Lara’s Tortilla Flats

Why Selling Appetizers on a Mexican Restaurant Menu is Like Selling Snow to Eskimos

I asked Ada who started the free chips and salsa craze in Mexican restaurants. She couldn’t remember and said it was always like that. Sure makes it tough to sell appetizers, though. She had to agree with that. In her case, the only item she was selling as an appetizer was guacamole. In fact, it was the only item selling more than one per day, which is a problem in and of itself, since it’s tough to get good at something when you don’t do it very often. It’s also tough on inventory, because when you don’t sell much of something, it’s difficult to make purchases in large enough quantities that make financial sense.

Our recommendation was to try to focus on items that will recover the chip costs. In other words, work off of the chips and try to sell dips and toppings that make the chips more fun to eat and can recover some of the costs. So on the menu we highlighted two other dips – a chile con queso and a bean dip.

When we made Ada's restaurant menu makeover we did everything we could to cover the chips including a server training program. Ada said she thought it was a cool menu design.

Being in the Right Place with the Right Items

Two of the most misunderstood parts of menu engineering are product positioning and price positioning, and if you get these two things right, you will be well on your way to a healthy, profitable restaurant. Let’s start with product positioning. There are a number of product-positioning diagrams floating around, and there are also a number of menu-engineering resources claiming to have the single answer to every menu. When in reality, each menu needs to be adjusted based on the products and product sections’ ability to make you famous and make you money. So keep in mind, where a person’s eye falls first is not always the best location for the items you want to sell most. It may be in a place where your eye tends to linger, rather than just where it lands.


October 7, 2013


Business, Menu Design, Menu Design Engineering, Photography, Restaurant Marketing