How Restaurants Are Innovating While Shrinking Their Menus

The restaurant industry was undoubtedly among the most affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Supply chain issues forced many chefs and owners to reconsider their menus as certain ingredients became harder to come by. These issues have persisted into this year, and the supply chain is being disrupted again by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

According to CNN, back in June 2020 the first restaurants that started to reopen their locations were doing so under limited menus. This was done as a means to reduce costs and complications during a highly uncertain time. IHOP, for example, allegedly cut back from their usual 12-page tome of a menu to a streamlined two-page menu. Dave & Buster's also trimmed their menu down from 40 items to only 15 to help give them more flexibility and make training new employees simpler.

Restaurateurs have carried on throughout all of these changes. According to Food Business News, some of them have even managed to continue pushing their menus forward while they do so.

How restaurants work through hard times

Food Business News reports that during the annual National Restaurant Show in Chicago, IL, menu research and innovation insight experts Technomic shared new ways for restaurants to drive their business. They shared five "Ps" of success to innovate their menu items without having to expand their offerings.

One of their Ps stands for pivot. Technomics representative Lizzy Freier says that a great way for restaurants to keep their menus small while offering novelty items is to match a familiar ingredient with something unexpected. She also recommends using infusions to spice up menu options (via Food Business News).

Food Business News also recommends restaurants take advantage of personalization options. They expect a rise in self-service menu boards and apps that allow customers to see all of their options and customize their meals. This allows restaurants to give the perception of variety without having to add more items to their menus. Strategy advisors Fuld & Company notes that digital menu options allow customers to build their own items, and also ensures that those changes are communicated to kitchen staff. If supply chain issues do pose a problem again, it can also easily be updated to reflect when a certain item or ingredient is out of stock. 

The outlet also suggests changing the way that items are prepared can give more variety to consumers.

"Restaurants are trying to do more with less. This gives consumers something to be excited about," says Technomics senior principal Dave Henkes.