Top on Technomic’s list of 2021 mid-year trends, menu cleansing has been a priority for rationalization of SKUs not only on the menu, but also in the kitchen.
60 percent of restaurants shrank their menu since the start of the pandemic with an average reduction of 10 percent per menu*.
According to a new Datassential State of the Menu study, appetizers, desserts, and adult beverages took the biggest hit from menu reduction.
Appetizers, desserts, and adult beverages took the biggest hit during the trim-down.
That same study shows that entrees and sides were less impacted when operators downsized their menus during the pandemic.
Entrees and sides were less impacted by menu shrinkage during the pandemic.
As menu items are downsized, so are the number of ingredients and flavors. During COVID, there was a 65-percent overall decline in the number of ingredients and flavors used on menus*.
Here are 3 easy steps to cleanse your menu while maintaining craveability –
Count on Sauces to Carry the Crave –
Noodle survival points to the use of sauces to ramp up flavor in a variety of ways. A fully prepared marinara or pizza sauce can be used across a trimmed down menu as a dipping sauce for appetizers and as the sauce in two or more pasta dishes.
Another use is the upscale of a house condiment that can be tweaked with a single ingredient to make your menu more unique; for example, create a Nashville Hot ketchup by adding some hot sauce or mix a Vermont Maple Ketchup for hash browns at breakfast. Among all sauces in the past four years, you might be surprised that using the word “ketchup” on menus grew the most at +20 percent*.
- Count on Proven Winners –
Beyond burgers, fries and biscuits, there are some surprising growth areas that have sustained even during the pandemic. At least one or two menu items labeled as plant-based should be on your menu. For example, Cauliflower Pizza Crust grew 66 percent in the past four years. A ketogenic menu item might be your next big winner as it has grown 63 percent over the same period. Functional benefits of ingredients, such as berries or vegetable-based ingredients, should be called out as consumers look to cleanse their diets.
Consumers loved poppers before and during the pandemic.
Consider popular items in multiple ways, such a popper on top of a burger or chicken sandwich, or get double duty out of poppers by placing one on a skewer to increase the value of your Bloody Mary.
Other winners that weathered the pandemic were non-alcoholic beers, spiked sparkling seltzers, Nashville Hot anything, and jackfruit as a plant-based alternative to BBQ.
3. Ramp Up Your LTOs –
Technomic reports that among the Top 500 chains there was an 11 percent jump in the number of LTOs during the first half of 2021 compared to the last half of 2020. If you trimmed your menu, leverage more LTOs that are truly craveable with a set of versatile ingredients!
Spicy Marinara Meatball Sliders
Chicken Parm Strips w/ Marinara Dipping Sauce
For example, you can use a Redpack® Fully Prepared Marinara Sauce in multiple ways to reduce your SKUs while bringing interest to your regular or LTO menu.
These three considerations will help you increase profitability while your menu returns to pre-pandemic growth mode!
*Datassential, State of the Menu, Aug. 2021