Benvenuto’s Restaurant Menu Makeover Travels Backwards In Style

Ugly Menu

Current Menu (Ugh)

Benvenuto’s is an Italian restaurant that has seven locations throughout central and northeastern Wisconsin. The food is pretty good, and I was there with a friend recently who asked: “Does it bother you when you go to a restaurant like this one and see the menu and want to redesign it? Because this is a pretty ugly menu, and it could use a menu makeover; does it make you cringe at all?”

I said I had seen worse, and they were doing a few things correctly. Also, I’m not like Rick Barry, the hall of fame basketball player who shot .900 in the NBA for free throws. He probably had the highest success rate in history, but nobody liked him because he kept badgering fellow players about shooting free throws underhand style. Sure, I notice bad menus, just like a chef notices poorly executed recipes, but I’m not the kind of person who pesters people.

Speaking of underhand free throws, Wilt Chamberlain had his best game ever – a 100 point game in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1962 when he switched to the granny shot. Here’s a guy who goes from only making 40% of his free throws to making nearly all of them when he starts shooting underhand. But Wilt Chamberlain went back to the old way of shooting because he didn’t want to look like a sissy, although it has to be said that it’s hard to look stupid when you’re putting up 100 points in a game.

Menu Makeover & why Changing Ideas is Difficult

Menu Makeover

HotOperator Menu Design Circa 2004

This is all on my mind because I’ve just listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, which explains Mark Granovetter’s research about thresholds and how decisions are made about changing ideas. Malcolm goes on to explain that these threshold decisions are not about ignorance, but it’s because they have an emotional reason for not making the right choice. So even though Wilt understood that throwing underhand was better, he chose not to. The difference here is that the restaurant operators who choose not to use menu-engineering techniques are more likely ignorant. They probably don’t know, or don’t believe the techniques work.

The biggest problem with the current Benvenuto’s menu is that it would be nearly impossible to know what you’re ordering before it gets to the table.

I tell my friend all of this because I see restaurant operators do this all the time. We work with them on their menu makeover, as we did with Benvenuto’s back nearly 15 years ago, only to have some of them go back to their old ways of making a menu at some point. A new chef or manager comes along and brings with them some old, crusty ideas about menu development and they ratchet the menu back to a generic looking, heavy-handed, soulless price sheet. The biggest problem with the Benvenuto’s menu is that it would be nearly impossible to know what you’re ordering before it gets to the table. That and there is nothing about the menu that would make anyone remember what they ordered.

Is Spaghetti just Spaghetti? Or is it something more?

Of course, you can say that spaghetti is spaghetti, but I’ve made a successful career out of making food products stand out from one another. And this goes for everything on the menu and the restaurant itself. What the consumer sees, what they read, how they feel about the food and how they describe it to other people is directly related to the menu.

But it isn’t just about looking smart, nor is it just about making more money, although making more money is always nice. It’s also about offering your guests a better experience, getting them to remember you more, and liking the food better.

If you need help coming up with ideas, give us a call! Mark Laux can be found here: http://www.hotoperator.com/contact-us/

Mark K. Laux

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