Finding An Additional $116,000.00 In Your Restaurant

Proof That Menu Engineering Works

Joe Festinger of Long Island New York was a little skeptical when he called to ask about menu engineering. It’s not that he didn’t believe me entirely, but he would have been a lot happier if I could have offered an exact number by percentage that he could count on that menu engineering would bring to his restaurant. Plus, because his restaurant was new, he would not have anything to compare his restaurant opening performance to, since there wouldn’t be any history.

While I was describing the menu engineering process to Joe, I was struck with the fact that most of the information related to the effectiveness of menu engineering is anecdotal, since most restaurant operators I work with don’t split their guests or their menu up in a way that can give any direct comparisons.  And it’s never my advice to have two menus in the restaurant, one engineered and the other a standard homespun menu and then check the orders and income based on which menu they had at the time they ordered.

But then I remembered an NBC study on menu engineering that aired a number of years ago, and how they got Norma’s restaurant at the Le Parker Meridien hotel in New York to do just that, to have two menus, one engineered and the other a price list to their customers for a few days. For the broadcast, Norma’s offered half of their guests an engineered menu and the other half of their guests a menu that was not engineered. They actually made a second menu for the restaurant, and every other table was offered either an engineered or a non-engineered menu. And then at the end of the test period they counted up the totals and looked at what was ordered, how much money was spent and got a definitive answer to the question: can you prove menu engineering really works?

As I mentioned, everything other than the engineering and design on both menus was exactly the same. The food items, the prices, the servers and the way the foods were prepared were the same for both menus. The only differences were that the engineered menu had different descriptions, different product positioning, more effective highlighting, some mental anchor points and better design. The result was, the restaurant patrons who received the engineered menu spent 16% more on their visit than the guests who received a regular menu. So when it was all said and done, the guests who ordered from an engineered menu spent $1.16 for every dollar that a guest who received the non-engineered menu at the restaurant spent. And while that may not seem like a lot of money, think about it this way: if you have a restaurant that makes a million dollars per year, the menu alone could bring you an additional $116,000.00 in annual income.

L. I. Pour house, Long Island

Just Remember PHAN: Positioning, Highlighting, Anchoring, Numbers The menu engineering process we use for our clients is the exact same menu engineering process they used in the NBC broadcast, which relies on four essential elements to be effective.


September 7, 2014


Business, Menu Design, Menu Design Engineering, Photography