How to Ensure The New Menu Is a Success!

By Sharmila Chand

A new menu is considered an excellent way to get the visibility and break the monotony. No wonder, chefs are always thinking about introducing new dishes in their menu several times throughout the year. Whether it's introducing seasonal produce or replacing dishes that are not taken so well by the diners or improvising with trendier options, changing and rotating the menu keeps diners excited and coming back for more. A good menu is at the heart of every restaurant. But, executing a new menu launch is no easy feat. 

We ask experts on how to ensure the new menu launch is a success. f r o m their experience in the industry operations, they are the best think tank to give significant guidelines. 
 
Crucial ways to see the new Menu Buzzing

Sudip Sinha, Food & Beverage Manager,Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield

The golden rules we apply for a successfully engineered menu that makes us certain that our new menu launch will be a success are:

Planning - Planning plays the most crucial role in making a new menu’s launch successful. At Bengaluru Marriott Whitefield, we recently launched a new menu for Alto Vino, the Italian fine dining restaurant at the property. With an intensified focus on understanding the taste and preferences of the guests and incorporating it in chef’s culinary repertoire, it required a planning and research of around eight months or so. It boasts of an experiment that our expat chef has been doing with his guests to push boundaries and get the flavours and textures right to meet the taste of our audience.

Training and Testing - Effective Training and Testing is one of the necessities when it comes to making a new menu launch successful. Talking about training, the servers and host / hostess should be well aware of the changes that have been incorporated in the new menu. f r o m potentially fatal allergies to food sensitivities to price points and trends, knowing how a dish is prepared and what’s inside it makes all the difference for customers. Customers always spend if they enjoy what they’re getting in return. When it comes to Testing, it is very important to gain feedbacks f r o m guests who order new features.  Asking them open-ended questions helps us to understand how well the menu will perform when it actually launches.

Soft Launch - A soft menu launch is a great way to execute the full menu and gather customer feedback in a controlled fashion. Inviting some customers and a few special guests to sample the menu alongside wine, beer or cocktails is always a nice idea to make the hard launch a successful one.
Effective Marketing - Engaging with local bloggers, key influencers and media outlets and encouraging them to act as advocates for the new menu is important to create a buzz in the market. Proper advertising and tying up with third party aggregators is required to let people know that something new is coming up that shouldn’t be missed. 

Competitive Analysis - Analyzing the competitor’s menu is important while coming up with the menu for our hotel. Factors like menu size, menu style, delivered portions, ingredient quality, and price points needs to be looked into when we plan menu for our hotel.

Jatinder Pal Singh, Executive Chef, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel and Convention Center

Firstly, one should invest in good photography. Attractive images will help in engaging the audience’s attention on the traditional and digital advertising platforms. Secondly, generate awareness about the new menu via social media and PR activities. Sometimes one must go the extra mile and include a must-have dish on the menu that is not available anywhere else. This unique offering will help bring guests to the outlet. 

Simran Singh Thapar, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

Launching a new menu involves a careful insight about the preferences and likes of the targeted customers. At JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, we identified our uniqueness, why guests prefer us over other restaurants and also recognised the strengths of our competitors. 

Know your Diners - One must be aware of the age group of diners, profile, average time spent on the table to understand what would work. 

Keep Updated – It is important to be always updated with the trends on social media. Hit the wave exactly while it is at its peak, it will benefit and source a promotion for the restaurant without actually spending a penny on marketing. 

Awareness - A launch should be followed by a media shout out. Spread out the message regarding the upgrade in all forms of media creating a buzz about the new menu, as to create anticipation. 

Signature Dish - Every restaurant has a signature dish that caters to a population of faithful diners, never eliminate them f r o m the menu as they will always be in demand and continue to be a classic.

Sumit Sinha, Director of Food & Beverage, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla

Menu Engineering - Menu Engineering is the foundation of the entire launch. Retain the top selling and high profitable items f r o m the previous menu and remove the low selling dishes. Menu should be a mix of global trending items as well as the local favourites. 

Interestingly, there are lot of guests who prefer vegan, sugar free and gluten free options in the menu. These factors should also be kept in the mind. It is a wise idea to do food trials and seek feedback before officially launching the menu.

