Less is More Menu Edition

As I have grown older, and hopefully a bit wiser, there are many things that become ever more clear in life.  However, one that seems to repeat itself is the idea of less is more.  There are a number of different phrases that express this same thought but for me this is the most direct.  

It is clear that less friends, less family, less causes, less interests, less things, means an ability to focus, enhance, and enjoy those people and things in my life that I prioritize and find meaningful. Allowing me to trim out the distractions, allowing me the ability to create deeper and more meaningful connections with the fewer things that I choose. 

If you ever wondered what the origin of this phrase is, it is a phrase in a poem, by Robert Browning in Andrea del Sarto, 1855.

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive

To paint a little thing like that you smeared

Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-

Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,

(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!

Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Robert Browning in Andrea del Sarto, 1855.

Also, the phrase has been often associated with architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969)

So… the past week I have been helping a client dig into their menu, something that I had helped them with a few years prior.  So when we went through this exercise again I was a bit surprised by how much the menu had grown over the past 2 plus years.

This is now a common post covid trend, menus beginning to grow after significant paring down.

The client and I had a great conversation about what was happening in the business.  Sales were continuing to grow but he was seeing the following trends:

  • Food cost was rising
  • Operations was struggling to execute during peaks
  • Increased issues around food preparation quality
  • Lack of space in the restaurants

We then ran some pmix reports, reviewed the ordering experience, specifically online, and I provided some insights on the menu mix. 

Some tips that I can share based on our menu project, which is still in the working stages.


  1. Run pmix reports and get a strong understanding of what is selling.
    1. Top 20%
    2. Bottom 20%
    3. Use this info to par down the poor sellers, and figure out if there are opportunities to replicate what is selling well.
  1. Review your food costs for each item.
    1. Review the items that are low profit, either delete or change the offering to improve the margins
  1. Review menus from 3 top competitors
    1. What are they doing that you may want to adopt?
    2. How does your pricing stack up?

Why focus on Simplification 

Ease of Ordering

  • Improved UX
  • Faster ordering
  • Improved basket conversion
  • Fewer mistakes

Utilization of core ingredients

  • Fewer items
  • Faster turn over
  • Reduced waste
  • Focus on quality vs. quantity

Operational Efficiency

  • Improved throughput
  • Less labor/Easier training
  • Increased execution  
  • Improved margins

Customer Returns & Retention

  • Price leaders
  • Menu specials or seasonal items
  • Loyalty
  • Improved execution

Here are a few more tips that you should include as you work to simplify your menu.

  • Align your menu with consumer trends to create innovative signature items
  • Devote research and development efforts to your culinary program
  • Elevate your menu redesign efforts to your C-Suite, so that menu engineering becomes part of the long-term strategic planning
  • Focus on consolidating menu groups, choices and options online

In both life and with restaurants less can be more, specifically more sales, more profit, and more efficiency.


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