If you frequent restaurants, you’ve probably noticed that menus have gotten smaller. Years ago, most restaurants had pages upon pages of options to choose from. Today, not so much.
The slim-down of menus began with the pandemic but continues today. Why haven’t restaurants begun bulking up their menus again? Will we see more options soon, or will menus continue to shrink?
It Started With The Pandemic
Restaurants began slimming down their menus amid the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic hit businesses hard, financially and operationally. From March to May 2020, restaurant sales were down by $94 billion dollars.
It’s no longer sustainable for restaurants to continue offering as many menu options as they have in the past.
Why Do Restaurants Continue to Slim Down Their Menus?
During the pandemic, many restaurants temporarily shut down, pivoting to delivery and takeout options. Even though restaurants have reopened, most have continued offering these options because of their popularity. But having takeout and delivery, on top of dine-in options, is harder on the staff.
Continuing to have smaller menus is easier on staff and reduces costs.
Restaurants are also having trouble hiring staff. The number of people dining in is almost equal to what it was in 2019. However, restaurants are having difficulty hiring and retaining employees.
The number of people employed in food service is down by 500,000 individuals since before the pandemic.
Plus, restaurants are now dealing with the soaring prices caused by inflation and supply chain issues. We are facing shortages, and it’s difficult for restaurants to get many items on their menus. When they can get the right ingredients, they cost more than ever before.
How Slimming Down Helps Restaurants
Smaller restaurant menus make running a restaurant easier and more cost-effective.
Having fewer options on the menu is easier for the cooks making the food and allows them to perfect a smaller number of dishes. Many of the menu options being eliminated are more complicated to make. Doing so leaves diners with better-quality food.
Smaller menus are also easier on servers, and of course, on the owner’s wallet.
How Are Restaurants Slimming Down Their Menus?
In 2020, Denny’s removed their Sizzlin’ Supreme Skillet, Choconana Pancakes, Spicy Sriracha Burger, Fit Slam, and Slow-Cooked Pot Roast from their menus.
IHOP is another prime example. They went from a 12-page menu down to just two pages.
Dave & Buster’s trimmed their 40-item menu down to 15 items.
Even McDonald’s reduced their menu offerings. During the pandemic, they eliminated salads, bagels, yogurt parfaits, and all-day breakfasts.
Today, 31% of restaurant operators say they’ve reduced their menu offerings. Of those who trimmed their menus, 30% of operators said they’re also using lower-cost ingredients.
Estimates show that, across the board, restaurant menus are 10-20% smaller than they were pre-pandemic.
Restaurants are being smart about trimming down their menus, keeping the most popular options, and eliminating rarely ordered items. They are also stick to ingredients they can easily get from local suppliers.
Operators have been using technology like operational financial dashboards like Salesforce’s Tableau and Microsoft’s Power BI to track the restaurant’s history. The software shows restaurants how much of an item was sold daily, and even every hour.
With inflation rising and restaurants struggling to hire employees, it’s unlikely we’ll see restaurants bring back the bulk of their menu items.
Slimming down menus makes it easier for everyone, even the consumer. There are fewer options, less food for the chefs to cook, and fewer ingredients for the owners to purchase.
Hopefully, slimmer menus will help restaurants thrive again in a struggling market. If you need assistance reengineering your menu and optimizing it for efficiency, please reach out to Synergy.