Diversifying your menu


When it comes to diversifying your menu, there can be many complicated facets that can make the entire process seem overwhelming. The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Why am I doing this?” If you can answer that, the how, what, and when will all fall into place.

Diversifying your menu can take shape in many different forms, the end result is the same; create new business while maintaining your current customer base.

It’s easy to count your blessings when the chips are stacked and you’re content with your good fortune, but in the time of pandemic and restrictions, we must rely on all of our resources and capitalize on any opportunity. In some cases, that will mean extending your hours, for others it will mean decreasing them. For many restaurants, it will be a matter of elevating your menu, condensing it to create a more streamlined production for a reduced staff, or restricting your items to be more “to-go friendly”. No two cases will be the same, but whatever the situation may be, diversification is an opportunity that many restaurants could embrace as a way to grow their business.

Diversifying your menu is almost counterintuitive to the rest of the way that we do business. As a chef, the first thing would be to create a menu, source the product, test the recipes, then serve it to the guests. Right now, we are all forced to think in reverse. Instead of creating a traditional menu, we are pushed to work within the parameters stipulated by new rules and regulations, and create offerings that will fall within those guidelines. As of right now, that means creating food that will be more tolerant to being put into a box, delivered to someone’s home, or that will remain edible for the duration of a meal while being subjected to the elements via outdoor dining. And all while maintaining its integrity. For example, do you serve shoestring fries? I can’t think of an item that cools down quicker than those. Now, you’re forced to either put them in a box for at minimum 15 minutes, or be exposed to the outdoors of a Pacific NW winter, and stay hot? Probably not going to happen. This would be an excellent time to re-evaluate your products and ensure you are spending your valuable budget on those items that will represent your brand to the best of their capabilities.

More examples of diversification would be:

PROBLEM: I am having trouble sourcing my usual products.

SOLUTION: Work with your rep or Chef Derek Bugge to help you find a sustainable alternative that will still allow you to showcase your brand.

PROBLEM: I am open all day, but only busy during breakfast.

SOLUTION: Using your current inventory, utilize your resources to come up with a new menu, then promote that menu via social media and other outlets with the possible addition of promotions.

PROBLEM: I am getting complaints that my food doesn't travel well.

SOLUTION: Most of the time this can be addressed with something as simple as packaging. The bags and boxes are the first thing that your guests are going to see and will set the perception of your restaurant. Via our consultants, we can work with you to find the best packaging for your meals, and if need be, help you tweak those meals to make them more travel friendly.

PROBLEM: My limited staff is having trouble keeping up with the amount of prep.

SOLUTION: Vendor's have heard the call that chef's across the country are making and have addressed it in a big way. Today the amount of pre-made, pre-cooked, or pre-packaged products is plentiful and we will help you find a product that best suits your need. If scratch cooking is the only way to go, we will analyze your POS data along with your inventory, and aid in making educated decisions on how best to trim down your menu while maintaining your profit margin.

As with anything else, your outcome is going to be contingent on your planning & execution, and taking that first step will set the tone for the rest of the process. Our goal in the Restaurant Solutions department at Harbor Foodservice is to remind you that you are never alone when it comes to finding solutions. We are here to help, and will gladly discuss with you, one on one, what you would like to recreate, and why. From there, we will establish a comprehensive outline for execution and support you along the entire process. Whatever your individual case may be, Chef Derek Bugge and Operations Consultant Andy Cook are ready to help you make decisions that will enhance and streamline your business.

Chef Derek Bugge

Operations Consultant Andy Cook