Menu innovation: The recipe for customer retention and restaurant success

6 min read
Apr 22, 2024 11:24:29 AM

Culinary team

Food and menu innovation is key to the success of restaurants. Our guest experience feedback has shown that food is 5X more important than service and 8X more important than ambiance in driving satisfaction.

Effective menu development is key to delivering great guest experiences and profitability. Menu development can be extremely time-consuming and costly for restaurants, causing many to stick with menus that no longer meet the needs of their customers or the business. This can lead to a loss of both customers and profits. 

In 2023 only 16% of menu operators said they weren’t planning on changing their menus that year, so 84% of restaurants were planning on making changes. While menu innovation can be daunting, it’s important that you’re implementing regular changes to keep ahead of your competitors and encourage new and returning guests. 

Gathering dish-level customer insights enables you to gain a deeper understanding of what your diners like and dislike about your menu allowing you to optimize menus for engagement and satisfaction. It also allows you to speed up and stress test the menu development process so you can make decisions with confidence. 

What challenges do restaurants face during menu innovation

Restaurants and their culinary teams can face a range of issues when innovating their menus, such as:

Menu innovation can take a long time to come into effect 

Menu development is a lengthy process that isn’t always guaranteed to be successful. It can take around 6 months for make menu changes, as it includes a range of steps like:

  • Analyzing your current menu.
  • Identifying trending meals and cuisines.
  • Experimenting and developing new dishes.
  • Optimizing your current menu.
  • Implementing and monitoring how the new menu performs.  

It can be difficult to manage costs 

Menu innovation can be extremely costly for restaurants, especially if it’s unsuccessful. The need for further training for culinary chefs and the potential investment in new ingredients can make it difficult to manage costs. 

During menu innovation, restaurants must get the right balance between creativity and cost effectiveness. New dishes may require ingredients you haven’t used before. If the dish doesn’t sell well it can lead to wasted ingredients. Implementing quality affordable ingredient substitutions for more expensive ones or negotiating better deals with suppliers are great ways to manage costs during menu innovation better.

Menus can be complex

Creating and adapting menus can be complex, especially when restaurants are aiming to reduce them in size. When menus are reduced effectively it becomes easier for back of house staff to produce great quality food. Having a smaller menu also reduces the complexity of learning how to make a high amount of dishes to a good quality consistently. 

It's hard to get an accurate image of customers experiences

It can be difficult to gain an accurate image of a customer’s experience within your restaurant, especially if they didn’t enjoy their food. Those who experience poor quality food are more likely to share their experience through unstructured feedback like online reviews, making it difficult for restaurant teams to understand the true cause of their frustrations and disappointment. To avoid this, venues should be collecting menu-item level feedback as soon as possible and preferably closer to when diners visit. 

A culture of innovation needs to be created

When a culture of innovation is created it’s much easier for menu innovation to take place. You can do this by encouraging and supporting new ideas, experiments and improvements. This can help to give your restaurant and team a more competitive edge and create a loyal customer base. 

Creativity, curiosity and adaptability are all essential for menu innovation to be successful and without it you may find yourself falling behind your competitors. 

How can you address these challenges?

We understand that many restaurants can struggle with menu innovation or put it off due to apprehension of whether it’ll be successful. That’s why we’ve already helped the likes of Nando’s and Hickory’s Smokehouse.  

Helping restaurants reduce their menu size 

It’s important for all businesses to understand that offering more dishes on your menu, doesn’t necessarily result in happier guests. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more!

Restaurants that minimize their menu size will have the ability to better train culinary staff to provide the same quality dishes consistently across all restaurant locations. This will ensure you’re providing excellent customer experiences, encouraging returning customers and gaining positive reviews. 

We have the ability to help restaurants reduce the size of their menu. Decreasing the size of your menu can cut costs on ingredients, helping drive better profits. We’ve helped a range of restaurant chains reduce their menu significantly, making it easier for them to deliver better quality dishes and lower what they pay for ingredients. 

For example, we helped one of our clients with 200+ locations, reduce their menu size by 25%. This resulted in a decrease in food costs, more efficient BOH labour and an 11 point NPS increase. 

We gather granular customer feedback

At Yumpingo we believe in the power of gathering granular customer feedback. Our 1-minute Smart Surveys gather feedback on item tracking factors like:

  • Look.
  • Taste.
  • Portion size.
  • Value perception.

This is done in a way that allows teams to really see what’s happening within their restaurant. 

When granular customer feedback is gathered, menu innovation becomes simpler and easier as you will gain a deeper understanding of your customer's thoughts and expectations around your dishes. Making ingredient changes and dish adaptations, including removing dishes from your menu becomes easier. 

We worked with a restaurant group that made a change early in their experience of Yumpingo. In the beginning, they were focussing on fixing one dish that they had identified as an issue (without using Yumpingo) through online feedback. However, after using our more accurate dish-level guest feedback, the data showed that most guests actually really liked that dish.

Our data highlighted that a different dish, the one that was leading their new menu, was the dish causing a problem. Due to gaining higher visibility over how their menu items are performing, they were able to switch focus and make rapid changes that enhanced satisfaction levels.

We can help you switch suppliers

Switching produce suppliers can be daunting, as it can be difficult to understand whether your customers will see an increase in the quality of food or if you’re switching to a cheaper supplier you may be worried about the quality of ingredients reducing. Well, there’s no need to worry about this anymore, as we here at Yumpingo can help you test different supplier ingredients across various restaurant locations. This will allow you to clearly see which supplier performs best and whether it makes a difference to customers' experiences. 

We’ve helped a variety of restaurants switch suppliers by introducing substitution testing into a control group of venues to test the pricing of dishes and/or switch ingredients. We also track NPS performance to see how it has changed across the different stores after you’ve implemented a new supplier.

Once NPS scores and feedback are reviewed the decision to make the change or not will be simple as this information will give you the confidence to make decisions that are almost guaranteed to be successful with every customer. 

When you work with us we give you the ability to make substitutions, simplify menus and processes and increase prices without affecting guest sentiment!

An example of this is that we helped one of our clients with 400+ locations test two alternate French fry suppliers. We found that one supplier was less expensive and delivered higher guest happiness. Within one month the client gathered enough data to be confident in their decision to switch, which saved them £8 million annually. 

Growing your satisfaction levels with Yumpingo

High guest satisfaction levels are crucial to a restaurant's success. Consistently delivering excellent experiences will drive profit, returning customers and increase positive customer reviews, helping you gain new customers. 

Satisfaction levels can be measured through NPS (Net Promoter Scores) to see how well restaurants are performing. This gives restaurants a holistic view of their overall performance.

When customer feedback is collected and customer satisfaction grows, businesses can:

  • Cut churn.
  • Boost retention - You can reduce unhappy guests by 34%
  • Increase acquisition - Deliver 14% more happy guests
  • Grow Margins - Increase menu profits by 2.5% 

When new clients choose our managed program to fast-track satisfaction growth, we grow their NPS in just 60 days or their money back! 

At Yumpingo we understand that making business changes can be daunting as they’re not always guaranteed to work. That’s why our Customer Experience Management solution gathers valuable insights that enable you to make changes that will likely succeed. 

If you want to accelerate your approach to menu innovation, or just want to learn more about how our unique approach is already helping guide the likes of Nando’s, speak to one of our experts today.

Subscribe to our Newsletter