FEASIBILITY – Step Two of the Menu Innovation Process
Execution – Can Your Kitchen Make It?
For the Execution hurdle, you must assess whether your kitchen staff can consistently produce the new menu item with your existing ingredients, equipment, and skill level. This will be different for every operation and there is only one way to know – ask the food prep staff to make the item! If it looks like the back-of-the-house execution might be a challenge, look for small tweaks that could simplify or streamline it. This might mean a different ingredient (like the labor saving ingredients from Vanee, for example) or different equipment, or perhaps some additional training for the food prep team. All of these things represent opportunities to grow – but the ultimate goal is that your new idea needs to be easy to execute in the back of the house. Otherwise your new item will ruin your flow and interfere with the production of your existing menu items.
Financial Impact – Will It Increase Gross Profit?
For the Financial Impact element, you must consider your planned menu price, food cost, and gross profit per serving. The new menu item must be priced in a way that makes sense for your overall menu pricing strategy. After taking out the food cost, the gross profit per serving should be above average for the category. Keep in mind that a new item will compete with other menu items for sales – over the long run menu innovation will bring in additional revenue, but in the short run, introducing a new item will always steal some business from your existing menu items. You don’t want to introduce a new menu item with a low gross profit that steals sales from a high gross profit item. Menu Innovation should grow sales, but more importantly it needs to grow profits.
Brand Appropriateness – Does It Fit With the Concept?
The final hurdle of feasibility is Brand Appropriateness. Without descending into a dissertation about branding in the foodservice industry, let’s just agree that no restaurant can be all things to all people all the time. Even further, no restaurant can be all things to anyone. The most powerful foodservice brands are extremely focused, and make sure that they mean One Thing to Some People. “Some People” is your target customer base, and the “One Thing” is the unique point of difference of your operation. For example, look at Kuma’s Corner in Chicago – it’s “One Thing” is “Gourmet Burgers named after Heavy Metal Bands”. That laser focus makes for an extremely powerful restaurant brand and great sales.
When it comes to your brand, you have an intuitive feel for what brand means to your customers and what they expect on your menu. Successful menu innovation results in new menu items that are unexpected – but not so unexpected that your customers are confused. Great menu development innovates at the edge. It pushes the envelope, but it doesn’t leave the envelope completely.
For example – let’s say that Aunty Em’s Kitchen is known as the local comfort food cafe; relatively quick table service and a menu featuring traditional American comfort foods. Introducing an Indian dish of curry chicken over rice with naan would certainly be an interesting menu development, but probably too far outside the “One Thing” that Aunty Em’s target customers know the brand for – quick American comfort food. But what if you took that Indian inspiration and instead made a Coconut Curry Chicken Pot Pie. Pot pie is about as traditionally American as you can get and incorporating a unexpected filing to the pot pie creates a new exciting version of something familiar and expected.
So to satisfy your Brand Appropriateness element, your menu idea must have some sort of logical connection to the “One Thing” of your brand. When your target customer see this new item, they should be saying to themselves “Huh?… (pause).. Oh, I get it..”
By now you’ve taken some of your crazy new menu development concepts you created during the Ideation step and tested their Feasibility for three practical business considerations: consistent Execution in your kitchen, positive Financial Impact on your profitability, and a logical Brand Appropriateness for your target customers. If you did the Ideation step well you created a large volume of new ideas and some of them survived this Feasibility step. Next we will consider how you Launch these new ideas and complete this Menu Innovation cycle.
This may seem like a daunting task – but it’s vitally important to the continued survival of your business. Remember that there are tremendous resources available to you from the industry, including foodservice broker representatives, distributor sales and marketing professionals, and foodservice operator consultants from manufacturers like Vanee. Please contact the Menu Development Gurus at Vanee if you’d like some help establishing a Menu Development or Menu Innovation process in your operation.