In most Foodservice operations, you have a number of opportunities to influence the guests’ decision around menu selection. The restaurateur’s objective in merchandising should be to:
- Send a clear message to the guest about the quality, specialties of the house, and style of service the guest should expect.
- Showcase what is new. Restaurants are venues for new culinary trends and guests often come to a restaurant with the objective of trying something “new”.
- Influence the guest to select items that, the operation not only does well, but are profitable too. This type of merchandising is often done in the form of “specials” or theme nights.
Taking full advantage of all merchandising opportunities will contribute to a successful beef program.
The lobby is often the first opportunity to influence guests’ purchasing decisions. Tasteful quality messages such as: “We serve great Canadian ‘AAA’ beef!” demonstrate that the operation cares about the ingredients they purchase. This works well for both steak houses and traditional restaurants alike.
A well-written menu that emphasizes quality is part of every successful steak program. A well-designed menu will not only look at where items are placed, but also how the items are communicated. Where items are placed and how a menu is read is referred to as menu engineering. Highlighting beef features with different colours, photography, larger text, etc., will draw the guest’s eye directly to that area. Once you have the guest’s attention, it is very beneficial to use the menu to drive home the restaurant’s demand for quality offerings. Obviously not all operators will purchase ‘AAA’ beef, but all Canadian beef is high quality and can be effectively marketed as a premium item. Some examples of impact statements are:
- We are proud to serve only high quality Canadian ‘AAA’ beef, carefully aged 21 days to help develop the best flavour, lightly seasoned and grilled to perfection.
- In keeping with our commitment to offer the finest in Canadian ingredients, all our beef dishes feature only Canadian ‘AAA’ beef, aged for 28 days in order to showcase the best our land has to offer.
- Our beef is Canadian ‘AA’, aged 21 days for the most tender, tasty beef in town.
- We proudly feature 21 day aged ‘AA’ Canadian roasts and steaks – we steak our reputation on it!
When it comes to beef, “quality” includes those attributes which most affect the dining experience: grade, age, cut, and safety.
Whenever possible, the menu and staff should communicate these quality attributes in terms the restaurant guests will understand. There is a relationship between price and quality; consumers do not want a cheap steak – they want a great steak. Other descriptive and appetizing words like seared, hand carved, succulent, fire roasted, herb crusted, pan roasted, oven roasted, spice crusted, glazed, sizzling and well-marbled add to the excitement.
The table is a well used but often misused opportunity for merchandising. Table tents can inform your guests directly about specials or feature items even before your wait staff provides information on what is new or special. Most restaurants are busy places with lots of distractions. Some key things to keep in mind when merchandising on the table are:
- Keep it clean – Faded bent tent cards or cracked plastic holders say a lot about the quality of the food to expect. A table is better bare than with old and tired point of sale.
- Keep it new – If the steak sandwich special has been up for two months, it’s time to change the special or update the look. If the point of sale never changes it becomes part of the scenery and has lost its sales effect. There are lots of good merchandising materials available. Help the operator pick materials that will help them increase contribution, make a quality statement and that is relative to the day part.
- Market to the day part – Often you can find point of sale advertising orange juice in a family restaurant at dinner time. Effective merchandising translates to increased sales for both the operator and you.
- Promote the right items – Remember the operator does not take a great food cost to the bank but they take the contribution margin that the menu items generate. Often you will hear “I don’t want to feature beef that is too expensive”. You will learn more about Cost vs. Contribution in the Financial Tools section.