C.W. Coops Menu Makeover

A menu matrix is a way of comparing each restaurant menu item with every other restaurant menu item.

Alliston, Ontario, is a town of about 15,000 people just north of Toronto. Sandra Lambie is the general manager of C.W. Coops, a bar and restaurant in Alliston, which is one of several restaurants by the same name. And while not exactly a chain, they all have the same logo and generally the same foods. When we started working with Sandra, I wondered out loud if it would make sense for us to work on all of the menus at one time, but Sandra said no without explanation, so we concentrated exclusively on the Alliston restaurant.

The first step in creating a new restaurant menu, or even just updating a restaurant menu in an established restaurant, is to develop a menu matrix. We did just that for C.W. Coops and uncovered a lot of great information that helped us decide which items to change or cut, which items to highlight and which items could take a price increase.

A menu matrix is a way of comparing each menu item with every other menu item, based on its ability to generate income and its popularity. In other words, products on a menu are compared by how many people order them and how much money each item can take to the bank. What the matrix is concerned with is plate contribution rather than food cost percentages, because a product can have a low cost percentage and still not generate enough income to make the product worthwhile.

To develop a menu matrix you need three pieces of information: Theoretic food costs for each item, sales velocity for each item sold and the selling price. In the case of C.W. Coops, Sandra only provided category totals along with a few specific menu items, so the matrix only compared wings, burgers, steaks, chicken, steak on a bun, sandwiches, salads, wraps, chicken fingers, cheese bread and desserts.

Menu Matrix Revisited

A menu matrix is a report that breaks each item down into one of four categories based on each item’s popularity and profitability. Each category is essentially a comparison or measurement that shows how each product is performing in the restaurant based on each other product. Stars – These are typically your best items. Stars are both profitable and popular, so these are items that your guests are willing to pay more for more often. Puzzles – These are items that make a higher-than-average profit, but are not as popular as other items on the menu. You want to sell more of these if you can, and we call them puzzles because we try to figure out why people don’t buy more of them. In some cases, if a product is selling slowly in this category, you may want to make a cut here, but in most cases, you will want to concentrate on finding ways to sell more puzzles. Cash Cows – Items that have an above-average popularity but below-average profitability. Most restaurant operators make most of their money in this category. Cash cows are good for your business because they sell well, but they also tend to have a lot of competitive down-pressure on price, so you can’t usually take the price up on them high enough to make them into stars. Dogs – These are items that have a lower-than-average profitability and a lower-than-average popularity. If you need to cut a product, this is the category from which to make a cut, but keep in mind that some products from this category can still have value. So cut from here, but be careful not to slice the dog too deeply.


March 7, 2013


Business, Menu Design, Menu Design Engineering