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Menu Management

In Defense of a Smaller Menu


Andrea Victory

We’ve all been to a restaurant that has a 10 page menu featuring everything from pastas to burritos. A choice of 50 entrees, 20 appetizers, and 10 desserts. But recent research has shown that choice can actually be a handicap on a restaurant. It turns out, it’s not all about choice. The paradox of choice means that the more choices people have the more overwhelmed they become and the less likely they are to make a choice at all. The freedom to choose is more of a blessing when people have fewer decisions to make.

This is especially important for restaurateurs to note. When you’re running a restaurant, you are essentially a participant in the paradox of choice: offering a list of dishes for a patron to peruse and choose.

According to the Washington Post, the country’s 500 largest restaurant chains have recently slimmed down their menus by more than 7%, and new restaurants have menus that are nearly 40 items shorter on average. The big menus of yesterday, the pages and pages of possibilities are shrinking, and we think it’s about time for three main reasons.

A Smaller Menu Creates a Better Experience for Customers

Customers can avoid overwhelming choice and zero in on what excites them the most. A more compact menu also creates a feeling of trust for the customer, as they feel confident in their choice knowing that the limited number of dishes means the restaurant specializes in what they are ordering.

A Smaller Menu Creates a More Streamlined Kitchen

An efficient kitchen has a limited number of items that can be made at the same time and all adhere to a quality standard. On a 40-50 item menu, some items may not be ordered by guests for weeks, leaving chefs to dig into their memory and whip up something unfamiliar. Conversely, cooking items from a 10-15 item menu each night establishes consistency because, after all, practice makes perfect.

A Smaller Menu is Good for the Bottom Line

Too much product on hand impacts a restaurant’s bottom line. As the Washington Post reported, “By offering fewer items, eateries can more easily standardize food quality, avoid the waste from estimating demand for longer lists of foods and, presumably, boost their profit margins — either by charging more or spending less.” When you streamline your menu you cut out unnecessary ingredients, reduce waste from items going bad, and save money in the process.

It makes sense – and cents – to narrow your menu to a list of customer favorites. What’s not to love about happy, confident customers and a consolidated kitchen?

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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