How to Practice Effective Foodservice Menu Innovation
One of the best ways to gain a competitive advantage and better appeal to your target audience is to practice foodservice menu innovation. But what exactly is foodservice menu innovation, and how can you use it effectively in your overall growth strategy?
What Is Foodservice Menu Innovation?
Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is foodservice menu innovation? At your restaurant, bar, cafe, or other food service establishment, you have a menu that customers rely on for browsing and choosing products to consume. Menu innovation means coming up with new products and presenting them in creative ways, making them appealing to your current and future customers. Innovative products are ones that pave new ground, offering unique and never before seen flavor combinations, ingredients, or presentation methods.
How Does Foodservice Menu Innovation Help You Grow Sales?
Foodservice menu innovation sounds excellent, but how can it help you grow sales?
- Trends and market appeal. Most foodservice brands practice menu innovation by capitalizing on existing trends. For example, about a decade ago, there was a massive trend of consumer fascination with bacon; restaurant innovators could take advantage of this by offering more dishes with bacon as a central ingredient, usually in contexts where bacon wasn’t usually found. Taking advantage of these trends and market appeal helps boost the power of your marketing and advertising.
- Competitive differentiation. Most business owners already understand just how important it is to differentiate their brand and products competitively. Menu innovation is one of the easiest ways for a restauranteur to achieve this. If you consistently offer new and imaginative products, your food service business will instantly feel different from other competitive establishments.
- New surprises for loyal customers. If your food service business is already established, you probably have a loyal, thriving customer base. But even these customers don’t want to browse the exact same menu every visit. Practicing menu innovation will preserve fan favorites, but introduce new surprises that even your most avid fans will enjoy.
- Potential to reach new demographics. Menu innovation is also an excellent tactic for reaching new demographics. For example, suppose your restaurant has historically catered to older adults. In that case, a few tweaks to the menu could draw in a younger audience, allowing you to appeal to more people simultaneously and generate more revenue in the process.
Tips for Practicing Foodservice Menu Innovation
What steps can you take to make sure your food service menu innovation practices allow you to generate more sales?
- Know your audience. The first step is getting to know your audience better. There are infinite ways to create new food products, but most of them aren’t going to appeal to your target demographics. What kind of foods does your target audience like to eat? What flavor profiles are most appealing to them? What’s going to bring them into your restaurant? Before you start dreaming up new food and beverage concepts, ensure you can answer these questions.
- Combine flavors in a unique way. According to one Technomic report, 43 percent of young consumers want to see their favorite foodservice establishments offer unique flavor combinations. In addition, customers often crave a specific flavor, like ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, or salted caramel, and your menu can offer that flavor in a dynamic new context. For example, you might introduce branch flavoring to a dish that’s never had it before, or create a salted caramel appetizer that deviates from the norm of only including caramel in desserts.
- Get inspiration from around the world. Don’t limit yourself to only your current culture’s ingredients and culinary practices. Instead, get inspiration from around the world. Visit establishments that showcase the best food and beverage items from different places and try new things as often as possible. You might find a strange new ingredient that works perfectly in one of your signature dishes – or you might discover a culinary technique you can put to good use in your business.
- Add interesting twists to old classics. It’s important not to go overboard with your creative innovations; your new creations still need to be grounded in reality so that they remain appealing to your loyal customers. That’s why one common strategy is to add interesting twists to old classics, suggest taking a cheeseburger and adding a new ingredient to the top, or transform how you create mozzarella cheese sticks.
- Deconstruct (or reconstruct). In line with this, you can deconstruct a classic dish or reconstruct one. For example, you might take all the ingredients of a club sandwich and put them on a salad, calling it a club sandwich salad.
- Reimagine something that works. Have you seen a competing brand explode in popularity because of innovation? Study it and figure out what, exactly, makes it work. Then try to take that nugget of information and apply it to one of your dishes.
- Capitalize on the latest trends. Always try to take advantage of the latest trends, whatever they happen to be. Today’s consumers, for example, tend to favor flexitarian and vegetarian eating. They also care deeply about environmental sustainability and are likelier to visit restaurants and other establishments that offer locally sourced foods and beverages.
- Get customer feedback. Another important strategy is to get customer feedback as often as possible. For example, when introducing a new foodservice menu innovation, use surveys to determine whether your customers like it. You can also ask customers what they’d like to see on your menu in the future; they may not be able to do all the work for you, but they can at least point you in the right direction, mentioning an ingredient or flavor profile that you can work with in the future.
- Spread the word via marketing and advertising. Your foodservice menu innovation isn’t doing much for your brand if it only exists in a vacuum. That’s why it’s essential to spread the word via marketing and advertising. Be ready to invest heavily in your best ideas so that they can reach more people.
- Keep making updates. Foodservice menu innovation is not a one-time strategy; it’s something you should be practicing regularly. Keep updating your menu and trying out new angles to keep customers interested.
Foodservice menu innovation is important and valuable, but it’s not exactly easy. Success in this area demands research, creative brainstorming, and nearly flawless execution. That’s why your best bet may be working with a professional agency that can help you with every step of the process.
At NewPoint Marketing, we have all the experts and resources who can help – so contact us for a free consultation today!