Customer Success

Menu Engineering 101: Crafting Profitable Restaurant Menus

In the bustling world of the restaurant industry, where enticing dishes and impeccable service are paramount, the design and structure of your menu can often be an overlooked goldmine. Dive into the world of menu engineering, where art meets science, and discover how subtle tweaks to your restaurant menu can lead to significant boosts in profits.


What is Menu Engineering?

Menu Engineering is a data-driven approach to designing a restaurant menu that maximises profits by identifying the most popular and profitable items on the menu. By analysing sales data and food costs, restaurant owners can categorise menu items based on their popularity and profitability. This helps them understand how each item performs over time and make changes to ensure that every item stays popular and profitable.

The Menu Engineering process involves creating a Menu Engineering Matrix, which is a visual representation of the popularity and profitability of each menu item. The matrix is divided into four categories: Stars, Plow horses, Puzzles, and Dogs.

Menu engineering matrix
  • Stars: These are high-profit items that are also very popular with customers. They should be placed in prominent positions on the menu to attract attention.
  • Plow horses: These are popular items that have low profit margins. They should be priced higher or modified to increase their profitability.
  • Puzzles: These are items with low popularity but high profit margins. They should be modified or promoted to increase their popularity.
  • Dogs: These are items with low popularity and low profit margins. They should be removed from the menu or modified to increase their profitability.

By using this menu engineering matrix, restaurant owners can identify which items on their menu are profitable and which ones need improvement. This helps them make informed decisions about pricing, promotions, and menu design.

The Importance of Regular Menu Updates

As a restaurant owner, you know that your menu is more than just a list of dishes. Your menu is a dynamic reflection of your restaurant’s brand and offerings. Regular updates keep it fresh, enticing, and relevant to your customers. Here’s why it matters:

  • Stay Relevant: Trends change, seasons shift, and customer preferences evolve. Regular updates ensure that your menu stays current and appealing.
  • Boost Sales: New items or promotions can entice customers to try something different or order more. A well-timed update can lead to increased revenue.
  • Enhance Customer Experience: A well-organised and up-to-date menu makes it easier for customers to find what they want. It also shows that you care about their dining experience.

How Often to Update Digital Menus

One key element in maintaining an engaging digital footprint is updating your online menu. Updating your digital menu is the same as giving your restaurant a fresh coat of paint. Too often, and it becomes overwhelming; too rarely, and it looks outdated. Let's dig into how to find that sweet spot.

Quarterly Updates

The ideal update frequency is ultimately tied to your restaurant's type and its unique strategic approach. However, it's widely acknowledged in the industry that quarterly menu updates strike an optimal balance  between maintaining consistency and offering exciting variety.

It also allows your kitchen staff to adapt to new recipes and ingredients systematically, avoiding overwhelming changes, and ensuring a smooth transition between menu revisions. In doing so, you enhance the overall customer experience by delivering quality dishes in a timely and consistent manner.

Weekly Updates

For those looking for more frequent changes, weekly updates can create a dynamic experience. However, this approach works best for restaurants with diverse customer bases and a broad range of menu items.

Bi-weekly Updates

Bi-weekly updates are a middle ground that offers variety without overwhelming your customers or staff. It's a good fit if you're catering to customers who enjoy frequent changes.

Monthly Updates

Monthly updates provide ample time to plan, prepare, and promote new menu items. This schedule builds anticipation among your regular customers and can be particularly effective for maintaining a steady flow of fresh dishes.

Staff holding digital menu in a restaurant.

Seasonal vs. Year-Round Menu Updates

Menu engineering acknowledges that the dining landscape is always evolving. Seasonal and limited-time offerings are an integral part of keeping your menu fresh and exciting. The choice between seasonal and year-round menu updates depends on your restaurant's concept and goals.

Seasonal Updates: Embrace the Seasons

Seasonal updates allow your restaurant to shine by adapting to the flavours of each season. Feature dishes using fresh, locally sourced ingredients that resonate with the time of year. Promote these changes through seasonal events and limited-time offers to create anticipation and draw in customers.

