Posts Tagged ‘ F&B Research

Is Your Breakfast Menu Up-To-Date?

F&B Directors: how much has your breakfast menu changed in the last two years? How about your dinner menu? I often find that hotels focus more on updating the dinner menu while breakfast stays the same. Except for pricing. But these same hotels serve five to ten times as many guests at breakfast as they do at dinner.  

Next question: what is your breakfast capture rate compared to one or two years ago? Well, it may be “red alert” time. Your competitors had an interesting view of the recession, apparently thinking it was the right time to grow the breakfast segment. While casual dining remained stable, with 17% serving breakfast, and midscale or family dining remained steady at 77%, QSR including coffee shops grew to 48%. “In total 47% of all commercial foodservice units currently menu at least some breakfast items.” All of this data is courtesy the 2011 edition of QSR ONESource Magazine ( For their publication on January 14 they used data from a number of sources. Here are some highlights. For much of their breakfast menu insight QSR used data from Datassential menutrends™ Direct (

  • There is significant growth in menuing  nontraditional proteins, including chorizo, sirloin, crab and salmon.
  • Parmesan and goat cheese are the fastest growing cheeses across all types of operators at breakfast.
  • Upscale dinner preparations/descriptions are showing up at breakfast, including wood-smoked, oven-roasted and fire-roasted.
  • Ethnic items continue to increase in popularity on menus – while Mexican shows up the most, there is growth in Italian and Greek inspired items.
  • I know you’ve heard about “health” as a growing trend for years; this latest information says that your guests are more likely to desire healthy food at breakfast than at any other time, and that even incorporating “healthy attributes” will have an impact. Think whole and multi-grains, super fruits and lean meats they say.

Looks like it’s time for breakfast.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.


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Is Your Menu Missing Something?

Your dinner menu lists appetizers, right? Or maybe “Starters” or “Small Plates” or a clever synonym suggesting that this is where you start your meal.

But really, it isn’t the start, is it? I mean the start is usually a beverage. Perhaps you offer a beverage menu or a table tent that promotes beverages. OK.

"I wonder where the cocktails are..."

But experts suggest that you (also) list drinks, including wines, on the food menu.

January 26 was interesting for me. That morning I was asked by a client to review a dinner menu for a top notch hotel in the upscale segment.

The dinner menu I reviewed had no cocktails, beers or wines listed anywhere. This isn’t unusual for hotel dinner menus. The menu did have coffee, milk and juice. I recommended enhancements which would put select beverages at the top left of the menu, at the beginning. Why not let the menu “begin at the beginning”?

That same afternoon I attended 2011 Cheers Conference ( in New Orleans, and an excellent presentation (one of many at the Conference) – Menu Trends:  What the Top 25 Chains Are Pouring. The presenter was Michael J. Ginley, a Partner at Next Level Marketing (  Ginley suggested that 86% of the top twenty-five full service restaurant chains list at least “some” drinks on their menus. He then stated that he was puzzled that the number isn’t 100% since there is evidence that the practice improves sales.

But there’s more. In October 2009 I published a blog “How to Sell Less Wine”. In it I cited the remarkable Cornell wine list placement study. Thanks to Sybil S. Yang and Michael Lynn, Ph.D., and The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University we now understand which wine list attributes correlate to increases in wine sales. In their breakthrough finding, “Wine List Characteristics Associated with Greater Wine Sales”  [Cornell Hospitality Report, Vol. 9, No. 11, July 2009,], Yang & Lynn detail how they meticulously studied the wine lists and wine sales of 270 restaurants spanning several major markets.

In my blog I summarized the findings, and now refer to this one: Wine list design: only two attributes were found to correlate to higher wine sales: placing the list on the menu (instead of a separate book), and not using the dollar sign ($).

Are you using your dinner menu to optimize beverage sales?

