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How restaurant operators can quickly pick a new menuboard

After the strategic menuboard design alternatives have been created in pre-finished form, we use online quantitative consumer research to evaluate different menuboard design strategies against the current menuboard (which is used as a control).

Crafting an optimized menuboard in a restaurant can significantly increase sales, boost profits, enhance customer satisfaction, and encourage loyalty. However, it requires a considerable amount of preliminary work before rolling out the new menuboards across the system.

Typical pre-rollout activities

  • Undertaking qualitative and quantitative research to understand how customers use the current menuboard and the specific issues they have with the menuboard;

  • Conducting in-depth PMIX and profitability analysis to organize and prioritize menu categories and the products within each category;

  • Using TURF analysis (a statistical process) to simplify the menu by identifying the fewest menu items that will satisfy the largest percentage of customers;

  • Developing a new or revised Menu Strategy that identifies your business objectives for the new, optimized menuboards, the tactics you will use to achieve those objectives, and how you will measure success;

  • Then, based on all the above research and data analysis, creating a range of new layouts and design strategies for the optimized menuboard communications. But how do you decide which of these new strategies will perform best?   

Many brands pick their “favorite” new menuboard design and go straight into store tests with it.  This approach involves a high degree of subjectivity, production and installation costs as well as a time investment (it typically takes 8-12 weeks to get a reliable read of which design strategy is the “winner”).

Here’s a reliable predictor of how a new menu strategy will perform in the marketplace

We recommend another approach for picking the “winner”. It’s quick, objective, efficient, cost-effective, and importantly, provides an understanding of consumer likes, dislikes, and opinions before the new design is tested in stores.

After the strategic menuboard design alternatives have been created in pre-finished form, we use online quantitative consumer research to evaluate different menuboard design strategies against the current menuboard (which is used as a control). Within just a few weeks, the findings of the survey confirm the best strategy to put into stores. There’s no need to guesstimate which strategy will be the winner. Your customers will tell you.

Here’s how it works

A total of several hundred 20-minute surveys are completed online — usually around 100 surveys for each strategic alternative being evaluated, plus 100 surveys for the current menuboard (which acts as the control).

After the screening questions to ascertain their eligibility, each respondent is assigned to one exposure cell to see and evaluate either the current menuboard or one of several test alternatives.

When they are exposed to one of the menuboards, a timer is set to determine how much time elapses from initial exposure to the menuboard until they complete placing their virtual order.  Once the order has been placed, the timer stops

The key data that’s ascertained

  • The average check size that each alternative could produce (See Figure 1)

  • The average amount of time consumers take to formulate their order (See Figure 1)

  • Attitudinal responses to and preference among menuboard alternatives (See Figure 2), including:

  • Whether anything different was ordered today, and why;

  • Overall opinions of ordering from this menu board;

  • Likes and dislikes;

  • Perceived value for the money;

  • Attitudes toward the menuboard and menu items on each of 16-20 attribute/benefit dimensions such as ease of finding desired items, number of items to choose from, amount of information, legibility, organization, good choices, etc.;

  • Comprehension difficulties — e.g., whether there is anything confusing or hard to understand;

  • How this menuboard compares to that of other competitive restaurants;

  • How, if at all, this menuboard might affect future visits; and

  • How, if at all, this menuboard impacts perceptions of the brand.  

Then, respondents have a chance to briefly consider another menuboard — the current (if a test alternative had just been studied) or one of the test alternatives (if the current was studied first). With both menuboards available for review, respondents are probed for a preference between the two, and to explain the reasons for their preference.

The data collected in these evaluation surveys is significant, and it provides great confidence that the best-performing strategy in the survey will also be the best-performing in the marketplace. In fact, I can’t recall a single instance where this did not hold true.

Howland Blackiston is co-principal of King-Casey. King-Casey has been helping restaurant brands grow their businesses and dramatically improve the customer experience for four decades. King-Casey’s solutions are grounded in insights from hard data and analytics relative to consumer behavior. King-Casey provides a complete range of menu optimization services, including assessment, research, reengineering, strategy, and communications.

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