When you change your menu, you're trying to capture that new prospective diner and keep them coming to your establishment while keeping the signature dishes (and faithful guests) that made you successful. So how do you know when you should embark on changing your menu? Here are some things to consider.
Keep Up With Trends
Being at the forefront of the "wraps" trend was great, but if you're still tied to it, that's not so good. Stay up on current trends—but keep your menu flexible. If the steakhouse down the street is busy and your steakhouse is empty, figure out why. Look at your competitor's menu and analyze what it is doing right or wrong. You can capitalize on its mistakes and improve on its successes.
Adjust for Seasonality
Take advantage of seasonal produce and other items. If you live in an area that sees dramatic climate changes, you may want to consider embracing the way dining habits change with the seasons. So in July you may include a gazpacho (a light, fresh, cold veggie soup) on your menu but replace it with beef stew in October. Seasonality dramatically affects top-end restaurants, but it's less important if you don't promise fresh items to your diners.
Create New Excitement
If the name of your restaurant is Danny’s Big Taco Bar, don't put lasagna on the menu just because you read an Italian cookbook. Instead, consider adding a taco bowl or a shredded beef option to your taco menu. You can also make these changes to showcase trendy, new, popular ingredients; celebrating the holidays; or commemorate local activities.
Changing an Entire Menu Isn't Effective
Your regular guests walked in your door for a reason. They have developed favorites on your menu and may not come back if they can't get them. Plus, changing an entire menu isn't efficient; many hidden costs are associated with changing your menu—including testing and tasting new recipes, reprinting the menu, retraining your staff (both kitchen and floor), retooling your processes, and reprogramming your ordering system.
Tinkering with your menu is not the same as tinkering with a recipe. However, like a recipe you do have to find the perfect balance. Above all else - don't mess with success. If you are packing them in every night, be on the lookout for others coming in to your restaurant to take notes on what you are doing right on your menu!