You rocked, UK menu geeks!

We’re still buzzing. In February, in cities across the UK, you came, you listened, you scribbled and shared feedback and ideas and covered your menus in post-its… you even waved giant foam fingers in appreciation (if we asked you nicely). 

In each room of menu engineers, restaurant founders sat alongside food technicians, graphic designers next to head chefs, with brands ranging from national restaurant groups to local indies. One of the things that makes these menu workshops so exciting is the range of perspectives from all areas of the hospitality industry. And how often our goals are the same.

For those who didn’t make it, here are our Menu Geeks’ 17.5 key learnings from our first Menu Engineering UK Tour. 

  1. Small changes = big gains 

“Little tweaks can make a big difference in terms of sales conversion.”

Alexandra Gaunt, Head of Marketing, The Restaurant Group

  1. Step away from the spreadsheets (just for an hour or two!)

“I really like the simple way of using sales mix data and then going on your existing menu and coding it with a pen, as opposed to, you know, historically we’ve just had these big spreadsheets.”

Sumit Chadha, Founder, Sunshine Hospitality

  1. Sweat your menu 

“Quite often you can just be led by what needs to happen and you’re in a menu cycle and you’re just putting things on where there’s space. Understanding the strategy behind it allows you to step back and think, actually, this needs to do a bigger job.”

Lucy Archard, Sales & Marketing Manager, Boston Tea Party

  1. It’s more than a list of dishes. It’s a HERO.

“We’ve worked so hard to get people to the restaurant or to the bar and then we fall down without putting in the real effort into that menu. It’s not just a list of the dishes. This is why customers are coming, because of these heroes.”

Emeka Frederick, Co-founder, Chuku’s 

Menu geeks at Ducie Street Warehouse in Manchester
  1. Make friends in hospitality. Ask them questions.

“I really enjoyed sitting in a room full of other people who work in restaurants and hospitality and getting their feedback and honest opinions in a critical fashion but also a really friendly and helpful way. It’s not often that you get honest feedback from people who know what they’re talking about.”

Sophie Phillips, Head of Events, Quarter 

  1. Spend quality time with your highlighters

“It’s okay to put the handbrake on, get your best pens out and dissect your menu.”

Greg Swaby, Marketing Director, Barge East, Hackney Wick

  1. Show your workings 

“Until now, it’s been a bit of a guess for me. So a highlight has been learning that there is a science and it will affect profitability, customer experience, team experience… The menu matrix is going to make it straightforward to see what needs changing around and make it easy for the decision makers to understand proposed changes.”

Lily Carden, Food Technician Manager, Liberation Group

  1. Rumble your weak performers 

“I think probably the biggest takeaway was all around the menu matrix and pointing out your star dishes, your puzzle dishes and I think that’s one of the first things I’m going to take away with the team is just really focusing on what are key dishes that we can improve on from a GP point of view and how we can highlight those in the menu.”

Caine Langford, Lounge Head of Food, Loungers

  1. Scribble all over your menu

“Going back to analogue and getting notes on the actual menu, writing things down. It was really nice not bringing a laptop and physically having it all in front of us.” 

Amy Jacobs, Graphic Designer, Turtle Bay

Menu geeks at KÖD, London
  1. Work hard

“I’ve learnt how much work goes into menu planning, mainly. You look at your menu every day and think it looks ok, but actually there’s a lot of thought and planning and shortcuts and skills you can apply to make it work for the business.”

Ben Porter, GM, Harbour House, Bristol

  1. …but not boring

“Really informative but fun, keeps you on your toes, definitely not boring.”

Rachel Harty, Marketing Consultant

  1. Prune your underperformers 

“The bit that was really interesting is applying the menu matrix and really doing that piece of analysis to see where your top performers are and where you can clear your menu out. I’m going to be doing that pretty quickly.”

Sarah Sculpher, Marketing Director, The Big Table Group

  1. Swap gut feeling for fact

“I’ve been writing menus for years, but I’ve never learned about any of the behavioural science behind customer behaviour and perception. I’ve only ever used instinct and comparison, but it was fascinating to learn fact-based menu engineering and hear about the ways in which a menu can completely transform customer opinion, behaviour and experience. I loved that there were many ‘menu specialists’ together in a workshop together.”

Michael Humphreys, Food and Beverage Manager, Boston Tea Party

  1. Earn back your investment 

“You can do a really quick ROI on this. If you get your menu working really smartly for you, you’re getting the money back on this day.”

Greg Swaby, Marketing Director, Barge East, Hackney Wick

  1. Be honest with yourself 

“You put all the effort into building restaurants, designing them, working new menus, talking with suppliers, looking at your competitors on pricing. And actually the tool that you’ve got, that sits in front of all the customers – really do you spend enough time on it? We normally farm it out to a graphic designer and push forward.”

Sumit Chadha, Founder, Sunshine Hospitality

  1. Research doesn’t stop with customers 

“Don’t just rely on a snazzy design. Get customer experience focussed, but also think about the team experience as they’re the ones who are going to be using it as a key tool.”

Emeka Frederick, Co-founder, Chuku’s 

  1. Keep learning 

“I’ve come here today and… I thought I knew quite a lot about menu engineering but I’ve come away with a lot more insight. Importantly, how I’ve been going wrong, which is a bitter pill to swallow but you know we all live and learn. Every day is a school day!”

Dan Aldridge, Founder, CEO and Big Cheese, Eat the Bird

And finally…

“Keep an open mind and just bring your menu!”

Kieron Williams, Head of IT, Brunning & Price

If you didn’t get your hands on seats for February’s tour before it sold out, don’t worry. We’re firming up more 2024 dates and locations as we speak. To join the waitlist, and be the first to hear when and where, register here.

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