Year-Round Favorites

For restaurants with signature dishes that customers consistently love, year-round updates may be unnecessary. Focus on maintaining the quality and consistency of your core menu items and occasionally introduce seasonal specials to keep things exciting.

Balancing menu consistency across multiple locations and delivery platforms can be a challenging task, especially when frequent updates are necessary. UrbanPiper's Menu Management functionality simplifies this process, enabling you to effortlessly make menu updates across all locations and platforms with minimal effort.

Woman using digital menu to place food order at restaurant.

Leveraging Data for Informed Menu Updates

Data is a goldmine of insights waiting to be uncovered. Here's how you can use analytics to make data-driven decisions for your menu updates.

Using Analytics to Make Data-Driven Menu Update Decisions

Analytics are the key to unlocking the potential of your restaurant's digital menu. In this section, we'll explore the power of data-driven decision-making and how it can revolutionize your restaurant's digital menu.

Unpacking Sales Data

  • Your point-of-sale system holds a wealth of data about your menu items. Analyse sales data to identify your most and least popular dishes. Are there seasonal trends or times when certain items perform exceptionally well? These insights can guide your menu update decisions.
  • UrbanPiper's POS system provides an insightful view of your sales, customer behavior, and menu performance, allowing you to access real-time data and insights that can help inform your menu updates.

Tracking Customer Behaviour

Utilise analytics tools to track customer behaviour on your digital menu. What are customers clicking on? How long are they spending on each page? Understanding these patterns can help you optimise the menu layout and emphasise high-performing items.

Analysing Cross-Promotion Performance

If you've tried cross-promoting dishes, look at the performance data. Did cross-promotions boost sales of certain menu items? Were there specific combinations that customers found appealing? Use this information to refine your menu and create more enticing pairings.

Exploring Profit Margins

Profit margins play a significant role in menu decisions. Analyse the profitability of each menu item by considering ingredient costs, preparation time, and selling price. Focus on items that provide both customer satisfaction and a healthy profit margin.

Using Customer Data to Guide Menu Changes

Understanding your customers' preferences and adapting your menu accordingly can be a game-changer for your restaurant. Here's how you can make data-driven menu changes.

Analysing Order History

Your point-of-sale system is a treasure trove of information. Review your order history to identify popular and less popular dishes. Are there any seasonal trends? Are there items that consistently perform well or poorly? Use this data to make informed decisions about what to keep, alter, or remove.

Tracking Online Reviews and Feedback

Monitoring online reviews on platforms like Google, Zomato, Deliveroo, Ubereats and social media is crucial. Pay attention to what customers are saying about your menu items. If there are recurring comments about certain dishes, take them into account. Positive feedback can help you highlight strengths, while constructive criticism can guide improvements.

Experimenting with Limited-Time Offers

Experimenting with limited-time offers is a great way to gauge customer interest in new menu items. Track the performance of these offerings, paying attention to customer response and sales. If a limited-time item receives positive feedback and performs well, consider adding it to your regular menu.

Leveraging Loyalty Program Data

If you have a loyalty program, use the data collected to understand customer preferences. Analyse what your loyal customers order frequently and cater to their tastes. Offer rewards and incentives for trying new dishes to encourage exploration.

UrbanPiper dashboard displaying sales analytics.

The Role of Customer Surveys in Menu Updates

Customer surveys are a direct line of communication with your diners. They provide insights that can significantly impact your menu updates.

  • Regularly Seek Customer Input: Don't underestimate the value of direct feedback. Encourage customers to provide input through surveys, comment cards, or online forms. Ask about their favourite dishes, dietary preferences, and what they'd like to see on the menu. Make the process easy and rewarding for customers.
  • Understand Dietary Preferences: In your surveys, inquire about dietary restrictions and preferences. Are there opportunities to add more vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options? Knowing your customers' dietary needs can help you expand your menu to cater to a wider audience.
  • Addressing Pricing Concerns: Pricing is a critical factor for many customers. Survey responses can highlight any concerns about pricing. Are your customers willing to pay a bit more for high-quality ingredients, or are they looking for budget-friendly options? Adjusting your menu pricing based on customer feedback can boost sales.
  • Regular Survey Analysis: It's not enough to collect survey data; you must also analyse it regularly. Look for recurring themes and trends. Identify areas where changes can be made to enhance the dining experience. Commit to acting on the valuable insights your customers provide.

