How to grow your lineup
We get ideas for new menu items all the time. When I first started my restaurant I was in love with the idea of having specials each night based on in-season produce. The fact is that every time I tried to do something on the fly, however, the execution of it was lame and I didn’t hit the customer with a “Wow” factor. I was selling a story that I was not prepared to tell.
I realized each of my failure points to making a seamless new menu item and created a system for it. Nothing complicated, just every step that needs to occur for a new item to be set up for success. Some of these are obvious, but by writing it down it ensures I don’t forget a step when it’s time to do this. It also makes certain the whole team is on the same page about how we do this.
Here is my new item protocol as of 2018:
- New item conceptualized — create an idea in your mind.
- Taste test it against every version of it simultaneously. Example: one with garlic, one without, etc.
- Test again with staff giving open comments.
- Taste test with random or regular customers who are honest.
- Solidify the final item as agreed on by all decision makers.
- Now your process has been created. Follow the next steps.
- Document the process on an Excel sheet. Laminate and send to all stores.
- In-house menu, description and price decisions need to be made finite.
- Add any necessary new ingredients to your order guide and source them.
- Train kitchen leadership on it.
- Kitchen leadership trains their staff.
- Release of the menu coincides with POS update (typically a Monday morning).
- Marketing: Food tastings for staff.
- Marketing: Push on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / E-mail blast on the day of launch.
***If menu item will be a lasting item:
- Ensure your to-go menu matches the in-house menu.
- Update your online menu / Web site PDF.
- Make an online ordering menu update with description and picture / address with third-party order takers.
Other things to take into account:
- Will new ingredient items need to be brought in? Where will you source them? Where will you store them on premise?
- Will any new equipment be needed to create this item?
- Does it need to be sold as an added-value item to push the customer to try it?
- Create detailed “How-To” cards for the make line, if applicable.
So, there you have it: what might be just a few ingredients different than another pizza takes planning and proper execution. This process is not overkill — this is what it takes to have a clean rollout. Any new item you see large chains launch takes anywhere from five to 12 months to execute from idea to in-store sale. The process I describe can be done in a week if you do it right.
If you have one store and you make every pizza, then all these steps are not necessary. But if you are doing all this yourself, then you are an employee and not an owner. This is how you get staff on the same page and sell effectively on a multi-store level.
MIKE BAUSCH is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a frequent speaker at the International Pizza Expo family of tradeshows.