National chains like The Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s, and T.G.I. Friday’s have rolled out smaller, leaner, competitively priced menu items that are having considerable success targeting two primary consumer concerns: watching their weight and watching their wallets.
For years the trend in the food service industry was towards bigger and bigger portion sizes. The “bigger is better” approach worked as long as customers were willing to pay more for more food. The financial crisis and ensuing economic downturn turned that strategy on its head, and the restaurant industry is starting to respond.
Independent operators can take advantage of this trend as well. The best way to implement it is to take perennial favorites from your existing menu and trim down the size and the price, then feature these new items on a special menu. This approach highlights the new items and gives your offerings a fresh look that will help get customers in the door.
And that’s been the most difficult thing about the current climate in the food service industry: getting customers to actually come out to eat. A leaner, more affordable menu doesn’t do you any good if your customers stay home because they don’t know about it. Getting the word out is vital to the success of slimmed down menu offerings. If marketed right, your new menu should be the reason why customers go out to eat in the first place.
No restaurant can afford to look like they are out of touch with the times, and adjusting portion sizes kills two birds with one stone: addressing customer health concerns and dinner price points.