UrbanPiper provides centralized analytics, offering you the ability to gain insights into your menu performance across all platforms and locations in a unified, easy-to-access format.

Analysing Digital Menu Performance

Comprehensive menu analytics are the secret sauce to optimizing your online menu strategy and ensuring it aligns with both customer expectations and your business goals.

Top-tier restaurant chains like Subway invest heavily in tracking customer behaviors on their digital platforms. With Meraki, our powerful white-labelled website and app solution designed for restaurateurs, you have the capability to seamlessly integrate with leading analytics tools like Mixpanel and Google Analytics. This integration provides you with detailed insights and precise metrics, shedding light on every aspect of your menu's online presence and guiding your strategic decisions.

Tracking Digital Menu Metrics

Tracking the right menu metrics is the compass that guides your success. These metrics provide the actionable insights needed to fine-tune your online menu strategy for optimal performance. 

Let's dive deeper into the essential menu metrics and how they impact your restaurant's digital presence:

Click-Through Rates (CTR)

What It Measures: CTR tells you how often customers interact with your menu items. It’s like counting the number of times someone lingers over a dish.

How to Track It:

  • Use analytics tools (like Google Analytics or your POS system) to monitor clicks on menu items.
  • Compare CTRs for different sections (appetizers, mains, desserts) to identify popular choices.

Dwell Time

What It Measures: Dwell time is the average duration a customer spends on your menu. Longer dwell time indicates engagement.

How to Track It:

  • Collect data from your digital menu platform.
  • Analyse trends: Are customers lingering longer during certain hours or days?

Bounce Rate

What It Measures: Bounce rate shows how many visitors leave your menu without interacting further. High bounce rates signal issues.

How to Track It:

  • Calculate the percentage of users who exit after viewing only one menu item.
  • Investigate: Is the layout confusing? Are load times slow?
Staff demonstrating digital menu on tablet to a customer.

Converting Data into Actionable Insights

Collecting data is just the first step; the true value lies in transforming this data into actionable insights. Here's how you can convert raw data into strategies that will drive success in the competitive restaurant industry:

Popular vs. Neglected Items

Identify which dishes receive the most clicks and which ones are overlooked.

Action Steps:

  • Highlight popular items with eye-catching visuals.
  • Revamp descriptions for neglected dishes.

Seasonal Trends

Leverage seasonal patterns.

Action Steps:

  • Promote seasonal specials during peak times.
  • Adjust pricing based on ingredient availability.

Customer Personas

Segment your audience based on preferences and behaviors. Create personalized menu experiences.

Action Steps:

  • Tailor marketing efforts and menu promotions to specific customer personas.

Remember, data is your secret sauce! Regularly analyze metrics, adapt your menu strategy, and keep delighting your diners.


From this blog, it's clear that the heart of your restaurant lies within the menu you offer. As a restaurant owner, you're not just serving food; you're crafting an experience, and your menu is the storyteller.

We've delved into the crucial aspects of menu updates, understanding that the frequency depends on various factors - seasonality, customer preferences, and industry trends. Keeping a finger on the pulse of these elements is what sets apart the thriving restaurants from the rest.

To help you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of menu management, there are powerful tools at your disposal. One such tool is UrbanPiper's menu management feature for restaurant owners. It simplifies the process, offering a seamless way to make updates, track their impact, and keep your menu engaging and current.

Ready to see it in action? Don't hesitate to request a free demo or reach out with any questions you may have. We're here to make restaurant management easier for you.

Damini Chandankar
Content Marketing Manager

Blending industry insights to craft delectable content for restaurateurs is my passion.

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