Many restaurants, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are decreasing the number of items on their menu to streamline operations. The spread of the coronavirus has hit the restaurant industry hard, with a $94 billion decrease in sales from March to May. And, re-opening hasn’t been easy either. A way to combat the difficulties, restaurants are slimming down their menus and opting to keep the more popular items to conserve cash.
For example, Denny’s eliminated dishes such as its Fit Slam and Slow-Cooked Pot Roast, Spicy Siracha Burger, Choconana Pancakes and Sizzlin’ Supreme Skillet.
Denny’s chief brand officer John Dillion said the restaurant realizes the pandemic’s effects, which is why they came up with a more streamlined menu. Denny’s still has plenty of options to choose from but is serving food that will simplify its operations and help team members meet customers’ needs.
IHOP’s 12-page menu has become a disposable 2-page menu, holding onto just the popular, easy-to-make foods. It eliminated the complicated foods that very few guests had ordered and replaced them with similar items.
For example, the menu no longer lists its Simple and Fit omelet with egg whites and spinach. However, customers are allowed to build their omelets using those ingredients.
According to IHOP’s Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley, the menu was trimmed down. With a smaller menu, training new workers is much easier, and franchise operators don’t have to worry about a lot of waste. He said the chances of going back to a full 12-page menu is unlikely.
Dave & Buster’s also reduced the number of items in its menu from 40 to 15. That’s according to its CEO Brian Jenkins. He said the company doesn’t anticipate going back to the 40-item menu.
McDonald’s moved to a limited menu in April, cutting out its all-day breakfast, yogurt parfaits, bagels and salads. The company will bring back some of its discontinued items during the summer.
Restaurant owners are in a difficult position. For months, dining rooms were shut down because of local orders to social distance. With many re-opening, they are faced with the potential of people not eating out because of unemployment or the risk associated with eating in restaurants. And, restaurants have also reduced their capacities and keep people far apart to ensure social distancing requirements are met.
On top of that, they are dealing with rising costs, paying for PPE for their worker, hand sanitizers, paper towels, contactless payment systems, etc. Some restaurants are paying for room redesigns, and the cost of meat has also gone up.
Thus, dropping items off the menu has helped, and customers don’t seem to mind it.
Could Increasing Prices Help Restaurants
Restaurants don’t have a lot of expendable cash, which means absorbing costs is almost impossible. A way to address the higher costs is to pass it onto their consumers through higher prices, but diners don’t like this either.
National Restaurant Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Sean Kennedy said restaurants don’t like to do things that upset the consumers. If they notice a price increase, they may go to a competitor or stay home and eat.
Foodservice consulting firm Foodservice IP Managing Principal Tim Powell said there are many options outside restaurant meals. If restaurants start to increase their prices, the demand is likely to decrease.
Some restaurants, to combat the higher prices, have begun adding a COVID surcharge to bills
For now, reducing menu items is the better choice, as it lets restaurants to order ingredients in bulk while also eliminating the less popular/more expensive food items. And it appears many diners do not care about variety and, in fact, are understanding what restaurants are going through and want them to be concerned with the safety and sanitation of their patrons.