10 Ways to Improve Your Restaurant’s Menu to Increase Profitability

Improving Your Menu to Increase Profitability


1) Take a hard look at your prices.

Pricing products is one of the most difficult things that any business owner has to do. At it’s simplest, you try to calculate prices that will cover your costs and earn enough of a profit to make it worth staying in business. But, what if you’re leaving money on the table by pricing your items too low? Or, vice versa, what if your menu is priced too high and your losing sales volume? Either scenario could effect profitability in a major way.

Developing an optimal pricing strategy is 1/2 art and 1/2 science – entire books have been written on the subject, so it is too complex to cover in detail here. What it boils down to, however, is matching your prices to the value that your customers perceive in your items. If customers perceive that your $12.99 burger with locally raised, grass fed ground chuck represents an appropriate value, they’ll be happy to pay it – regardless of what it costs to make.

So, how can you gauge your customers’ perceptions of value and price accordingly? Start with your direct competition. Are they pricing the same burger for $8? If so, then, all other things being equal, they’re probably stealing some of your sales. On the other hand, if they’re pricing it at $15, then there may be an opportunity for you to raise your price a little and increase your profitability.

2) Eliminate the clutter

Do you have items on your menu that just don’t sell? Does your menu have so many items on it that you have to use a small, hard to read font in order to fit it all in? If you answered yes to either of these questions, consider ridding your menu of the clutter. Of course you want to keep your classics, customer favorites, and high profit items, but it may just be time to get rid of the rest. Too much on your menu will overwhelm your customers, create a large amount of inventory that you will end up throwing away, and leave you with increased labor costs, all of which reduces profitability.

To combat the clutter, consider recommendations made by O’Dell Restaurant Consulting, a company that offers restaurant consulting services. They recommend taking your sales mix report and eliminating the bottom half of the items; the ones that aren’t selling. Then, take the top half and really evaluate where in your kitchen these items are prepared, using that to organize and balance your menu. For example, have a grilled items section, sautéed selections, fried foods, etc. O’Dell suggests no more than 20 main course dishes, including sandwiches, 4-6 starters, and 2-3 salads. If you have pizza on your menu, it is suggested to make up 2/3 of your main course selections and you should only offer it in a maximum of 3 sizes. You should still accommodate special requests but have a special price for those requests. Cleaning up your menu and getting rid of the clutter will give your customers better food and better service in addition to allowing your restaurant to serve more people.

3) Try a new design.

A fresh perspective and a new look to your menu is a great way to upgrade your brand and improve profitability. Consider investing in the services of a graphic designer or a marketing professional who can use their tricks of the trade to make your menu more attractive and eye catching. Or, look into online companies who offer professional templates, like Vistaprint, to complete this task on your own. Regardless of who does it, design does make a difference. It’s all about the text font and size, the illustrations and images, colors used, and even the shape, thickness, and texture of your menu. It’s also about making sure that your final menu fits in with the concept and atmosphere of your restaurant.

4) Change up your descriptions.

The way you describe your menu items makes a difference. Keep your menu descriptions short but offer descriptive terms that highlight their taste, uniqueness, or ingredients. The tastier it sounds, the more interest there will be in ordering it. If this isn’t your forte, consider hiring a professional copywriter or marketer to assist you with this task. You can find freelance professionals who do this type of work at www.upwork.com.

5) Consider item placement and positioning.

When organizing your menu, here are a few fun facts that may be helpful to increase sales…According to SoftCafe, a developer of menu software for restaurants, customers often remember and order the first two items and the last two items in each category on your menu. On a tri-panel menu, people look at the center panel first and move their attention counter clockwise. Place your highest margin items in these areas, and you could see a substantial increase in profitability.

6) Add fresh into the mix.

Food trends have moved into organic, fresh, and healthier options. Offering “fresh” items on your menu not only sounds attractive to your customers, but can also be a selling point for your restaurant. Supporting the local economy and having healthier options for your customers is good for the environment, good for the local economy, and can make you stand out from other restaurants. In addition, customers are willing to pay a little more for ingredients that are fresh, local, and healthy with an even better taste.

7) Offer specials.

Customers will come to your restaurant not only looking for deals, but also for menu items that they can’t get anywhere else. Consider a specials menu or insert with your regular menu that you change out every so often to push high margin items. A great example of a company that utilizes this strategy is Red Lobster, which has different, short lived, specials like Shrimp Fest, Crab Fest, and Lobster Fest at various times of year.

