5 Things to Try if Your Venue’s Menu Is Underperforming
What You Can Do to Improve Sales and Customer Satisfaction
Developing a successful menu for a large venue can be tricky. You need to have enough selection to satisfy a large demographic while still turning a profit and avoiding waste. As the chef or food and beverage director of your venue, when your menu is underperforming, what can you do? Here are some things you can try to shift focus and find what works for you.
1. Examine the competition. Some travel might be in order. You need to see what’s working for others in your industry, and that might mean booking some flights or road trips, or just picking up the phone if you have colleagues working in the field who you know will be open to sharing tips and tricks. Pay close attention to the types of food served in zoos and aquariums in other locations. How are they approaching local food trends? Do they cater to different types of diets? What do you see customers – adults and kids – ordering and enjoying?
2. Get inspiration from your hometown. Whether your guests are locals who love the regional flavors or travelers interested in novelty, incorporating some local flair into your menu is a good way to pique consumers’ curiosity. What’s trending in local restaurants and shops that you could adapt for your venue? What is your city known for?
3. Do some soul searching. You might love your full-service restaurant, but do guests feel the same? It could be time for a reality check. Do an audit of which menu items are selling and which are stagnant. For a period of a month or several weeks, examine receipts to see which items are performing poorly. Then consider scaling back accordingly. For zoos, theme parks, and other attractions where guests stay for long periods, full-serve restaurants make more sense than in locations such as aquariums, where guest visits are shorter. Make sure you’re thinking of your guests’ actual needs and not just what you think you should be serving.
4. Focus on snacks rather than meals. If it is time to reduce your food service operation to a smaller scale, snacks could be your key to success. With some staples like sandwiches and sides set aside for guests with bigger appetites, you can offer several prepackaged items that won’t go to waste. Nachos and pretzels are good options with a long shelf life. Customers can customize toppings like cheese, pepper rings, or mustard to their liking. Be sure to include items for kids like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and healthier choices like fruit/veggie cups too.
5. Survey customers. Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of your biggest asset: your actual customers. Don’t be afraid to ask their opinions and get their feedback. This could be in the form of an online survey promoted on receipts or social media, or even through casual conversations at point of purchase. While some may not want to rock the boat, most people are happy to fill you in on dietary restrictions and preferences when asked politely.
As you work on your menu changes, of course also think seasonally: people tend to gravitate toward lighter, fresher foods like salads in the summer months, and heavier comfort foods like soups in winter. Follow the trends you notice in your own customers and you’ll be headed toward a successful menu revamp before you know it.