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In Search of the Ultimate Menu with a Restaurant Management Degree

Just think how impressed everyone will be when you tell them you landed a job as an engineer... with a restaurant management degree. Confused yet? The truth is every chef is an engineer. A menu engineer, to be exact, fine-tuning a restaurant's public image. Part editing, part marketing, part culinary career, menu engineering plays a crucial role in upscale restaurant management.

A Culinary Career in Creative Writing

Lesson 1 in restaurant management training: capture the customer's imagination. "Crunchy," "spicy," "honey-glazed"--these are the sensory and action-packed adjectives that are going to whet a diner's appetite. Using tried and true supermarket tactics (expensive items at eye level, $.99 pricing, etc.), menu engineers design menus that no mortal can resist.

The Irresistible Menu

Here are some of the tricks of the trade you can expect to pick up in the course of earning your restaurant management degree:

  • Design. Elegant cursive is out, readable fonts are in--at least when it comes to the description. Prices, on the other hand, should be discreetly displayed to prevent diners from scanning the numbers for the cheapest item.
  • Placement. The most valuable 'real estate' on a 2-panel magazine-style menu is the upper right corner. Plant your seared ahi here, and the chicken sandwich at the bottom of the page won't stand a chance.
  • Content. Include one extremely pricey entree--a $40 lobster, for example. Even if customers resist the temptation to splurge, they're more likely to order the steak, which suddenly looks like quite a bargain at $34.

A Higher Degree of Marketing Savvy

Menu engineers draw on their restaurant management training to develop a range of performance-enhancing strategies. They may determine pricing, for example, by analyzing sales data to calculate the optimum price point. The same data may dictate food pairings--did the sea bass sell better with mango salsa, or simply dredged in fresh herbs?

Today's restaurant management training goes well beyond balancing the books; in an increasingly competitive business environment, marketing savvy is key. Even culinary degree holders heading for chef careers can benefit from these business skills. With a culinary career in menu engineering, you'll be at the forefront of this trend.

Sources

  • "Entrees Reach $40, and, Sorry, the Sides are Extra," The New York Times (Oct. 21, 2006)
  • "The Menu Magician," Time.com