Play up seasonal offerings during the holidays or offer certain items related to commercialized events like the Super Bowl or the premier of a popular television show in your area. Specials keep your menu interesting and they can even allow you to use up inventory that might otherwise go to waste.

8) Don’t forget photos.

When possible, try to include photos that offer your customers a visual presentation of your food. Some people are visual decision makers; they will see an item and order it because the picture intrigued them. Consider highlighting your popular menu items, a new or featured item, or even something that is a long time classic. With these photos, be sure the images are sharp ones with a professional look. But, don’t go overboard. Too many images can be overwhelming and can look chaotic. Plus, it’s okay to have white space; it gives your customer’s eyes a chance to rest. Applebee’s does a great job of using photos on their menu to entice their customers.

9) Make your menu easily accessible.

In this day and age, people want information in an instant and make their decisions based on the information available to them. Included in this is your restaurant’s menu. Your goal is to get that information to your customers as soon as possible. Yes, you can make sure that your menu is on the table when each customer is seated or that the hostess hands each patron a copy of it when they first sit down. You can even offer a menu on the wall in the waiting area for your customers to read. But, one of the best ways to offer your menu even before any customer walks in is online through a mobile friendly website, app, or on any of the social media sites. When customers can access your menu from anywhere, it may just be the deciding factor that pulls their cars into your parking lot. And when paired with the recommendations above, you’ll be sure to see the profits of your efforts.

10) Consider your customer.

Who is your customer and what would appeal to them? When your restaurant menu appeals to each customer, especially the news ones, they’ll surely return for more. For example, if your business caters to families, offer a separate kids menu. If your restaurant is located in a college town, offer pricing that appeals to the average college student. Or, if you have an upscale restaurant, offer a menu that caters to your customer in both variety on your menu and in design.

Instagram for Your Restaurant: How to #DoItTheRightWay

Social media is everywhere. Everyone has an account on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram that they use on a daily basis. These avenues not only keep us connected with others, but they also help us find people and places in an instant. And let’s face it, instant gratification is now the way of the world.

Let’s narrow this social media frenzy down to just one platform; Instagram. Instagram has gained millions on followers in the last couple of years and it is turning into the platform of choice for many. Why? We think you will agree that pictures and videos are way more interesting than reading a post. Plus, with cell phones seemingly attached to everyone’s hip these days, it’s quicker to share a picture or video than to actually write a post for your followers to read.

Now, let’s even narrow it a little bit more to focus solely on Instagram use for restaurants. Do you have an Instagram account for your restaurant? If so, are you using it in such a way that you are creating a buzz or traffic into your establishment? Whether you’re just starting out or have been using Instagram for some time now, let us share some tips we learned from Katrina Padron, founder of Padron Social Marketing, at the National Restaurant Association trade show. These tips are great ways to fine tune your account and make your restaurant stand out.

Posting pictures and/or videos

Best practices suggest that restaurants commit to posting one picture every day. In the chaos called life, we know that can pose some difficulty unless you have a designated person to do the work. If posting every day is not possible, try to at least post five times a week. To help you save time with all of these posts, you might want to consider a scheduling tool to plan out your posts. One such tool is an app called latergramme. With this app, you can sit down once a week and plan out which pictures or videos to post and when you want to post them. The app even sends you a notification when your picture or video is scheduled to post with instructions to follow on how to go live with your content.


The timing of your post is a big deal. In order to figure out what the best times are to post on Instagram, Katrina recommended checking out a great website called iconosquare.com. Iconosquare will link to your Instagram account and show you analytics as to when your account performs the best. It will also show you what photo filters work best by most likes or comments and which hashtags are performing the best, among other analytics. If you aren’t interested in hopping onto this website to get all of this great information, Katrina suggested posting between 7am and 8am in the morning or before bedtime. But, remember to always think about your target market before choosing these times.

Photo quality

No one likes looking at a photo or video that is fuzzy or blurry. It just isn’t appealing and can even hurt your eyes. Always post clear, crisp quality photos and/or videos. Offering quality shots will make your posts more interesting, hold attention longer, give clarity to mobile users, and add to your business’s professional look. More importantly, it will make your posts more memorable.

