Restaurant menus are shrinking. Twenty-eight percent of restaurateurs reduced their menus to increase efficiency in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, like other innovations accelerated by COVID, such as online ordering and self-service ordering, limited menus benefit both diners and business, and are here to stay.
So, what makes smaller menus so great? This article will get to the bottom of that. We’re explaining these 10 benefits of embracing a limited menu at your restaurant:
- Reduced decision fatigue
- Greater inventory control
- Flexibility to change your menu more often
- Ability to leverage dynamic pricing
- Boost to perceived value
- Increased operational ease
- More business during off-peak hours
- Ability to charge a premium for celebratory meals
- Better control over takeout and delivery quality
- Faster service and staff training
1. Reduced decision fatigue
When it comes to options, less is more. The Cheesecake Factory is famous for its extensive menu. With more than 250 dishes, its menu is bound to give even the most decisive of guests decision fatigue: that stress and anxiety we feel when we have too many options.
Compare that to the menu at Hong Kong’s New Punjab Club, which has about 20 options at any given time. Limited menus help guests reduce decision fatigue.
With fewer options, guests can decide what they want more quickly. This means they can order and finish their meals sooner, leading to faster table turnover. After all, the faster a table turns, the more guests and revenue you can generate from that table.
2. Greater inventory control
According to a study by TouchBistro, 40 percent of restaurateurs struggle with inventory management. Fortunately, restaurants with small menus need to purchase fewer ingredients. And, with fewer ingredients, they can plan and manage inventory more easily.
When will we need to reorder poultry? Will we have enough kale to make it through the week? These questions become easier to answer when there are fewer menu items to keep track of.
3. Flexibility to change your menu more often
When you serve fewer menu items, you can switch up dishes more often. For that reason, limited menus are great for restaurants that serve seasonal dishes or source ingredients locally and are dependent on what’s available from boutique suppliers.
Moreover, when you change your menu often, you give guests a reason to come back more regularly to try your latest creations.
At Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia, the restaurant’s small menu changes regularly. Instead of overhauling the entire menu every season, however, the team introduces one or two new dishes each week that feature seasonal ingredients.
4. Ability to leverage dynamic pricing
If you have a limited menu and only make it accessible to guests digitally via a QR code, you can adjust prices as often as you’d like: every month, week or even throughout the day.
London fine dining establishment Bob Bob Ricard charges different prices for dishes during “peak,” “mid-peak,” and “off-peak” times of day. Diners pay the amount listed on the menu during peak times, and receive a 15 percent discount or a 25 percent discount for meals during mid-peak and off-peak times, respectively.
The results? The restaurant fills more tables during traditionally slower times, and check sizes have remained steady.
Dynamic pricing helps you account for changing inventory costs, staffing costs and customer demand, which ultimately gives you more control over your profit margins.
5. Boost to perceived value
Exclusivity is a luxury. Small menus have historically been associated with fine dining restaurants, like Noma or Alinea, which offer prix fixe meals or generally few options to ensure each dish is made with consistent quality.
For that reason, limited menu restaurants give the air of offering a higher quality product and service. In turn, your restaurant can get away with charging more when it has a smaller menu.
6. Increased operational ease
If you serve multiple meals at your restaurant, it may not make sense to offer your full dinner menu at 3 p.m., when business is slow. Instead, you can serve a limited happy hour menu between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., or a late-night menu from 10 p.m. until close.
Offer pared down menus between meals to generate revenue while increasing operational ease for your staff. You can serve these limited menus with fewer people working in the kitchen and the front of the house, and with less inventory than during peak hours.
7. More business during off-peak hours
Creating limited menus with smaller serving sizes, or discounted items, is a great way to draw crowds during off-peak times.
Bardot Brasserie in Las Vegas, for example, offers a happy hour menu with discounted dishes and drinks. While four deviled eggs typically cost $21 at dinner or brunch, they’re only $8 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Cocktails that go for $16 any other time of day go for $12 during happy hour.
8. Ability to charge a premium for celebratory meals
Diners are more likely to splurge for special occasions than on casual dining. When you create limited, prix fixe menus for holidays and celebrations, you can charge a premium for them.
For example, you could build a three-course prix fixe menu for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Don’t forget to upsell guests by including a wine pairing on the menu.
Take inspiration from London hotspot Dishoom, which offers a family-style Christmas Feast for groups of four or more. At £39.00 per person, that comes out to a minimum spend of about $207 per table.
Limited menus for private dining guests, featuring dishes they’ve selected or your restaurant’s most popular options, are another great way to maximize revenue with a small menu.
Bourbon Steak Seattle, for example, offers three private dining menus ranging from $96 to $135. Guests can add canapés to the meal, which boosts check size even more.
9. Better control over takeout and delivery quality
Limited menus aren’t only for dining in. They’re also terrific for maximizing the quality of delivery and pickup orders.
Some foods just weren’t made to be placed in a sealed container, transported miles away and eaten half an hour to an hour after they were prepared.
When you create a limited online ordering menu – that features only items that will transport well, reheat easily and taste good when reheated – you can ensure that customers are happy with their orders. This means that instead of giving you a bad review for soggy fries, they’ll keep on coming back for more.
While Dishoom’s main focus is in-venue dining, the restaurant group elevates its takeout offerings with a “specially curated menu for delivery, to ensure all food travels well.”
10. Faster service and staff training
Another perk that restaurants with small menus experience is faster service and staff training.
There’s nothing more frustrating than when a guest asks a server about a dish, but the server hasn’t had an opportunity to try it and therefore doesn’t know the answer to the guest’s question. The server then has to ask the kitchen or a fellow server for help, which slows down service and results in a subpar guest experience.
Limited menu restaurants reduce the likelihood of this conundrum. Because there are fewer menu items, servers can experience the menu firsthand more quickly, and spend less time answering questions about dishes during service.
The bottom line: Limited menus are great for business
Limited menus are no longer just for fine dining restaurants. With a smaller menu, your restaurant can control quality, optimize profit margins, generate more revenue and more.
SevenRooms can help you deliver the experience guests expect and deserve. Sign up for a demo today.
FAQs about limited menus
1. What is a limited menu?
1. A limited menu is one that has a smaller variety of options for a guest to choose from each course than a standard a-la-carte menu. Restaurants are using limited menus for their many great benefits: less decision fatigue for customers, a more manageable inventory and an increase in food quality.
2. What is dynamic pricing?
2. Dynamic pricing means changing the prices of products often, based on the changing cost of goods sold or demand. Restaurants use dynamic pricing to gain control over profit margins.
3. What are the advantages of a limited menu?
3. There are many advantages to having a limited menu. Limited menus reflect a modern brand, ensure high food quality and help maximize ROI and sales.