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September 30, 2017

A Sneak Peak Behind the Making of Easy Use Menu Engineering Worksheet

Studies done by E. Arnoult and B. Panitz show that people perceive, interpret, and react to different menu elements depending on their placement and hierarchy in the actual menu. This knowledge is very valuable to any restaurateur because it will allow you to recognize high-margin vs low margin items, a key initial step is to determine which menu items should be targeted to encourage guests to order them. In 1982 Michael. L Kasavana and Donald Smith introduced the Matrix Technique. A revolutionary approach on how bring together design and operations to create more profitability. In 2013, this technique was also referenced in Nessel Menu and Recipe Cost Spreadsheet Template. For those new to this method, the Matrix technique breaks down and categorizes all menu items in four different categories:

  • Stars: A popular item with a high contribution margin. People are willing to pay much more for this item than it costs to make.
  • Challenges or Puzzles: These items are profitable but relatively unpopular .People are not willing to pay much more for this item than it costs to make. Restaurants should always try to convert this puzzles into stars
  • Workhorses - low profitability and high popularity. There is little to no profit in this items. Restaurants should minimize consumption of these items or lower their cost to make
  • Dogs: unpopular item with a low contribution margin. These items don’t sell very well and produce little to no profit when they do sell. Restaurants should consider eliminating these items.

A worksheet like the one we created here, will allow you to identified, categorized and grouped your menu items. Once you complete those steps, accomplishing a powerful menu design can be done in three different ways:

  • Menu item description:
  • Perception of value: This strategy will differ from a quick service to a high-end restaurant. While fast food restaurants rely heavily on price showcasing, high end restaurants de-emphasize the price because having it there will simply invite guests to start price shopping. A few ways to de-emphasize prices are:


Menu engineering and design tactics are used to make restaurants more profitable. But your menu strategy doesn’t stop there, there are other things that, as a restaurateur, you need to consider:

  • Landscape vs. Portrait layout: People may think more nutritiously if a menu is tall and narrow as opposed to short and wide.
  • Taking care of your menus: The state of your menu may also impact decision-making. A stained or peeling menu cover may be associated with low-quality restaurants.
  • Drinks and desserts menus: having a separate menu for drinks and desserts may encourage customers to purchase them because the novelty of a second menu heightens interest. However, separate menus could conversely discourage the purchase of drinks and desserts because these items are not included in the original scan of the dinner menu.

Menu engineering is the first step in the process of figuring out whether your menu items are making an impact in your bottom line. Once this is done, the design of your menu should be more clear and techniques such as shifting attention, enhancing taste expectations, and increasing their perception of value should be easier to apply.

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