As a restaurant owner, you have to offset the demands of being an entrepreneur with the needs of your clientele, a balancing act that is both a requirement and a challenge. So when the time comes to revamp your menu – due to seasonal requirements, cost considerations, or time constraints – follow prescribed guidelines on how to do it, and – most important – don’t forget your customers, many of whom will vote with their feet if that menu change isn’t handled correctly.
Use Social Media as a Guide to Revamping Your Menu
Everybody knows – and dreads – the scenario: you sit down in your favorite restaurant only to discover that your favorite dish has been discontinued. The disappointment is great enough to cause even the most loyal customer to start looking for another place to dine in; in fact, the reaction to discovering a beloved dish missing from a familiar menu is usually more extreme than a price hike, which is often faced with equanimity, unlike the dismay and anger that can greet a sudden and unexpected menu change. Today, there’s a good chance that the reverberations of an ill-advised and botched menu modification will echo throughout the Internet via social media, causing a backlash that you really don’t want to deal with.
On the other hand, that same social media could be the key to your ability to change a menu without ruffling important feathers. If you are well-connected with your customers through Facebook and Twitter – and you should be! – you can present your followers with a survey that will give you an indication of which dishes you can probably delete with the least hostility, and which will rock the boat just a little too vehemently. A “signature” dish – the one that people are willing to travel and pay extra for – will probably have to stay; you’ll know this is the case, when you start seeing posts like, “Stop serving your macaroni and cheese and I’ll take my business across the street,” or “If I can’t get your spareribs, I’ll have no reason to live.”
Updating Your Menu with Your Customers in Mind
Drama aside, in the end you will have to weigh your customers’ reaction with your own considerations. A restaurant menu – even a well-established menu – is a work in progress, ever-evolving to keep up with the times, your customers’ tastes, and your own limitations. The trick is in knowing what part of your menu is the fixed core and what part can be updated. Through social media, or even by discussing the matter with regular customers, you can discover where the red line must be drawn and where there is room for change. You could be surprised at what you learn. You may discover that the most pedestrian offerings on your menu – say, the hamburger or the aforementioned mac ‘n cheese – are dishes that are sacrosanct to your regulars, while they may be willing to part with a dish that you believe is outstanding and irreplaceable.
Adding Pizazz to Your Revamped Menu
Once you know which dishes you can dispense with (and which must stay), you’re left with deciding what to add in order to revamp your menu in an enticing and interesting way. This is where you can finally exercise your creativity and have a little fun. A good source of information regarding food trends is the National Restaurant Association, which runs an annual poll among chefs to discover emerging trends. Consider the following:
- Go global: Branch out to introduce your customers to new tastes and flavors from around the world. Middle Eastern spices are growing in popularity so create dishes that highlight cumin, cardamom, and harissa.
- Go small: Tapas are still a thing, as they offer diners a chance to try a variety of items. Similarly sliders are a great way to upgrade the hamburger; a platter of three or four sliders with a range of flavors and toppings could be a big crowd pleaser.
- Embrace vegetables: The vegetarian trend may be waning, but healthy eating is still in, and getting creative with cooked vegies (and not just salads) could be the way to go. If you take this trend seriously you may want to invest in a countertop steamer or a convection steamer to make your life easier and the end result better.
- Play with Grains: Along with a more vegetables, the savvy restaurant-goer recognizes that quinoa is only one of many interesting and tasty grains. Add a pilaf or two to your menu, utilizing trendy grains like spelt and faro to grab your customers’ attention and keep your menu fresh.
- Update the Kids’ Meals: More and more families are dining out together and the ever-popular kids’ meal should be upgraded along with the “adult” food. Keep in mind that as kids eat more sophisticated food at home, they may no longer crave hot dogs and fries so exercise your creativity in this area, as well.
Revamped Food Deserves Redesigned Menus
A new menu merits a new presentation; in other words, this is a good time to reconsider your menu design. Tablets that double as menus may be a growing trend, but they may not be a good fit for your clientele. A nice-looking menu is like a great opening act in the theater or an attention-grabbing first chapter of a book. A good menu design can enhance your customers’ experience and it’s the perfect way to present your new dishes to the public. A fresh culinary approach needs an updated physical reminder that your establishment is growing and evolving, with the customer at the top of the priority list. In addition, ensure that your wait staff becomes familiar with your new menu before your customers start asking questions (and they will). With the proper attention, the new items will soon become staples – and new stars will be born.
Changing Your Restaurant Menu with Your Customer in Mind
The restaurant business, competitive and exciting, requires owners to keep up with the times. Unless you own a diner that has served the same hash browns and burgers for the last 50 years – and your customers would revolt if you changed one ingredient – you owe it to yourself and your clientele to revitalize and revamp your menu from time to time. Figure out what goes and what stays; research the current trends; take your time while you “test drive” potential new offerings; and always have your customers’ interests in mind. With all those factors as high priorities, your new and improved menu will enjoy an enthusiastic reception and attract even more customers to your restaurant.