your menu might not only dilute your own brand messaging, but also come off as a “copycat” move (recall Sweetgreen and Chipotle’s fight over the chipotle chicken bowl?) Understand what your customers already love from your menu using guest satisfaction data, and then explore if any new food trends could enhance your existing offerings. If not, don’t force it – stay true to yourself is the one thing that makes you stand out at the end of the day
Secondly, understand your customer base and their preferences.
Just because something went viral on TikTok, doesn’t mean it would speak to your demographics. Depending on your customers’ age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and more, your offering should be designed specifically for who you’re trying to attract.
Not sure who your key customers are? Attach a few demographics data questions at the end of your guest feedback surveys to find out! (Pro tip: If you are concerned that people won’t fill out long questionnaires, Tattle surveys have proven to achieve an average 94.7% completion rate even by collecting up to 55 data points per survey!)
Lastly, it’s also important to consider your teams’ operational proficiency.
For example, if your locations have been struggling with order accuracy issues, adding a really complicated recipe or allowing customers tons of freedom to create their own item might not be the best idea. You could try rolling out the new food item at select locations and carefully monitor guest satisfaction metrics across every single operational category (e.g. food quality, speed of service, accuracy etc.) before deciding whether to add it to your permanent menu or not. This way you could have more control over changes that you’re about to introduce.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t get inspiration from the latest trends and fads. In fact, being able to cleverly leverage a culture moment is one of the most effective marketing campaigns you can run.
However, changing your menu can be a risky and costly maneuver, and we highly recommend that you go through the three-step process above to evaluate the true validity of your decision, before major investments into a new product with very little ROI.
If you want to learn more about how to stay close to your guests’ preferences and demographics, check out how Tattle’s survey tools can help you accomplish exactly that!