As far as seasonal promotions are concerned, innovation in terms of concept, presentation and taste is a must as the guests look for novelty. Another important point is the menu design which needs to be thematic, yet simple and easy to read.

Anticipation followed by Participation - Creating curiosity about the new menu or even better, making your customers a part of the entire revamp process is a great idea to attract eye balls. This could be done both online and offline. For example, crowd sourcing the menu by letting your guests choose the final dishes or sending customised invites to the bloggers for social media shout outs.

Social media content strategy needs to be on point by creating great teaser videos, utilizing various interactive features such as Polls, Opinions, Quizzes and GIFs to create a buzz. 

Sell a story, not a Product - Your social media page should not look like a series of classified ads about the food or the menu. It needs to be more narrative, interactive and relatable which can direct connect with the audiences. Attention span of a person scrolling your feed is not even 2 seconds. How do you capture his interest depends totally on your story telling.

This year, when we curated a Dilli 6 special menu for our food festival, we recommended the signature dishes basis the Zodiac Signs of people (relating to the common characteristics).This series witnessed maximum reach and response that particular month.

Feedback - Guest feedback is very important for continuous improvement. Also, it is also important to encourage guests to leave their feedback on online review platforms to spread a positive word of mouth. Here I have an interesting observation to share. The millennials love to post about what they eat on Instagram. So the presentation and drama behind a dish can actually help us gaining millions of eye balls with zero investment.

Essential Do’s to make it a Success

Sudip Sinha, Food & Beverage Manager, Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield

Learn f r o m the past experience and get rid of those dishes that aren’t working well helps a lot to understand liking and preference of the audience. 

Secondly, training the staff efficiently on the new menu and their enthusiasm towards it makes it more appealing to the customers.

Apart f r o m that, experimenting the new menu with bloggers and influencers helps to get an honest opinion for the discussion of its success. 

Lastly, marketing involving collaborations and tie-ups and keeping in mind the target audience while planning the new menu will hit the sweet spot and entice patrons to come in and dine with us.

Simran Singh Thapar, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

People visit Mussoorie to relish a life closer to nature. Inspired f r o m Ayurveda, we follow the mantra of selecting seasonal, fresh and healthy ingredients. The contemporary travelers love to explore the local cuisine of Uttarakhand, hence we make sure to place the local delicacies as part of the menu.

Prepare a concept note talking about inspiration, cause and purpose of the change. 

Retain your uniqueness and exclusivity. Indulge in a conversation with the guest and get their feedback. 

Learn what features make the outlet special for the visitors and why they would love to pick you over other competitors.

Involve the culinary and marketing team of the hotel in frequent insightful workshops and activities. The staff should be aware about the ingredients and nutritional details of all delicacies in the menu to engage in a conversation with the guests. Arranging talks and discussion wherein the team gets the opportunity to talk about the modification and get familiar. 

Sumit Sinha, Director of Food & Beverage, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla

Your staff is the real brand ambassador - The chefs and the service staff members are the ones who interact with the guests. That is why it is very important that not only do they know about the new menu / offering but should also be able to recommend dishes basis the taste and preferences of the guests. It is very important to create a Marketing team within the restaurant who can contribute in promoting the new menu.

The world is on Internet, where are you - At Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla, we do lot of collaborations with digital media / news media to promote our signature dishes and offerings. This could be by providing experiential to the anchors, shooting recipe videos or brand integrations in the concept based videos. This has helped us in creating collaterals for our own brand and reaching to the followers of these platforms. 

That OMG factor - A marketing hook is a very essential element of the complete launch strategy which can become a talk point amongst the target audiences. Our 36 Inch Parantha eating challenge worked wonders for us during our Dilli 6 food festivals as a big reward was on stake. Therefore, f r o m larger than life installations to Guinness Book World of Records, brands go out of the way to create that wow factor.

Impress the Press and Influence the Influencers - Inviting the food critics, journalists, influencers for the food tasting is very important to create buzz about the new menu. While food remains the star of all such engagements, interesting activities, set ups, experiences add to the enchantment resulting in great press coverage.

Engage with local food communities - Creating special events by collaborating with online food communities can be another great way to reach out a large set of customers. Since these are paid events, the restaurants can not only cover the food cost but also reach out to the new set of customers. Not to forget mentioning great amount of online reach and visibility.

