Increase Your Bottom Line by Knowing Your Menu Complexity Scores

Each menu item should be rated on seven key factors required to create that product.

Knowing your menu complexity scores can have a huge impact on your convenience store’s bottom line.

If you're not familiar with menu complexity scores, they represent a rating for each item on your menu in terms of its complexity. Each product's rating is based on key factors that play an important role in how profitable your business is.

The Seven Key Factors

A menu item complexity score is an overall rating assigned to an individual menu item.

The individual item's complexity score is determined by rating the product on seven key factors required to create that menu item. Those seven factors are: 

  1. Assembly Average. The amount of time it takes, in either seconds or minutes, to assemble the product and package it.
  2. Cook Average. The amount of time in minutes it takes to cook or heat the product.
  3. Cook Assembly Rating. A rating scale from 1-7 (1 being easy and 7 being difficult) is assigned to the product.
  4. Total Number of Prep Recipes Used. For instance, noodle soup requires broth plus noodles to be prepped, resulting in two prep recipes.
  5. Number of Unique Prep Recipes Used. For instance, teriyaki chicken and edamame are only used in the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl. Hence, this menu item would have two unique prep recipes.
  6. Number of Unique Ingredients. This factor applies to ingredients only used in one item that doesn't require any prep. An example would be mozzarella cheese used only in lasagna.
  7. Number of Stations Needed to Produce the Item. This could include a sandwich station, panini grill, soup warmer, microwave, etc.

Once these seven key factor ratings have been completed for a menu item, the rating numbers should be added up to form an overall complexity score for that individual item.

This exercise should be conducted for every item on your menu. Once menu complexity scores have been determined for each of your menu items, it's the time to put these scores to use.

How Menu Complexity Scores Can Be Used

High selling and/or high profitability items with low to medium complexity scores should be given high priority. They should be proactively marketed and merchandised to customers in all your menu communications (i.e., mobile app, website, menuboard and P2P messaging).

Low selling and/or low profitability items with medium to high scores should be downplayed with customers. In addition, they should be analyzed for simplification opportunities. For example, explore more efficient preparation techniques or cooking equipment.

If simplification is not feasible, they should be considered for elimination from your menu. Note that a menu TURF Analysis (Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency) can determine the risk associated with deleting items from your menu. In simple terms, TURF is a research instrument that determines the shortest list of menu items to satisfy the vast majority of customers.

The Benefits

Multiple benefits can be gained from knowing your menu complexity scores. These include:

  • The ability to manage your staff and make sure you're not over or understaffing the kitchen. Keep in mind, labor efficiencies have an immediate impact on your bottom line.
  • Reducing cost of goods by optimizing ingredient usage and avoiding waste.
  • Identifying problems with menu execution and helping ensure that customers receive consistently high-quality meals every time they come to your store.
  • Increasing customer frequency and repeat business to help you stay competitive in the marketplace.

By having menu complexity information at your fingertips, you can be sure that you're always making the best decisions possible to increase your profitability and bottom line.

Tom Cook is a principal of King-Casey. Established in 1953, King-Casey is a restaurant and foodservice business improvement firm that provides strategic menu optimization advice and a range of services to help clients manage overall food and beverage offerings, affecting their positioning, reputation and business growth. For information, visit or contact Cook at (203) 571-1776 or [email protected].

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News