Strategies for New Menu Rollouts

New Menu Development for Chain Restaurants Rolling out a new menu can present many challenges that should be addressed early and consistently throughout the process.  Implementation is relatively easy.  Integration is not so easy.  How do you connect the dots to insure a flawless menu rollout?   Let’s address key steps you should take for a successful menu rollout.

First, it must fit your Brand Strategy. Leadership should fully align on theme, depth of features and timing. Does everyone buy in? What obstacles do you need to overcome? Always ask yourself these questions:

-      Is this good for the guest?  Simply because you like potential change or new features does not mean it would be successful.    You should have a method that provides guest comments before, during and after testing.

-      Can you execute the plan? Always seek input from operations to insure the plan and change is executable.  Operators have a desire to “keep it simple” due to all the distractions of the day. 

-      Can you make money? A few new items rolled out in new sexy menu will not necessarily make you money.  Provide a profit model and insure all team members understand specifically what it takes to be profitable. 

Next, build a comprehensive Cascade Plan to fully communicate to all levels of your organization, including a specific timeline on action steps to follow by date.  This will allow you to keep the process in front of you which should greatly assist in the integration. Continuously “shout out” about it, over and over, and communicate when milestones are hit on target date.

Now, comes the Work:

-      Secure all new products.  Adding a new SKU is not a lay-up.  

-      Well written recipes:  Build recipes so that your operator can execute with ease and repeat. 

-      Training materials: It’s critically important to provide material to cover all new items, changes, deletions and execution steps. 

-      Selection of restaurants for testing:  Build a selection process to insure “test restaurants” are the best of the best. Every restaurant is not capable of insuring a great testing environment.  

-      Gain continuous comments while testing: Restaurants selected should insure guest feedback along with an operations review that is timely to support your rollout.

-      Resolve flaws:  This is why you test, so you can repair issues prior to commencement which will finalize recipes and procedures. 

-      Insure all materials and beverage products are in place in ample time for testing: Conduct practice and dry runs in each unit.  Three weeks seems to hit the mark with respect to all units having materials and products available for a successful rollout.  

-      Have new menus in place and ready for rollout prior to commencement:  Again, review new menus with your teams. It’s impossible to over communicate.      

Prior to rollout, insure you have planned a very successful download for (POS) “point of sale” and the ability to capture new data.  Your IT department will play a critical role in your successful menu rollout. There is nothing worse than having prices not reflected correctly on menus and in POS systems, especially when your customer is charged more than what the menu reflects.   

Finally, make sure to follow up: Your new menu and features are live and guests are ordering and enjoying them.   Here are a couple of critical steps to insure continued excellence in integration into your culture.

-      Anticipate changes: New features may overpower current items on the menu.  Changing your menu mix, production and ordering pars can resolve this.   If not tracked and reacted to your cost can increase.  

-      Gain feedback from guests who order new features.  Ask them open-ended questions where they need to respond about new features with more than a “yes” or “no” response to a question. 

-      Continue to train, especially new team members who may not have been able to participate in early testing. Ongoing development with your menu innovation should also be top of mind.

New menu rollouts can be fun and a great development tool for all levels of your organization, from your dishwasher to your General Manager.  Put the time and energy behind it and you should see immediate improvement in revenue and margins. 


For a complimentary assessment of your restaurant and bar, contact George Barton at or [email protected]