Essential Don’ts to make it a Success 

Sudip Sinha, Food & Beverage Manager, Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield

While planning new menus we try to stay put to any uncalled circumstances. We try to avoid expanding and elaborating the menu in order to please everyone as the problem comes in the execution of such elaborate menus that doesn’t fit the customer expectations. So, we design it in such a way that the culinary team can flawlessly execute every item in the menu. 

Secondly, nothing hurts more than expectations being broken. Therefore, never launch the new menu without a soft trial. Never ignore the designing aspect of the menu. As appealing the dishes can be, if the design is not appealing our guest won’t take much interest in going through the menu. Functions and flow should be a major consideration whenever you are designing a menu.

Simran Singh Thapar, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

Focus on the demands and preferences of the guest, do not provide them with unfamiliar choices to pick f r o m. Haste can lead to failure of great ideas. Give time to your plan. Research about the availability of the ingredients, their sourcing and try on creative food presentations. Prepare for a well-planned marketing campaign and organise a launch event that interests the public. 

Arrange for tasting sessions so the guests can experience the dishes that are to be offered in advance. Training the internal team is also an important factor and mustn’t be skipped. People, who make the food, serve the food and market it must know it, believe in it and understand the reasons and the concepts to represent it well. Include ingredients that are locally grown and easily available in the market, don’t include ingredients that are hard to arrange. As mentioned above, always retain the old classic dishes in the menu, they are the USP of the restaurant and loved by the guests.

Sumit Sinha, Director of Food & Beverage, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla

Don’t Change your menu too often. This may confuse the regular guests as well the staff.
Blind number game - The personality of your brand should be in synchronization with the personality influencer of blogger you are collaborating with, to promote your new menu. One million followers may not be equal to qualitative content, real followers and high interactivity.

Don’t invite reviewers until you are well prepared - A press or a social media review can make or break the restaurant’s image significantly. It is very important to be well prepared before doing any such activity.

Wrong Pricing - If your guest rate you food too expensive, they will never come back to your restaurant for a meal again. Value for money is a must.

Don’t compromise on quality of the ingredients used - Any compromise will not just cause business loss but also reputational loss. Here, the factor of hygiene should also be considered.

Sagar S Bajaj, Corporate Chef First Fiddle F&B Pvt. Ltd.

Avoid overpricing of food and drinks.

One must avoid over-experimenting with the dishes.  

Never change the menu completely. The menu must offer a mix of unique dishes and old favourites.

Always welcome the feedback by reviewers and visitors instead of ignoring or defending it.   

What works the best in making new menu launch Successful

Sudip Sinha, Food & Beverage Manager, Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield

F r o m my understanding and experience, half of the success of the new menu launch depends on the planning and research while the other half depends on how well it is marketed. We as chefs need to understand the taste and preferences of our guests and should work on a menu which is a hybrid of some bestselling items with some newly introduced culinary repertoire. 

Sumit Sinha, Director of Food & Beverage, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla

Like I mentioned earlier, Menu Engineering forms the foundation of the entire process. Understanding the food trends, sales trends, competition analysis and guest profile is a must to curate the menu. 

This is followed by an effective sales and marketing strategy. The formula is simple - understand the issue of the market, decide on the business objective, streamline the target audience and then work on the marketing mix and target media.

Essential Tips 

By Sudip Sinha, Food & Beverage Manager, Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield

Remember a menu is more than just a list of the dishes a restaurant has available; it is an advertising tool capable of communicating a restaurant’s identity and driving profit if it’s well designed. So, its important to understand that more than the dishes what it brings to the dining experience which will buy their loyalty and a positive image for the brand.

By Sandeep Singh, Food & Beverage Manager, The Westin Pushkar Resort & Spa

Cater to different sections of your guests. For example, we at The Westin Pushkar Resort and Spa have created specialised menus as part of our commitment to personal renewal. For the ardent fitness and health advocates, we offer the dedicated SuperFoods focused menu. Complying with our brand element, Westin Sleep Well Menu promotes rest, recovery and the foods are packed with amino acids, vitamins and minerals; all elements that will help induce deep sleep in our guests. 
 

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