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Menu engineering on a plate – design a successful menu

Marta Szczakowska

She has been with UpMenu for 8 years and her current position is Customer & Partners Program Specialist. Marta’s tasks include building good relations with current clients and business partners and acquiring new contacts. A horse riding enthusiast, dog and horse lover, chocoholic, 10-year-old boy’s mother, mentally an Italian.

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Menu engineering might be a great help ff it’s been a long time since you’ve seen a crowd in your restaurant? Good menu engineering can fill your place with customers. Furthermore, there’s no need to turn your whole business upside down – start with some small changes that can make a big difference. First step: upgrading your restaurant menu design.

What is menu engineering?

Menu engineering is menu design taking into account thorough research of consumer market, competition and conditions in the business environment. At the same time, the exact food cost and beverage cost are calculated. A menu is created based on all this data.

It is very important to keep up with the customers – and they are very demanding. Our grandparents might have been satisfied with just the food at a diner, but we want more. We don’t visit a restaurant just to eat something – we want to experience this place with all our senses. We want to sit in comfortable chairs and smell the approaching meal, but that’s not all. As we look around, we want to be pleased with all that we see. 

American restaurant menu design.

Best design ideas for menu engineering

Ironically, the less there is to choose, the happier the customer is. How many times have you been sitting browsing over a menu, not being able to pick just one meal? We’ve all been there, and we all ended up choosing some meal randomly when the waiter approached. Give your customers fewer choices and they will thank you for taking the burden of choosing off their shoulders (and hungry stomachs).

You need to know that there’s economic sense to it as well. When you reduce your menu to just a few meals, you will reduce the range of products that you have to buy. That means that you won’t have to throw away as many ingredients as you used to. That’s a great menu engineering tip.

By shortening the list of meals that your restaurant serves, you put yourself one step closer to being a diner that is well known for the best burgers, best pasta, best ramen or whatever you make. If you want to be the best at something, you have to focus on it – and that’s what will happen after making your menu shorter.

Some people think that these are just tricks of the trade, but it’s not like pulling a rabbit out of a hat to impress someone – it’s just making smart decisions and appealing to the customer with the results. The sooner you understand that restaurant marketing is just as important as the meals that are served, the better your position will be in the market.

Pizza place menu design.

Short menu – best menu design

The more the merrier? It is not necessarily true, especially when it comes to a restaurant menu. As it turns out, you may actually gain more customers simply by shrinking the menu

Less means success

Many restaurants would give potential customers the world in order to win their loyalty. Therefore, hungry people have for years been welcomed by waiters handing out long menus. Restaurants worked hard to create a rich offer which would meet everyone’s expectations. 

However, soon it became apparent that a large number of different dishes with complicated names was not exactly what restaurant-goers truly desired. 

Those who understood this first were the ones who succeeded more quickly. For example, let’s take a look at the famous American restaurant symbolized by those Golden Arches. The truth is that McDonald’s won the hearts of millions and millions of people mostly thanks to simple burgers and french fries. 

Menu engineering principles 

Why do customers have no appreciation for large offers? There are many answers to this question. You certainly ought to learn more about them if you create restaurant menu design.

Time is of the essence

People are always busy, so they seek quick, simple solutions. No one feels like spending their precious minutes on wondering which meal would be best for dinner. Especially when that person is starving. 

Moreover, restaurants are able to prepare meals from a short menu design more quickly. This means that the whole customer experience becomes less time-consuming. 

Familiar means safe 

When people are hungry, they want to eat something which they know for sure will be tasty. This is the main reason why customers often pick a well-known, tried and tested meal. They do not usually trust anything new with a suspicious fancy name.

Healthy lifestyle

Being fit and strong is currently a big trend. People want to stay healthy, so they tend to choose high-quality meals. That’s why you need menu engineering.

Restaurants with a short menu can always provide customers with fresh dishes because they do not have to store a great variety of diversified ingredients beforehand.

Sushi restaurant menu design.

How many are enough?

We have established that your menu definitely should not be overfilled. However, it is also not a great idea to go from one extreme to the other. 

Bournemouth University conducted a study in order to discover what the perfect numbers of items in a restaurant’s offer are. What do the results show?

Fast-food restaurant customers liked it best when they got an opportunity to choose from six options in every category. On the other hand, fans of fine dining were the most satisfied when the restaurant offered a menu with seven starters, ten main dishes, and seven desserts.

Online food ordering system on restaurant website.

Choose a convenient online food ordering system

A menu ordering system has a key meaning when it comes to restaurant marketing. Since people nowadays are very likely to order meals online, every good eatery should make it possible for them to do so. 

Currently, more and more professional restaurants decide to upload the interactive restaurant menus onto their website. It is operated by the modern UpMenu system. Why is it one of the especially helpful menu engineering tips?

Thanks to this system, customers have the possibility to order takeout or have their favorite meal delivered to their door in next to no time. They can also pay for dinner with a credit card if it is the most comfortable method for them.

What’s more, the “active menu” is very easy to update whenever there is a need to do so. The restaurant won’t even have to hire any computer engineers to help.


The restaurant needs to offer less rather than too much in order to gain more loyal customers. People prefer a short menu because it helps them save time. Moreover, they know that the specific dish is always fresh as well as incredibly yummy. 

Menu engineering plays an important role in the path to the success of every restaurant. The useful choice here is the UpMenu system. Hungry customers seek quick as well as intuitive service, and this system guarantees both.

Restaurant marketing might look like a tricky business, but don’t worry, it’s not nuclear physics. Nevertheless, if you think about making changes to your menu, your goal is already set (even if you didn’t realize it yet): to be successful. UpMenu system can help you achieving this goal – give it a try and get in touch with us today.


How menu engineering is working?

Menu engineering is a product list creation method used to maximize the profit of an establishment by analyzing the profitability and popularity of menu items. Menu engineering ideas are adapted to encourage the purchase of the most profitable items.

When to use menu engineering?

Menu engineering could be utilized at any time to maximize the profit of your establishment. Preferably you should use this method while creating your first menu, but empty tables and dropping customer flow could be the last call for this kind of resolutions.

Why menu engineering is important?

Correctly implemented menu engineering is a great way to decrease losses of your restaurant. Menu analysis helps determine which food products are the most profitable, and which ones are generating losses.

Furthermore, by changing product placement on the menu, you can encourage customers to choose one item over another. Lastly, thanks to menu engineering, you can determine which products you should give up on and what new dishes you could introduce in carte.

Who invented menu engineering?

Menu engineering was invented by Michael Kasavana – NAMA Endowed Professor in the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University. Micheal Kasanava is co-author of Managing Front Office Operations (Eighth Edition), Menu Engineering (Third Edition), and Managing Technology in the Hospitality Industry (Sixth Edition).

Learn more

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Marta Szczakowska

She has been with UpMenu for 8 years and her current position is Customer & Partners Program Specialist. Marta’s tasks include building good relations with current clients and business partners and acquiring new contacts. A horse riding enthusiast, dog and horse lover, chocoholic, 10-year-old boy’s mother, mentally an Italian.

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