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Powering up your menu

Your menu is the only piece of printed advertising that you can be almost 100 percent sure will be read by your guests. That’s a reminder from Kristen Ritchie, who joined Ben E. Keith Foods-Oklahoma to develop and implement a service called Menu Medic. With a sharp focus on the menu as every restaurant’s most powerful merchandising tool, the program offers everything from simple consultation to full-blown menu analysis, engineering and graphic design—all at no charge to Ben E. Keith (BEK) customers.

A former restaurant and catering business owner, Ritchie estimates she’s already worked on 250 menu projects—ranging from catfish shacks to high-end wine bars. “Regardless of the concept, menu analysis is the most important part of the process,” she says. “We look at all of the menu items, their prices, plate costs and how many are selling. We organize that information in a spreadsheet and categorize items by those selling a lot at a good profit down to slow movers and items that really don’t make any money. Once operators have this information in this format, they’re often surprised to discover what’s really working—and what’s not. One customer, who does a big breakfast business, always assumed he makes the most profit on his pancakes and he highlighted those on his menu. After analysis, we discovered he actually makes more on omelets.”

Armed with solid sales and profitability data, Ritchie then applies principles of menu engineering and graphic design to help increase sales of high-profit items. From subtle design tweaks and reorganization to total redesigns, each project is fully customized to reflect the operation’s unique style and concept. Ritchie delivers final graphic files; the only cost to the customer is the physical printing of menus.

Casey Billingsley, GM at Mexico Joe’s in Stillwater, Oklahoma, says her company used Menu Medic multiple times, including a recent redesign of its dinner menu. “Kristen helped us solve problems we’d had for a long time as far as the layout, how to include more items and how to move the eye in a certain way,” she says. “It was awesome to see it in a whole new light and we couldn’t be happier. And to have the service offered at no charge is incredible.”

Ben E. Keith Foods, Oklahoma Division
Oklahoma City, OK
2009 sales: $1.979 billion (corporate)
ID Top 50 Rank: 8
Web site: benekeith.com