Labor Pains? Right-Size Your Menu

Managing your core menu takes a bite out of all your kitchen costs.
A group of workers discuss the restaurant menu in the back of the house.

Right-sizing your restaurant menu is all about cost control. Slower sales, expensive labor and rising costs call for shaving expenses. The menu and kitchen are places to find savings. 

Make menu decisions by asking questions about three parts of your business—the core menu, labor effectiveness and kitchen efficiency. Here’s how it works: 

1. Monitor the menu

Keep the stars, drop the dogs and puzzles … figuring out my core menu is painful. Can I make it easy and still reduce labor?

  • Determine your menu basics (burgers, tacos, breakfast, ice cream, etc.):
    • Every menu item should help define your brand
    • Use market size or the competition to shape menu size
    • Add or change items with LTOs, specials, seasonal dishes
  • Consider value-added products that reduce labor:
    • Precut, prewashed produce
    • Breaded, seasoned, heat-and-serve products
    • Shaped, sliced, high-quality, on-trend proteins
  • Add to your ready-to-serve product lineup:
    • Dressings (salad dressings, condiments, etc.) 
    • Sauces (salsa, pesto, etc.)
    • Dips (or any products that require manual effort)

2. Evaluate the labor

My menu feels solid, but labor’s still a struggle. Where do I go from here?

  • Your analysis should lay the groundwork for menu reduction:
    • Are there kitchen areas you could shut down?
    • Could you reset your menu to use only 3 kitchen stations? 
  • Watch where your staff spends time and evaluate format changes:
    • How much time is spent on prep work? 
      • Would more ready-to-use items add hands-on cooking creativity? 
    • How much time is spent with on-the-line cooking? 
      • Could we do more meal prep to allow easy reheat and assembly?

3. Do a kitchen assessment

My kitchen is plenty big and every station gets used. How do I decide what gets cut from my menu to reduce labor?

  • Think like a food truck, where space is small and few people do the work.
  • Identify the kitchen stations you use. 
  • Compare menu items against kitchen stations:
    • Figure out which stations make each item to identify low-use stations
    • Evaluate if you can cut menu items using those stations
      • Does it free up one person from manning that area?
      • Does it reduce that person’s steps?
      • Does it help produce other items in their station more efficiently? 
  • Reach conclusions about right-sizing the menu:
    • If chicken alfredo and mac & cheese are your only menu items using the sauté station, can they be removed to eliminate the sauté station and two prep items?
    • With sauté empty, could you use the flat top and create some new grilled items without adding steps or energy? 

For more menu planning, product insights and a kitchen assessment worksheet, contact your Gordon Food Service Sales Representative.

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