Less is more - the art of the simple menu

by Alistair Coats

The temptation with menus is to think that more choice is better. If a single person might want an item, you keep providing it.

New items are added, but nothing is removed, for fear of disappointing the customer.


But there can be such a thing as too much choice. Customers flicking through a thick book of laminate pages at a restaurant, or scrolling down a webpage in hunger and frustration would rather see a few great options than hundreds of worse ones.

Even in the artisan world of coffee, a blackboard stretching from floor to ceiling with all the options can become too much. The latest McDonalds advert is a very funny way of saying that simple can be best.

Reducing choice and increasing revenue

Dunkin’ Donuts sparked online debate recently by dramatically simplifying their menu, removing breakfast sandwiches that were slower-selling, as well as some muffins, bagels and drinks. By the end of October most branches will have downsized from 30 varieties of doughnut to 18.

While some customers were disappointed by the announcement, sales have risen. In an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Brand President for US and Canada David Hoffman said, “We’ve shrunk the amount of doughnut variety and we’re seeing a lift in those markets instantly.”

So less can be more. But the main reason restaurants haven’t whittled down their menus already is that they aren’t confident that they will be dropping the right items, unintentionally keeping the less popular ones.

Knowing which menus to cut

As a catering management software company, we’ve seen all sorts of menus, from the impossibly long to the very simple. We spent a lot of time working out the ideal way to categorize items and meals, so that online navigation is simple and each option is no more than a couple of clicks away.

One of the most important features in the way our customers present their menus is actually in the reports function. It’s only by really understanding sales figures that it’s possible to confidently cut down on menu size. An automated report that shows the popularity of a menu can quickly determine whether it’s a crowd-pleaser or it needs to be removed. Looking at sales throughout the year can indicate menus that should be made available for a limited time, or only in certain areas. While cutting down on waste, reducing menus size is a good way of simplifying the customer ordering process.

If you’d like to know more about Spoonfed and our menu and reporting functions, email us on hello@getspoonfed.com.

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