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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Forget the Answer, It’s the Question that Matters

Recently one of my company’s projects was especially challenging – and interesting – because it required me to expand my breadth of knowledge about a certain area in a short period of time. I would have even a shorter period of time to interview key players, to get to the root of the issues. If I failed to get to achieve an understanding of the underlying fundamentals driving the issues, then the project would fail.

Jacques-Louis David (1787)

So, I began planning my questions. Which reminded me of the favorite saying of one of my mentors, “if you ask the wrong question you’ll get the wrong answer”.

Great questions are more powerful than great answers, as Socrates proved many centuries ago. It’s just so easy to ask a question, get an answer consistent with expectations, and move on to the next topic or issue. But Socrates would solve a problem by breaking it down into a series of questions, a sort of “verbal distillation” process (“distillation” – I knew I could get back to an F&B topic).

This question process influences us today, and may witnessed in critical processes such as the “scientific method” and TQM.

For a hotel restaurant analysis I might want to know “who is the customer” and seek out traditional information relating to their stay (business or leisure, group or individual, age-income ranges, etc.). But I might learn more if I ask how the customer arrived here, why did they eat here instead of somewhere else, where are they going and what are they doing after they dine, and how are they getting there, for example.


  • What is the purpose of my restaurant? Why does it exist? (Begin every exploration with “purpose”)
  • Not, “who is the customer?” but “what is the occasion?”, why are they here? (If you answer “breakfast” and move on, I have not been sufficiently persuasive).
  • Not “what is my labor cost?” but “what is my productivity rate?”, then break it down further, job position and meal period, for example
  • Not “what is my food cost?” or even “did I meet my budgeted cost?” but “what is my variance to theoretical this month?”
  • Not “how can I improve on my weaknesses?”, but “how can I improve on my strengths?” (As for weaknesses, find someone good in those areas, partner with them, and get on with your strengths…)
  • Not “what are the hotels in my competitive set doing?” where does  the guest eat when they don’t dine with us?” Why?

These are my questions, let me know yours.

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F&B Directors – Are You Keeping Up?

Are you keeping up with your industry, “hotel F&B”? Are you reading all of the right magazines?

Great. Now STOP. Stop reading hotel industry publications. Just for a while. Look for some ideas from sources not connected with the industry.

I know. Who’s got time to read, and anyway, who reads magazines anymore? Can you spell “webzine”? Maybe the Internet, per se, hasn’t killed magazines, but when you factor in recent mobile technology advances, including e-readers like Kindle, the print world certainly seems even more challenging.

No matter. Web site or print. You likely already subscribe to several excellent publications such as Hotels (, Hotel F&B (, Lodging (, Lodging Hospitality (, Hotel & Motel Management (, and Hotel Design (, to name a few.

No doubt you subscribe also to some of the many excellent restaurant industry magazines, including Nation’s Restaurant News (, Restaurants & Institutions (, Restaurant Hospitality (, and Restaurant Business (

Of course there are the specialty magazines, often with cuisine or beverage-alcohol based content. Sante’ is among these excellent magazines (, and many culinarians like Chef (

OK, so now let’s go “off the industry path” just a little bit. Let’s see what’s going on in other parts of the world, even related parts.

If you run a fine dining establishment, read QSR Magazine ( If you work for a large company, read a publication designed for independents, like Restaurant Startup & Growth (

Who are your customers and what are they interested in?

Are you getting more requests for vegetarian items? Read Vegetarian Times (, or even – if you want some ideas for vegan dishes, or to better understand the vegan point of view, Veg News ( Are they coffee aficionados? Try Fresh Cup for industry trends in specialty coffees (

Let’s really get off the path now. Are they concerned about fitness? Read Fitness (, or Men’s Fitness ( Are your customers boomers? Read AARP Magazine ( – maybe you’ll have to borrow your parents copy?

And don’t forget to look at what’s going on in retail. Some may have publications available at the store only, but all have web sites. Look at Whole Foods (, Dean & Deluca (, Wegmans ( and Trader Joe’s (

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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