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Monday, November 27, 2006

Constructing The Value Menu

Back in 1992, New York City hosted the Democratic Party Convention. Many of the restaurants offered a special menu for $19.92 to the conventioneers. I worked with several chefs to create profitable menus given the $19.92 constraint. This exercise helped these chefs to continue offering full meal options well after the convention ended.

The best place to begin a value menu is with your most popular entrees. Any menu revision impacts the popular items more than the less popular choices. Rather than taking guests in a different entree direction, allow them to enjoy a more complete meal.

Every operator should know the profile of menu choices per cover. This profile includes the percentage of covers choosing a starter, entree, dessert and coffee course. If you enjoy a large percentage on starters and desserts, you may wish to avoid offering the table d'hote option.

Most table d'hote menu authors include a dessert and coffee course. The dessert options include 2 or 3 low cost items. These items are frequently offered at cost - 100% - to the guest. It's important to properly cost the dessert and coffee course.

The entree course often includes a slightly smaller portion size for the center of the plate choice. Since the diner will have a starter course, the smaller entree portion size will suffice. Try to develop a starter course with a cost equal to the savings on the center of the plate portion.

For example, a well trimmed filet mignon steak may cost $1.00 to $1.50 per ounce. If you reduce the portion from 8 ounces to 6 ounces, you'll have $2.00 to $3.00 with which to create the starter course.

Include the same vegetable, starch and bread courses as the base menu.

To cost the table d'hote meal you'll start with the entree price on the menu. To this number, add the price of the lowest starter course on your menu. Finally, add the cost of the dessert and coffee option (try to keep below $2).

If you charge $25 for the entree and your low cost starter is $5, the table d'hote may be offered for $32. The additional 28% rise in revenue over the entree will produce a very good food cost percentage. The cost of the starter is covered by the decrease in entree size. We have included enough revenue to cover the cost of the dessert and coffee.

You're a winner if the overall check average increases. Track this statistic by day of the week to fine tune the table d'hote strategy.

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