Managing a menu

When we sit down in a restaurant most of us take little notice of the way the menu is constructed. We spend our time perusing the options, thinking carefully about what we would like to eat, whether we can accommodate all three courses and if not thinking about whether we should have a starter or save ourselves for that fantastic sweet.

For a wholesaler having influence on your customer’s menu is a great way to ensure your customer stays with you and doesn’t go elsewhere. When we visit Spain or Portugal on holidays we are used to being shown a special ice cream menu which has invariably been supplied by the ice cream supplier.

This is a sales tactic that ensures loyalty to the brand from both the consumer and the customer. It maximises the brand’s exposure and the consumer is confident that they are going to get a dessert they will enjoy.

But how can a wholesaler in the UK use this approach to ensure the end user stays loyal to them? Wine can be a great place to start because for a restaurant to be able to maximise profitability on wine, the first rule is to make sure that the same bottle cannot be purchased in Tesco for one third of the price being charged by the restaurant. A differentiated wine offer, and access to some expert advice on the development of a balanced wine list can immediately develop customer loyalty between end user and wholesaler and create that all important rapport between them.

Another way of helping your customers is to offer a simple menu printing service and advice on menu layout. This will enable the wholesaler to have an influence over what is on the menu as well. The Independent on Sunday last year offered some great tips for menu layout and here are just a few ideas:

l The Single Sheet: a separate dessert menu is part of the experience in fine dining, but in mid-range restaurants or a pub a layout that shows everything is more effective as people are more likely to plan their meal and leave room for all three courses.

l Name Your Sources: information is more important than description these days so make sure that you tell your customers where you source your fresh products from so that they can put it on the menu. People are likely to pay more for a dish if the know that the ingredients came from a famously good supplier or a local source. And if the caterer can only get those locally sourced products from one wholesaler then you’ve got them hooked

l State the Obvious: certain adjectives like ‘grass-reared’ or ‘oven baked’, appear reassuringly informative even though they are complete nonsense. The point is they make the consumer feel comfortable and more willing to spend money.

l Position: moving where a dish is shown on the menu can influence sales. Most of us scan documents from left to right then diagonally right to left to the bottom of the page then across to the right in a sort of lazy ‘Z’. So anything that tracks this shape across the page will sell fastest.

l Little Extras: olives, a special drink with each course, or opportunities to personalise an existing dish are all ways to increase sales revenue and also to deliver a dish ‘specified to the customers needs’.

l Last is not least: the first and last items on the menu should be the lowest priced options as these make the biggest impression when a prospective customer scans the menu outside the restaurant.

l Briefing the Staff: give your customers tips on how to brief their waiting staff on the menu. In particular, what selections to push, what wines go with dishes, and make sure that staff have tried everything on the menu.

One of the greatest psychological triggers to encouraging purchases is the advice of an expert and the waiting staff in a restaurant are the experts who are there to ensure customers enjoy the experience.

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