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Friday, 19 June 2009

Offer a 'Manageable' menu!

Sometimes I find myself writing out Specials onto small slats, which are then hung by the pub onto hooks on a plain board. I've introduced many pubs and companies to the concept over the past and it is a great way of maintaining consistency. And its certainly preferable to illegible scrawl on smudged blackboard surfaces!

If Specials are a pubs main focus for driving the menu then I usually recommend no more than a dozen. For venues with a larger fixed menu, I'd suggest less than half a dozen specials.

From an operational stand-point there are obvious advantages in keeping a tightly focused range of offerings, both in terms of stock control, and in staff training.

But far more importantly is the stand point of the customer. It benefits the customer to see a compacted menu, which while covering all the main meal groups, provides enough variety that they will want to return to try other dishes in the future. Also, your menu should say something about your venue that sets you apart from the competition. Dishes unique to yourselves, either through ingredients, cooking method or presentation, are a sure way to boost the 'good-will' value of your pub. But keep it focused!

A customer faced with much more than 30 main course options will find themselves unable to make a decision quickly. Also, they will not come away with any lasting impression of your pubs identity as too broad a menu provides confusion.

Example of utter madness:


At a venue recently, they were carrying... get this... over 70 main course specials! And that's in addition to its permanent menu of around 40 main course dishes. In fact, they had to divide the range of specials over two seperate specials boards, located some forty feet apart! And this, I witnessed over a bank holiday weekend!

My heart goes out to all of the families who had to endure a dining experience at that venue. With each family member having to walk from one end of the pub to the other, each time faced with a 'wall of words' before returning to their table menu, having by then forgotten which dishes were of interest. How on Earth customers are expected to come to a decision when overcome with masses of menu descriptions imparting every item's ingredients and cooking methods! You could eat there every week for over two years before having to order the same dish twice!

This is frankly stupid! It certainly does not help the customer. One can't help but wonder the thought processes of company bosses who are pushing internal communications to increase the rate of table turnover on busy days, while at the same time working to increase the time it takes for a customer to decide what they will order!

So like I said. Try to offer a 'manageable' menu. It helps customers, staff and stock, and cuts down on training. It may even reduce the cost of 'chalkboard writing'!

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