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Menu Engineering

Menu Engineering is the process of analyzing the menu product mix, menu item popularity, contribution margin, relation between item popularity and profit contribution.


Menu Engineering allows us to make smart changes to the menu, by ensuring we keep profitable and popular items. Menu Engineering allows us to impact guest’s decision by smart placement of items on the menu.


Menu Engineering concept was developed by Michael Kasavana and Donald Smith in 1982. Professors from Michigan State University School of Hospitality wanted to know if it was possible to influence customer’s decision towards menu items that have more significant benefits for the business. Menu Engineering is widely used in our days.


Menu Engineering suggests using a menu matrix, where all menu items are divided into four categories.


Stars: Menu items with high popularity and high contribution margin. Staff members should be trained to promote these items. The culinary team should take a sensitive approach to any changes to this category as the popular items on the menu and sometimes slight changes can cause damage.


Plow Horses: Menu Items with High Popularity and low Contribution Margin. These items sell well but they are not profitable. These items are typically top selling items. However, they have a lot of potential to be converted to Stars. With Plow Horses operation should experiment, whether reducing portion size or exploring food cost options to transform them to Stars.


Puzzles: Are menu items that have a good contribution margin but are not very popular. Typically, these are more expensive items on the menu. Too many puzzles indicate about issues and strategic changes need to be made to ensure overall many profitability. You will need to get creative with these items. Sometimes running promotions, repackaging or positioning in a unique way will make a difference


Dogs: Menu items with low popularity and low contribution margin. These items should be reviewed carefully, and a decision made whether to keep them on the menu or replace with more profitable options. However, sometimes there might be a reason to keep Dog on the menu, such as kids items, or specific brand required items.


Depending on what category item falls to decision is made where to place the item on the menu to drive guests attention to.

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