The Restaurant Menu Matrix Dilemma

The menu is your restaurant’s most important tool but if it becomes too big and has too many choices, it can confuse your customers. In this week’s video I will share with you about the dilemma restaurateur’s face with their menus and how you should approach it.

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Your menu is your restaurant number one tool yet a lot of times very little thought goes into it, not necessarily about what particular items go on it but just the menu in general. Most of our menus are too big now. Big menus while it may feel simple to you and like you are offering lots of options, create confusion for your customers.

This is called the paradox of choice – it states that when we have too many choices we get stuck making a decision and then when we finally do make a decision we’re not as satisfied with that decision as opposed to when we have less choices. Now this has been proven over and over again through experiments that have been conducted in restaurants. Every time the people who have smaller menus ordered faster and gave better ratings on their food than the ones that had the larger menu.

I first discovered this myself four or five years ago looking to buy a TV for my office.  It needed a couple of specific features, but mostly just a TV.  The first place I went was a big-box retailer store BestBuy and I looked at 10 different TV’s.  I spent two or three hours with the sales guy comparing them. The reality is that all of the TV’s did the one or two things that I needed it to do but I couldn’t make a decision.  I was totally overwhelmed.

Then I went to Costco, they had two TVs in the size that I wanted and both of them did what I needed them to do. One was about $500 and the other was about $2,500. It took me about three seconds to decide that I wanted the $500 TV, I had it in my cart and I was out of the store in no more than 10 minutes compared to two and a half hours at Best Buy where I didn’t make a purchase – that right there is the paradox of choice.

Menu Matrix:

What is this menu matrix?

It’s quite simple, you have two choices when you’re developing a menu you can either go deep or you can go wide but you can’t do both. Because what happens when you go deep and wide you end up with a huge menu.

  1. Going deep in your menu means that you have one product category for example hamburgers and then you can have 10, 12 or 15 different varieties of that hamburger.
  2. Or you can go wide, you can have pizza, sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, wraps, pastas and entrees, but if you’re going wide you can’t go deep.  You can’t have eight pastas, eight salads, six pizzas and nine hamburgers – it’s too many choices.

In this world today the businesses that thrive specialize in something. 20 to 50 years ago businesses needed to be broader, think about department stores and malls.

It was harder for people to travel and get around as easily so you went into a department store and within that department store you can buy pretty much anything you needed. These types of business are generally dead because now if someone wants something they know exactly what they want and they’re willing to find it online or to go to a store that specializes in just that one particular thing.

The same thing is TRUE in food, look in your community, the trends and the restaurants that are popping up. The restaurants that are successful today specialize in one thing and they go very deep on it. Very few restaurants have the capacity, manpower and resources to be very good at a deep and wide menu.

Final Thoughts:

So when you look at your menu, ask yourself – Are we deep or wide? If you’re both go rework that menu.


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