How to Discontinue a Restaurant Menu Item
Suppose you find that something on your menu isn’t quite working. You know it isn’t working in your gut, and your staff confirms it. Beyond that anecdotal evidence, you’ve used quantitative data analytics tools to inform your menu engineering, and you’re ready to take the next step. Learning how to discontinue a restaurant menu item is more than just crunching the numbers to see what works and what doesn’t, but also making sure that you spread the word about your change and maybe go out with a little buzz.
Data Analytics and Your Menu
We mentioned data analytics above, as a way of doing the math to determine the difference between perception and reality. When it gets down to it, though, there is much to consider. Data analytics lets you look at everything from the average ingredient cost to speed-of-service and everything in between. By using data analytics, you can paint a robust picture that takes into account all facets of your menu and stock. Some kitchen display systems come equipped with these tools, which is a great place to start.
If the numbers indicate that something isn’t moving like you would hope, evaluate why that might be the case. Are there any spikes in sales that might help you understand why and when a poorly moving item may do a little better? For example, if you see that a fish-related dish works well during Lent, but not at all the rest of the year, you might consider making it a seasonal dish. Keep in mind that recipe viewers can help your quality remain consistent on dishes that are less frequently requested.
Measure the Cost
Relative to your data analysis, is it actually worth discontinuing a menu item? Balancing the cost and your regular ingredient list comes into play here. For example, if you are a chain, does canceling your menu item save you costs on the ingredients? Keep in mind that some recipes overlap with ingredients, so you may still order all the same things. These circumstances make it redundant to remove the menu item unless you can justify it financially in some other way like labor or marketing.
Cancel All Unique Ingredients From Your Distributor
Once you’ve chosen to remove an item, make sure that you put in the work to cancel your order requests from your distributor. Cancellation with your distributor is a small but easy to overlook and could cost you lost or useless ingredients. You’ll want to do this to correspond with whatever end-of-life campaign you use to promote your discontinuation
The data analytics that has informed your work will also provide insights as to how you might advertise any potential removal, if at all. Your logical choice, in many cases, is to remove an item quietly and move on with your day. Doing so may cause you to miss out on some great promotional opportunities. You never know who you’ll reach, so let’s look at a few strategies below.
Change your menu
A menu change is a simple logistical step and one that will garner the least attention. Consider using a menu design that will alert guests through visual cues that there have been changes to the selections, which gives you a subtle way to announce any discontinuations. You might get some word-of-mouth traffic or a passing interest from guests asking about changes if removing the item from your menu is the only thing you do.
Share it on Social Media
There are many good reasons to have social media in your restaurant: it’s cheap, easy to use, and has the potential to reach a lot of people. Whether it’s a restaurant Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, social media has the power to connect you directly with your guests. Struggling with how to discontinue a menu item or if you even should? Post a poll and gauge public response. Post a countdown on social media to generate a buzz that may get people in your door to get one last taste of what might have been their favorite dish, or to see what all the fuss is about.
Everything Must Go
Dishes come in all shapes and sizes. While we’ve discussed discontinuing your orders for stock, you might consider, in turn, discounting whatever menu items primarily feature the ingredients with which you’re trying to part. You can tie this into your advertising campaign, and hopefully generate a little extra publicity for having food priced to move. Hopefully, the idea that it’s leaving will encourage stagnant sales to boom again. Based on guest feedback and how long your end-of-life campaign might last, you might also try and get some coupons out there to celebrate it.
Based on public response, maybe the menu item that you’re discontinuing is something worth revisiting periodically. This practice is known as scarcity marketing, which teases interest through limited-time offers and opportunities. Want a McRib or hotdog stuffed crust pizza? They only come so often. The premise that something is scarce promotes exclusivity and adds value to an experience that may not have existed before.
A different approach to your scarcity marketing efforts is to consider allowing your discontinued menu item to live on as part of a secret menu. Secret menus have the potential to go viral, exciting interest by creating a shared experience between your staff and your guests.
Knowing how to discontinue a restaurant menu item is more than just the nitty-gritty of canceling or removing something, but in recognizing that you need damage control with respect to your bottom line. By employing both the practical, logistical elements and the data analytics, you can turn your loss into a gain that potentially bears fruit, if you generate enough buzz. And if your customers aren’t showing any real interest? No harm, no foul. Discontinue your menu item and get back in the kitchen to cook up fresh ideas for your venture.
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About the Author
Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.