food and beverage underground

Restaurant Research and Development Like The Big Boys

Restaurant research and development has become one of the major focuses of the big chain restaurants in recent years. A larger and larger portion of restaurant expenses has been allocated to finding just the right menu mix for the units. Keeping a fresh cost effective menu in place has become essential.

So, how do you compete with the big boys without breaking the bank? You use your already established R&D team. What you don’t have a restaurant research team in place? Sure you do!

Who Is Your Best R&D Personnel?

Your customers are the best restaurant research and development team you can ever put together. They are always on time. They are actually willing to pay you to do restaurant research. Most importantly they know exactly what your customers want.

The Ground Work

To start using your new R&D department you have to do a little work yourself. First take out your menu and run a product mix for the last month or so. As you examine the product mix circle the items on the menu that are in the bottom 10% of each category; appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and desserts. These are going to be your targeted improvement items.

Further explore these items to make sure they do not fill a specialty niche that a selected customer group truly enjoys (chicken livers will probably never be one of your restaurants top sellers, but you feel that you do them great and that the customers that love livers would miss) take them off your list. Also exclude items that you feel are signature dishes that you still believe have a chance if the front of house staff put more effort behind them. The remaining dishes on the list are what you should focus on.

Get Your Staff Involved

A secondary benefit to this program is getting your back of house involved and getting them to buy into the process. Once you have targeted your item hit list write up some guidelines for replacing them. For example: Looking for a chicken dish to replace the stuffed chicken breast. It must be in the 25%-27% food cost range and needs to come off the grill station.

Most of the staff will love the ability to put a menu item on the menu, but even if the feedback isn’t pure excitement you could propose it as a contest as well. Either way the ultimate decision on the winning item will be left up to the R&D department. That’s right, your next step is to run the entrants as nightly specials. This may take a week or two, but have a tracking system set up to see which sells best, and inform all of your service staff so they can solicit customer feedback as well.

Get The New Menu Ready

When you are confident on which one the restaurant research and development department has chosen move on to another item, in the mean time work out the logistics needed for the chicken dish (recipe, ordering, prep list etc.)When you have the enough new items to change the menu put them all on at once so people see a revamp has been done.

Keep the menu evolving

I strongly suggest that this process is implemented every three or four months to keep the menu evolving, but at a minimum it should be done every six months.

The benefits go far beyond just keeping things fresh. It gets your staff more interested; it also reduces costs and raises quality. All this while still making your guests experience better. How could you go wrong?

Go From Restaurant Research to Kitchen Prep List

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