Make it interesting

In addition to posting quality photos, it’s important that they are visually interesting as well as full of good content. You can do this several ways:

  • Mix it up. Of course you want to show everyone your delicious looking menu items, like a beautifully presented dinner plate, a decadent desert, or a fresh salad with toppings galore. But, consider sharing more of your business than just food. Add additional content to help your customers learn more about you and your business to create a connection between you and the customer. This connection is often what your customers are seeking. For example, include images of the front line, the kitchen, your walk in cooler, your employees hard at work, an image of your establishment from the outside, your outdoor dining space, etc. The ideas are endless.
  • Use interesting camera angles. Try taking overhead pictures, low shots, or cross angled shots from the side. These angles are catchy and often pull the viewer in, keeping them engrossed for longer than the typical photo or video.
  • Consider the Rule of Thirds when taking photos. The Rule of Thirds is a basic rule in the photography world that divides an image visually into a grid. This grid creates nine symmetrical squares with intersections where the grid lines cross. The points of crossing are the places where it is recommended to place the main content of the image that you are trying to take. It offers a more engaging photo as well as one that has a better balance.
  • Build height with your photos. Adding height to your photos is a great way to pull customers in. Let’s say you are taking a picture of a burger. Add height to the burger by adding layers of lettuce, tomato, and cheese in between a puffy bun to make it taller. Even visualizing this, especially if you are a burger lover, creates a desire to eat one. The image of this tall scrumptious burger will entice your followers even more than the words.
  • Use vibrant colors and backgrounds with props rather than a plain white color. Take photos of food items like fruits and vegetables that naturally have a colorful palette. In addition, add props into the background of your photos like table linens, silverware, ingredients used to make the item, or a wine bottle. Items like these will add a little something extra to your photo to create that visual appeal.
  • Use a photo editing tool. These tools let you play with exposure, highlights, and cropping while offering filters that will brighten, soften, or change the color of your photo. After you choose a photo, Instagram does offer some editing within the app that you can use, but there are additional apps that offer more options with photo editing that are worth checking out. One such photo editing tool that Katrina uses is called Afterlight and it can be found in the app store for a small fee. There are so many other tools that you can purchase for free; it’s just a matter of downloading it and trying it to see which ones work best for you.


When you post a picture or video on Instagram, you have the opportunity to make a comment with your post. You may think to yourself, “What am I going to say?” A great idea starter when this happens comes from a one page form called A Case of the Blahs, also found on the Padron Social Marketing website. It includes 50 prompts to get your mind moving so that you can post a comment that achieves likes and interaction with your customers. Katrina recommends that you offer a comment with each picture or video that you post as a way of interacting with your followers and customers. And, don’t forget to add the hashtag, our next topic to discuss.


Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the number or pound sign that offer a way to categorize content. This categorization makes it easier for people to search for information and join conversations on a certain topic. They have gained extreme popularity in the last few years on all social media platforms and you see them all over the internet. On Instagram, it is recommended for businesses to only post up to 3 hashtags per post and to use ones that are unique to your business. Consider hashtags that are important to your community and use them as a way to interact with other people and businesses in your area. Also, find hashtags that are popular on Instagram to add to your posts. You can find popular hashtags by clicking on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of your Instagram app on your mobile device and search for whatever topic or image your photo/video offers. Hashtags are a new concept and can be hard to understand but when used correctly, can bring more attention to your posts.

Instagram-MenuAdditional Recommendations

In addition to the information above, here are some additional recommendations you may want to consider:

  • Instagram offers information just for businesses like how to get started, finding customers, sharing brand photos, using hashtags in addition to an Instagram for Business blog. Check out Instagram for Businesses online to gather information that will allow you to take full advantage of this platform for your bar or restaurant.
  • Consider making the content on your business Instagram account different from the content on your other social media accounts. If the same content is on every feed, people will tune out. Use each platform for a different reason or to cater to different groups of customers.
  • Instagram doesn’t just have to be all about photos and videos of food from your restaurant. Aaron Allen & Associates, a global restaurant consulting company, offers a blog article called 10 Great Ways to Use Instagram for Restaurant Marketing. They suggest using it as a tool for contests, interactive menus, odd and interesting photo opportunities, behind the scenes looks, or community and culture awareness.    For additional ideas, check out other restaurant’s Instagram accounts to spark your creativity.

Instagram is a great tool for businesses, especially for restaurants looking for a way to market themselves in the social media world. When used correctly, it’s a popular avenue to tell your story and create a buzz that brings your customers in to enjoy your menu.