There are more than 1 million restaurants in the United States, according to the National Restaurant Association. Depending on how many restaurants serve your city, you could potentially be competing against thousands of menus, all gunning for your guests’ hard-earned dollars. So how do you make sure you’re offering customers what they want while still ensuring the highest profitability for your pizzeria? PMQ sat down with menu engineer Gregg Rapp of Menu Technologies in Palm Springs, California, to find out how both sides can win by following these nine steps to profitability in menu design.
- Know where to focus. “Look at your sales mix, including where you’re making the most money and selling the highest volume,” says Rapp. “If you’re selling mostly large pizzas, start costing them to set the best price and position for your menu. Going through this step, you may discover that you’d make the most profit by focusing on one size of pizza only.”
- Offer signature pizzas. If you aren’t already offering signature pies with preselected toppings, Rapp advises starting. “Signature pizzas sell better than the build-your-own option because there’s no wrestling over what everyone wants,” he says. “Additionally, you’ll find guests will order more salad and breadsticks when they aren’t spending all of their time trying to choose toppings.”
- Think carefully about where you place items on the menu. The first section of the menu to draw a guest’s eyes is the upper right side of the page, so this is a perfect spot for your signature pizzas, according to Rapp. “Put your most profitable items on the upper right, and place the items that don’t need that focus, such as the build-your-own-pizza options, on the back of the menu.”
- Don’t bury your pizza prices. In menu engineering, it’s customary to bury prices and avoid lists, but Rapp says that doing this with a pizza menu can get confusing due to the different sizes often offered on pizza menus. “I’d use a price list for the pizza section of the menu so it’s not confusing for the customer,” he says. “In other areas of the menu, such as the pasta section, you can list the price immediately following the description, without a dollar sign.”
- Make your menu easy to read. Most people see reading as work, according to Rapp, so he suggests using tools, such as boxes, to make reading your menu as easy as possible and to showcase menu items that make you the most money. “A box will draw eyes away from a page full of text,” he notes. Except for the boxes you use to highlight your profit powerhouses, Rapp suggests removing all other lines, including margin lines. “Keep the menu open, without a rule around the outside and no patterns behind the copy,” he says. “Black on white is the easiest to read.”
- Draw eyes to a food illustration. In the past, many menus were filled with photos of delicious food designed to entice ordering. However, according to Rapp, new research suggests that when we see a picture of food, we taste it a little bit, at least in our minds. “When the food arrives after first seeing it in a photo, it’s not as tasty,” he says. “Our first bite [the one in our mind] always tastes better than our 10th bite. Plus, the photo never matches the actual food.” An illustration, however, is different. “An illustration has more of a fantasy to it,” he says. “One illustration can pull attention toward an item and help raise its sales by 30%.”
- Woo the guest with strong food descriptions. When you talk to people about your pizza, do words such as hot, delicious, savory, cheesy, homemade, gourmet, authentic and unbelievable come out of your mouth? Are you using these same words on your menu to describe your pizza, or do you offer a simple line that reads something like “Large Pizza”? “The more copy there is to describe an item, the price will go down and the value will go up in a customer’s mind,” Rapp says. “Use as many strong, vivid descriptions as you can to build value into your menu items, putting the ingredients first and the more descriptive copy second.”
- Keep menu categories small. The faster guests can read the menu and place an order, the better it will be for you and them, according to Rapp. No one wants to read your entire menu, so Rapp suggests breaking everything from appetizers to pizzas down into manageable categories of no more than seven items each. “You can even separate specialty pizzas into chicken pizzas, vegetable pizzas, meat lover’s pizzas, etc.,” Rapp adds.
- Take slow sellers off the menu. Your Aunt Martha’s lasagna may be your favorite thing on the menu, but if you sell only one a week, it may be time to replace it with something from Uncle Joe. Rapp says you should take slow sellers off the menu, but you can keep them available for a few months as “secret” menu items. Who knows? They may develop a new following when they’re harder to get!Liz Barrett is PMQ’s editor at large and author of Pizza: A Slice of American History.