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The Seven Deadly Sins of Menu Engineering

The Seven Deadly Sins of Menu Engineering

Did you know that these sins also apply to your menu?

We’ve all heard about the seven deadly sins of life. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, and pride. Did you know that these sins also apply to your menu? If you avoid the seven sins, you can have a powerful menu that drives profit and tips. Each sin is a unique situation for the menu and can cost your restaurant thousands of dollars in missed profit.


"I have to have crepes on the menu. Give me the cheapest one so I can make the most money on it."

It’s not worth it to have something on the menu if you’re going to sacrifice quality. Dining out has become an experience for most consumers and this means they want a quality meal. They’re also willing to pay for that quality meal. You no longer have to sacrifice quality to have something on the menu. If you do, you’re really sacrificing your profits and the potential for a return customer and fan of your restaurant.


“This has to be on the menu with the full list of ingredients so that my customers know exactly what’s on their plate! And I need to have 10 versions of it on the menu to catch everyone’s taste preference so everyone comes in to the restaurant.”

This is really two sins in one, so let’s look at both of them individually.

First, “This has to be on the menu with the full list of ingredients so that my customers know exactly what’s on their plate.”

This sin is more of a waste of your time and eats up valuable real estate on the menu. Think about it this way, when was the last time you read the ingredients label on anything at the grocery store? Most diners are looking for an experience and are willing to pay for it, so give them a compelling reason to order the more expensive dishes on your menu. Consider the following menu description:

“1/4 lb beef patty with lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup, mustard, and pickles on a bun. Served with a side of fries or chips.”

This description lists everything on the burger, but there’s no sizzle, no compelling reason to buy this potentially high-profit dish. Let’s try a different description:

“Our handmade patty seared to perfection topped with the perfect fixings and plated with some of our house-cut crisp French fries or chips.”

Same word count as the first description, but a little more flavor added in. It focuses more on what the customer will experience when the plate is set in front of them. You’re also setting the diner up to taste more from that burger-and-fries combo than they would if they saw all of the ingredients and tried to taste all of them. This description also allows you to add in your upsells, like cheese and bacon, after the main order.

Let’s move on to the second half of this sin

“And I need to have 10 versions of it on the menu to catch everyone’s taste preference so everyone comes in to the restaurant.”

When you go into a new place, how often have you seen the menu list out a hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger, bacon cheeseburger, double hamburger, double cheeseburger, and on and on. This eats up valuable real estate on the menu and can lead to confusion and apathy. Confusion and apathy can increase your table times and drive down your total sales each night.

Condensing these options down frees up space for new menu ideas and makes an easier-to-read menu for diners. A condensed menu can make it easier on your wait staff, especially when it comes to recommendations. Plus, condensing and combining some menu options allows for easier upsells when a customer decides to modify the dish.


“I want to leave the dollar sign next to each price. Customers need to clearly see the price on the menu.”

This is a tricky sin. It has to deal with pricing and money. More specifically, it has to deal with not drawing attention to pricing on the menu and breaking some pretty long-held traditions.

The dollar sign is unnecessary. It can remind the customer that they’re spending money. Leaving the dollar off of your menu allows the customer to decide what they want from your menu based off of taste, flavor profile, and description. This is your chance to showcase your best cooking for the diner and win their loyalty over with the food more than the price.

Besides, most people are looking for an experience when they dine out. Eating at a restaurant is about the ambiance, the food, the fun with friends and family. Focus less on the dollar sign and more on the atmosphere.


“It’s too much work to really layout and price the new menu. Let’s get something on the table and worry about it later.”

It can take quite a bit of work to get a new menu on the table.

You need to look into what can set you apart from your competition, figure out the pricing on each of the dishes, and plan the layout of the menu.

At some point, this feels like too much work for your new menu. It becomes enticing to skip some of these steps, to not worry so much about pricing or layout. To just get the menu done and off to the designer.

Skipping past this work could lose you potential profits. Proper pricing on a menu can add 2% to 3% to the bottom line. Imagine what laying out the menu, having unique menu offerings and a well-priced menu could do for your restaurant.


“Everybody in my area has a Cuban sandwich, I need to have one on the menu.”

Having some similar items from your competitors menu can be good, especially when it comes to appetizers like wings or mozzarella sticks. There are just some staples to a menu that you’ll need to have. But you don’t need to copy everything from your competitor’s menus. Have some flair and individuality for your menu and your restaurant.

Having some unique items on your menu can allow you to set yourself apart from the competition and create your own atmosphere. Having unique items on the menu also gives your customers a stronger reason to visit your restaurant.

Don’t be envious of your competitor. Be different from their menu and give the community some new selections.


“Profits are dropping and we need a new menu on the table now. Just update the prices and throw it on the tables.”

Getting a new menu out on to the table to address declining profits is a good move, but do it too hastily and it can hurt more than helps your restaurant. Take a step back and plan out a rollout of your new menu. Make sure the staff is aware of the price changes as well as new items on the menu. Taking some time to roll out the new menu can ease the pain that customers feel when they see the new prices.

A rollout of the menu can also help increase the tips your servers earn. If the server knows what’s on the new menu and what to suggest, they can direct the customer to plan out their meal and increase the average ticket at each table. This can also help reduce table turn times and generate more profit for the restaurant. As you get closer to the new menu being finished, consider instituting a rollout plan at your restaurant.


“I have to have that pizza burger on the menu for Jack. He always comes in for one on Tuesday and Thursday.”

Hey, that’s great that Jack always comes in for a guaranteed sale. But that pizza burger staying on the menu is taking up valuable real estate that could go to the special you ran last month that sold out every week. I’m not saying you should stop serving the pizza burger to Jack. You’ll still have the ingredients there to make it, I’m saying take it off the menu and score twice over. Jack feels like a VIP when you make something not on the menu for him and you capture more sales when all of your other customers find that special has made it to the regular menu.

Removing something from the menu that a couple of regulars order can be a great way to engage new and regular customers. When you make that item special for the regular, they feel like a bigger VIP. When that previous special is made that newer diners enjoyed, you invite them to return to your restaurant. Don’t be afraid to review what your menu offers and take some slow movers off./p>

These are just seven menu sins that many restaurants are guilty of committing. Reviewing your menu and removing even a few of these sins can help increase your profits. When it’s time to update your menu, work with your Reinhart Sales Consultant for extra help in engineering your new menu.

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