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Menu Makeover

Menu design is key for all restaurants, whether they are new or established brands. Butterfield's, an emerging restaurant chain, has been capitalizing on the breakfast business for years. There are three things that distinguish Butterfield's from other breakfast restaurants. First, unlike many restaurants, they actually break eggs for all dishes from pancakes to Eggs Benedict. Second, Butterfield's squeezes orange juice to order. Third, they make pancakes so fluffy you can put a candle in the center and offer them as birthday cake.

The Menu Matrix

To uncover the gems in the restaurant business, we always start with a menu matrix. The matrix breaks everything sold into four categories:
Stars: menu items with high profit and popularity
Puzzles: items that are challenging to profit from
Cash Cows: menu items with high popularity, but low profit margins
Dogs: unpopular items with low profit

As we would expect from a restaurant brand that doesn't approach the $10 price mark, overall, the Butterfield's menu matrix showed strong sales, but tight profit margins. Where at most dinner restaurants the difference between a Star and a Cash Cow is more than $4 of restaurant profit, the difference at Butterfield's was around $2.

To be successful with our menu design makeover, we had to focus our efforts on getting customers to try more adventurous items with higher check averages. To do this, we focused our menu designs on positioning, highlighting, mental anchoring and strategic pricing.

Every Dog Has His Day

Most menu design engineers will tell you: “We must get rid of the Dogs.” But what we found in the case of Butterfield's, as is the case with many restaurants, Dogs accounted for nearly 60 percent of the profit in some categories and around 25 percent of sales. Instead of cutting all the Dogs, we strategically priced them and cut only the truly failing few. For example, we bumped the minced Ham & Eggs from $7.25 to $7.45. While this may not increase its popularity, it will increase its profitability by an extra $22.80 a week without a fight from the customer.

Star Positions

The Stars on this restaurant menu aren't much different from the Cash Cows. Yet, in order to increase check averages, we needed the Stars to take star positions within the menu design. So we positioned the pancakes, skillets and scramblers on the first two pages. The next two pages of the menu design were dedicated to Benedicts and omelets, and the last two were dedicated to lunch. Then, we highlighted the star items in each of these categories. Finally, we suggested Butterfield's add two new items priced over 10 dollars in order to make the Stars look less expensive by comparison.

Incremental Selling

Most family-style and casual full-service restaurants offer appetizers and desserts to help them grow their incremental business. Appetizers can bring in 12 percent of a restaurant operator's business, but, unfortunately, breakfast restaurants don't usually have any equivalent. Normally, I work with breakfast restaurant operators to find a type of sweet bread or bakery item to drive an appetizer-style offering. In the case of Butterfield's, however, bakery goods were out of the question. Instead, we marketed Butterfield's freshly squeezed orange juice, biscuits and gravy, and fresh fruit as add-on menu items to the pancakes and waffles.

The Most Powerful Weapon

To quote Ron Shaich of Panera Bread, "Menu management is one of your most strategic weapons if you aim it properly." Aim your menu design strategies at the items that will bring more customers, get them to spend a little more during their visits, and feel great about having gone out to breakfast and you'll emerge as the chain to follow.