Photo by Rick Daugherty
According to the National Restaurant Association, the most profitable menu items are soft drinks, followed closely by alcoholic drinks and then pastas and pizza.
The largest pizzeria chains in the world do not sell alcohol, and until just a few years ago they did not even sell pastas. Yet, they still make a lot of money on a limited menu. You might ask yourself: “How does a small operator like me, with one or two stores, maximize my profits?” Well, it is right in front of you. Just open your menu!
Your menu is a main ingredient in the overall recipe of your restaurant’s success. If it is too big, your food cost soars. Too small and your volume may suffer due to lack of variety. So the key to creating “moneymaking menu musts” is using the ingredients that you already have and offering your guest choices that are the most profitable for you.
We all know stale food is not good. Neither are stale menus. Today’s restaurant guests like consistency, but they also crave new options. National brand restaurants make seasonal menu changes that are reflected in their appetizer menu, salads, main courses and desserts … and so can you. It’s easy, fun and can increase your profits every day.
I love making fresh appetizers like onion rings or house-made mozzarella sticks. Take a look at the ingredients necessary to make either of these appetizers and you probably have both in your walk in — mozzarella cheese, onions, flour, baking soda, a few seasonings and beer! Remember, you have no new food ingredients to buy and you are making fresh apps that your guests are going to love. They will increase your profits and set you apart from your competition (which is probably buying items like this pre-made from their distributor). Consider this food cost breakdown:
- A serving of onion rings is 10 rings.
- Onions are about 24 cents per serving.
- Beer batter costs 25 cents.
- 2 ounces of ranch dressing costs about 20 cents.
- The total food cost is 69 cents.
- Price these house-made beer battered onion rings at $5.95, and you’ll have a gross profit of $5.26.
- A six-piece serving of mozzarella sticks is ideal.
- Mozzarella costs about $1.80. u Beer batter equals 25 cents.
- 2 ounces of ranch dressing costs 20 cents.
- The total food cost is $2.25.
- A six-piece order of homemade mozzarella sticks is priced at $6.95. Gross profit? $4.70. And always remember to increase your price point for homemade specials. Your guests will notice the flavor and pay for the quality!
Most pizzerias have pasta on the menu, but does your menu say “house-made pasta special”? It should if you want to make a moneymaking menu! Fresh pasta is easy to make, cooks much faster than dried pastas and tastes much better as well. Once you start making fresh pasta, your menu will explode with exciting new “specials.” And, remember, every time you make a “special” you can increase your profit margins. Here is my easy pasta dough recipe, which yields about six servings of pasta:
4 cups of 00 Flour
4 large eggs
2 tablespoon of water (as needed)
Mix ingredients in a small mixer or by hand until it is the consistency of “Play Dough,” wrap with plastic and let stand about an hour.
Bring salted water to boil and place your pasta in the pot to cook. At the same time, start your sauté of a ½ cup of fresh veggies, 2 ounces of bacon and a pinch of fresh garlic in EVOO. Then add a pinch of salt and pepper. Your fresh pasta will cook in about 3 minutes. Add your pasta to your sauce, toss in a pinch of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and top with a fresh basil leaf.
The total food cost is just $1.25 with a special menu price of $9.95 — making you a gross profit of $8.70. One of the secrets to creating a menu that consistently delivers high profits is change. Remember to use fresh local vegetables, dairy products and proteins to create specials for your guests. By utilizing the ingredients you already have in your kitchen, this will keep food cost low and make experimenting with new recipes easy.
Now that you have an idea of what your new menu items will be, it’s time to make sure your guests order them. Don’t worry about having to rewrite your menu and spend a bunch of money recreating it. Here are a few ideas to use no matter your restaurant situation:
- Counter service, carryout and delivery. Printing up a quick specials menu is easy and inexpensive. Just list your specials — from apps to desserts — and price accordingly. Whether your guest orders a special right on the spot or takes home the menu, you still have sparked the idea for them to try something new. Get excited about your new menu items and your guests will be excited too.
Send home new special menus with walk-in guests and delivery orders as well and you will see the orders start Wiscon Corp coming with every new call. Run your specials for at least two weeks so your regular guests get a chance to order them. You will be able to track your sales to see what is being ordered the most.
- Dine-in. If you are in the full-service business, then you already know how important it is to train your staff to sell the specials! Make it fun for them and make sure they taste the specials so they can honestly and accurately tell the guest what they are. Wait staff should know your menu inside and out and they should be trained to point out the most profitable menu items, so training is critical.
Glenn Cybulski is executive chef at Persona Neapolitan Pizzeria and a member of the World Pizza Champions. He will present a seminar on this topic at International Pizza Expo this month.
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