Create a menu guests will crave and attracts local traffic
F&B programs are successful when guests (and even off-property diners) keep coming back for seconds. And thirds. And fourths. And … you get the point. To do that, there must be a cohesive F&B strategy and brand identity. That’s all preliminary, though, to an integral piece to your success: your menu. Your menu communicates the identity of your restaurant in more ways than words. If you don’t have a menu that reinforces your strategy and image, what are you telling your diners?

While there is a certainly a shift to electronic menu options and the use of cinemagraphs to attract Millennial and eventually even younger crowds, print menus continue to have a seat at the head of the table. We’re sharing four F&B menu trends for 2016 that have been in development for years, and now we can see their impact and future.

1. LOCAVORES // Attract and serve

This trend really started during the Great Recession, when small businesses felt the belt get tighter and began rallying support from and expanding their reach into their local communities. The locals responded with love and support, and now we have locavores – those who prefer to eat local foods. This can mean dining at independent, locally owned restaurants or chains that source as much of their menu ingredients from local suppliers.

Bistro_PreviewHowever, not only did people seek to support local businesses and farmers during the recession, they also sought to stretch that dollar and be as cost-effective as possible. This meant seeking out nutritious options that make spending that money worth it.

What does this mean for you menu? Simply that the F&B options on it should not only please your guests but also attract your local diners. Your menu should include dishes and beverages that are intentionally chosen and prepared to bring in the locavores while delivering the savory and health-conscious options that a diversity of diners,including both guests and local diners, can appreciate and crave. This will, of course, increase foot traffic and revenues, as well, and that’s something all brands and properties can appreciate.

And this leads us to trend #2 …

2. DESCRIPTIONS // Brief and impactful

To attract local traffic, your descriptions need to callout the local ingredients. This can be creatively worked into your F&B item names, menu design, or the descriptions below the items. The key to the descriptions, though, is to keep them brief and impactful. Not only are you trying to attract local foot traffic and the locavores, but those same locavores are also more likely to be foodies – the crowd that knows their food and doesn’t want to spend their money on a dish that isn’t going to deliver a great dining experience.

Tropicale_PreviewThe interesting thing today is that while diners are more apt to spending their money wisely, they are also willing to spend it on good food. While the menu may have an item listed as $12.95, today’s consumer is going to mentally see that as $13, so many brands are making that adjustment beforehand on the menu – they are rounding prices up to the nearest dollar to maximize spend and create a cleaner look on the menu.

Rounding up prices is crucial when menu space is a true delicacy these days. Not only are you looking to accommodate descriptions that emphasize the locale and freshness, maybe even sprinkled with some scrumptious adjectives, but now many F&B programs also have to think about calorie counts. Per FDA regulations, calorie counts will be required to be on the menus for the majority of restaurants by the end of 2016. This reinforces the trend for chefs to craft healthier menu options.

3. DESIGN // Reinforcing and cost effective

Your menu should reinforce your brand identity. Since no two brands are alike, designs are as unique as the F&B programs they depict. As mentioned, menu space is in high-demand and many F&B programs don’t want to–or can’t–afford to increase the size of their menus. Thus, the strategic placement of items and using design to portray the brand’s personality is of utmost importance.

The core principles of brand-reinforcement with menu design withstand the test of time:

MTP_Preview • If your establishment is bold, loud, and dynamic, say, like a sports bar (where the atmosphere likely trumps the wing sauce), your menu should be, too. That means making use of bold typefaces, strategic use of color, and an emphasis on your beers.

• But, if your establishment is more defined by its food courses and wine pairings, a minimalistic design with lighter backgrounds, gentler typefaces and an emphasis on your wine list makes more sense.  You may choose to add a pop of color with a menu cover that stands the test of time, like those made from faux leathers or wallpapers.

For larger brands and F&B programs, it’s critical for design to complement production.  If you want properties to be able to print on-site, keep a simplistic design. If you want standard menu items but also property-specific items and/or pricing while maintaining brand standards and cost-effective quantity breaks, utilize the option to print most of the design on a shell with on-demand printing for variable content.

4. SUBSTRATES // Practical and attractive

For F&B programs, this is the aspect of actual menu design that is most limited and critical: the item your diners and guests actually hold as they order – and the items that typically receive the most abuse. Your program needs a reliable and functional vehicle to tactfully present your F&B items and menu design. Menus must align with budget parameters as well as your brand image.

Bokampers_Preview2With little variable content, there is more flexibility with substrates; large F&B programs that print menus once or twice a year can get more life out of menus printed on synthetics or rigid vinyl, especially synthetics with UV and fade-resistant inks and rigid vinyl that is also laminated. These materials are tree-free, making them a leading green option for sustainability programs, though they can get expensive without the scale and quantity of a large program. These have proven to have a maximized expiration date as they can withstand the time in diner’s hands, on tables, and maintenance from wait staff.

Many on-property or print-on-demand menus are more limited to paper or card/coverstock options, depending on their on-site printing capabilities, though there are a wide variety of paper options available. The most popular is an 80 lb., uncoated paper as nearly all printers can print on this weight.

Of course, a menu that truly represents your brand and F&B program at an affordable cost can be a bit more complex than this. That’s what print and F&B menu experts are for. Contact our team at A S Hospitality and we’ll go to work for you to develop an on-trend, on-brand, and on-budget menu design for your F&B program.

Go ahead and see what we’ve done for Edition, ChopHouse, or for Marcus’s Hotels Miller Time Pub.

Engage our menu experts to learn what we can do for your F&B program here.