A Menu to Increase Food & Beverage Sales
The menuboard is a convenience store’s most powerful sales tool when it comes to foodservice.
A menuboard that has been optimized and strategically designed gets customers to spend more. An optimized menuboard can also shave precious seconds off the customer’s order time, resulting in increased throughput and customer satisfaction.
But before you decide what goes on your menuboard, where items will be placed and long before you decide what the menuboard will look like, you need to create a menu strategy.
THE MISSING LINK
A menu strategy is the missing link to menuboard optimization and maximizing food and beverage sales and profits. Many c-stores, as well as quick-service and fast-casual chains don’t have a cohesive and well-documented menu strategy linked to specific business objectives.
As a result, strategy is not guiding what products are offered, their priorities and how the menuboard should be designed to get the desired business results.
Creating a menu strategy is the critical first step in developing strong and effective menuboards. A sound menu strategy results from following a disciplined process.
Before starting to work out the details of your new or enhanced menu strategy, there are business-centric inputs that need to be taken into consideration. You need to analyze inputs such as: market needs, competition, economic climate, technology, operations and regulations.
As to regulations, all c-stores must clearly understand and consider the new regulation put forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration taking effect in December 2015. This rule requires calorie information be listed on menuboards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations.
A sound menu strategy begins by deciding what business objectives you want to accomplish from your menu and establishing specific targets and metrics for each objective.
The next step is to identify and prioritize your food and beverage platforms. This step will require a thorough understanding of where your sales and profits are coming from now and where underleveraged opportunities lie. These opportunities are things you can leverage to help achieve your menu’s business objectives. What differentiates you from your competitors? These should be heightened to your advantage.
Conversely, identifying weaknesses in your menu will also positively impact your business results. Lastly, identify threats and risks. These are the outside forces that could prevent you from reaching your business objectives. You need to clearly understand these as they may ultimately impact your menu strategy.
THE SEVEN ABSOLUTES OF MENUBOARD OPTIMIZATION
Having a well-thought-out menu strategy paves the way to optimized menuboards. There are seven critical strategies and tactics that collectively result in best practice menuboard strategy and design. These are universal absolutes for achieving meaningful and measurable business results.
Absolute 1: Leverage Hot Spots
Years of research has revealed that consumers tend to look at certain “zones” of the menuboard first and more frequently. These are the menuboard’s hot spots. They must be capitalized on to increase sales and speed throughput.
Identify where the hot spots are on your menuboard (they vary based on your customer flow and order process). Are your bestselling, highest-margin offerings taking advantage of the hot spots? Reposition menu items with this in mind to increase sales of high-priority and high-margin products.
Absolute 2: Real Estate by the Numbers
Your bestselling, highest-margin items need to be more impactful than low-selling, low-margin items. This will help customers readily find these business-driver menu items and, in turn, speed throughput while increasing desirable sales. The key is the optimum allocation of menuboard real estate based on a thorough space-to-sales analysis.
Absolute 3: Location, Location, Location
All c-store and restaurant chains track food and beverage sales, but it is surprising how few use this data as an input to strategic menuboard design. After all, some of your menu items are much better sellers than others. Some contribute more to your bottom line.
It is necessary to understand where your sales are coming from. This will enable you to decide where to position and how to prioritize items on your menuboard. It will also help identify which items should probably be eliminated altogether from your menuboard to free up space for new items or to devote more space to those items driving the business.
Absolute 4: Launch, Sustain, Core
The concept of launch, sustain, core is a key element of an ongoing menuboard management plan. It is a strategy for dealing with the continuous changes to menuboard content. This is a strategy that takes the guesswork out of how to handle new and promotional items on your menuboard.
Absolute 5: Think Like a Customer
Learning to think like a customer will help you to optimize the ease and speed of navigating your menuboard. The menuboard’s design should be in sync with how customers order. Finding out how a customer orders is critical. What do they order first, second, third?
Absolute 6: Brand It
Branding of the menuboard is often overlooked. Many brands do little to integrate their brand positioning and identity into their menuboard design. Integrating key branding elements into your menuboard will clearly communicate and reinforce the proprietary attributes and nature of your food and beverage items.
Absolute 7: Metrics Matter
It is vitally important to objectively measure the success of your menuboard optimization efforts vs. key metrics and decision criteria. These include: sales, check and margin increases, improved throughput and customer satisfaction.
In addition to metrics, make sure what you have come up with resonates with your customers. Conduct quantitative and/or qualitative research among your customers to evaluate and validate your new menu strategy and optimized menuboard design. See what is working well and what needs to be reworked based on the customer’s perspective.
Finally, it is important to remember that no element of the marketing mix is as overlooked or as underestimated in its ability to increase sales and ROI as your menuboard. Optimize it utilizing this proven process and you will see the benefits with positive business results.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.