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3 top tips to simplify and future proof your menu

I’m sure we can all agree that the last few weeks since hospitality was allowed to reopen have been one giant learning curve for all.

All indications seem to be that our market will recover slowly, since a quarter of people still feel uncomfortable with visiting hospitality venues.[1] However, there are some positive signs in the first few weeks as CGA say that ‘trading is approaching 70% of pre-Covid norms’.[2]

As a result of all that’s happened, most businesses still have fewer resources to run at this time, leading to an ongoing need for simplification of menus. It’s pivotal for your long-term success that you continuously tweak your menu to suit and manage what you can do in your kitchen, to ensure you can provide a quality but value-for-money offer that keeps customers happy. But what are the most important things to keep in mind when planning for this? Here’s my top 3 things to think about when you’re planning on what to do with your menu…

 

Time to grab and go…

This might seem obvious but I can’t explain how important it is to get this right so you can meet consumer needs. Remember for many, there will be a sense of anxiety about going back into public. In fact, over 49% of people in the UK are anxious about being exposed to the virus still.1 Therefore, it looks like the grab and go format is going to stick around for some time. You not only need to have the right range to meet their food requirements but you have to make sure you provide a seamless experience where they can quickly get what they want and then leave. By providing this, you make it a lot easier for customers to build up trust and have the confidence to come back time and time again. 

Over a quarter of people said they ordered takeaway for the first time during lockdown[3]. With more people looking to use this format, you need to make sure that you have a strong range of takeaway packaging. This is not only a great chance for you to grow your awareness by branding packaging up, but it is great to demonstrate you are taking safety as a priority. Small touches that are effective like adding tamper proof labels to ensure food hasn’t been touched by others is a great way to build trust back up. Have you also thought about adding any nice touches into your delivery bag to leave a lasting impression and an extra bit of added quality?

Simplify your menu but don’t take away what you’re best known for…

There’s not many things more frustrating than going somewhere and finding out that they no longer do your favourite dish. Make sure you keep customer favourites on the menu, otherwise you put yourself in danger of losing your reputation for what you are known for.  Can you use high GP and high selling lines as a base for your menu, removing products that are slow moving? Now is the perfect time to review your range to make sure you are providing the right offer that is achievable in your kitchen. Operationally, your menu will need to work hard for you, being easy to create, meeting consumer needs, and being streamlined. You also won’t want to be forced into a position of reducing portion sizes as a way of cutting costs, particularly as you won’t want to leave customers disappointed if it is already difficult to get them through your doors.

When planning your menu, make sure you’re thinking about how consumer needs are changing since lockdown. The pandemic has unsurprisingly made people more health focussed, with 70% of people actively trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, and with a quarter of people actively buying healthier food.3 There will naturally be a financial implication as a result of what has gone on, with 75% of people worried about the long-term impact.3 Naturally that leads to consumers wanting to spend less, so there needs to be a real focus on providing value for money in your offer. This is where the “Eat Out to Help Out” and the reduced VAT for hospitality schemes should be able to help.

Reduce the skill needed for your recipes but don’t lose your creative flare…

Depending on your constraints with kitchen staff, it might be more difficult to continue scratch cooking recipes like you used to. However, despite reduced resources, it doesn’t mean you need to lose any creativity with what you do, in fact, this is a good time to be more creative in how you use products across your menu in multiple ways. Not only does this allow you to grow your chefs’ skillsets, but it helps you to optimise your store cupboard space, use fewer ingredients, and use fewer products in more dishes. This in return will help you cut important costs.


These are the key things to think about for now to help future proof your menu, however, with things changing all the time, it is important to keep up with the latest ways of providing the best offer for your customers. We recently launched our Simple Solutions guide to support you further on this with advice, menu ideas, individually wrapped options/grab and go products and really simple to make recipes. For more support on planning for your future and getting back to business, go to our Covid-19 support page.


Sources:

[1] Mintel, Covid-19’s Impact on British Consumers (July 2020)
[2] CGA and The Coffer Group, Coffer Peach Business Tracker, July 2020
[3] CGA Future Shock Report (July 2020)

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