The only thing constant about operating in the current restaurant industry is change. As government regulations and consumer behaviour are constantly shifting, innovating your operations will be key to business survival.
Celebrated restaurateur, Alessandro Khojane, shares his top tips on how to innovate your menu and take advantage of new opportunities for business growth in the rise of the New Normal.
Getting back to business was not an easy decision for Alex, who reopened his popular Italian eatery Gemelli in May post the nationwide lockdown. A new business environment calls for a new way of thinking and the starting point lies in rationalising your current menu by following these steps:
It seems so simple and yet many restaurateurs make the mistake of making too many changes hoping they will re-attract customers. “In extraordinary times, putting your customer first is more important than ever, so start by listing your top selling dishes. My patrons have experienced a lot of change and welcomed a taste of the familiar from our revised menu.”
While many of your menu items may remain the same, what you will have to re-look is preparation of your well-loved dishes. “I had to re-test all of my cooking times to accommodate travel time” advised Khojane “Start by calculating delivery times within your delivery radius and ensure that the additional delivery time will not result in overcooked food. This is key to ensuring a positive customer experience.”
Over and above cooking times, consider which food items do and don't travel well. Potato products, for example, are notorious for poor delivery when too much time passes between preparation and consumption.
“We had to reconsider every menu item in the frame of in-home consumption and make hard decisions to exclude certain menu items, even if they were popular, based on ability to travel” said Alex, “Initially we excluded dishes, like potato chips, since they would not be crispy at time of arrival, but changed our minds, when we changed our products!
Avoid unique ingredients that can only be used for the creation of one dish. These may add variety but they will also add cost and increase wastage. Alternatively try to develop menu items that use the similar ingredients in different ways. For example mincemeat is a commonly used item and far more versatile than other meat cuts.
Consider deconstructing menu items where assembly can be easily completed at home.“I saved on product wastage in level 5, by deconstructing the menu: giving customers raw or pre-cooked ingredients” This will result in an improved customer experience; just make sure there is not too much work involved for your customer.
Operating in an environment where change is the order of the day means customer feedback is more important than ever before. “We actively ask for customer feedback, it is the number one factor that has driven how we have adapted to the new industry environment” advises Alex “We actively use social media to glean consumer insights and try to stay on top of what our communities are saying about their Gemelli’s experience”
In summary “The biggest lesson we’ve learnt about getting back to business during these trying times is: Be flexible, get feedback from customers, keep your menu simple and ensure the items that your customer experience remains consistent.
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