Menu Engineering

MENU ITEM – Engineering

How to control your food- and beverage cost in depth – item by item?

When you know how much of each item has been sold in a given time frame, and how much profit is driven by each menu item, you can identify the popularity and profitability.

Menu Item Engineering

That is where a Menu Engineering Spreadsheet comes in handy. Prepared with a few – not very complicated formulas – and after your database input it will categorize your items and indicate to which of the following categories each menu item belong:

      • Star
      • Question Mark
      • Horses
      • Dog

That will give you various useful information about the items you have sold.

Sample of an Menu Engineering Spreadsheet

  • Menu Item Name – can also be “PLU – Price Look Up” or “POS – Point of Sales”
  • Popularity % – This is a percentage of the quantity sold in relation to the total quantity
  • Profit Category  – The profit of the item compared with the total average profit of the category – “LOW” or “HIGH” meaning above or below average
  • Popularity Category – The popularity of the item compared with the popularity of all sold items of the category – low or high meaning above or below average
  • Menu Item Class – is the classification
  • Cost

This data can also be used to display the items in a menu engineering matrix.

The axis from the left to the right will be the item’s popularity. And the axis from top – down will be the item’s profitability. It will look something like this:

Click here for Sample Coordinates Menu Item Engineering

On that matrix, you see whether your menu is trending toward Stars, Dogs, Horses, or Question Mark.

But what do these categories even mean? Each one is broken down below.


Your Stars are the dishes that are the most popular and profitable for you. The ingredients for these dishes are quite inexpensive and your guests like them and order them a lot. Leave those items as they are, do not change anything and promote them in any way you can. Those are your steady bestsellers. Make sure they are extremely visible on your menu. (Read more about menu, design, …)

Your menu should feature your Stars prominently. Place them in the menu’s centre or top-right corner. To draw attention to it, try using varied text sizes or graphic callouts.


The items that are very profitable yet difficult to market are referred to as challenges. Find out why they are not selling well – they could definitely be described more elegantly and placed in a more prominent position on the menu.

It’s also possible that the selling price is somewhat too high; see if lowering the selling price increases the popularity of that product and leads to a better overall outcome.

Your challenges are raw diamonds with a lot of potential.


Horses are popular, but their ingredients are on the pricey side. How can they become more profitable? Change the ingredients or try a new recipe to make a more profitable version of the dish.

Take a look at the size of the portions. If your guests do not finish the dish, consider reducing the size of the portion. Horses are popular meals, therefore it is worth the effort to improve them rather than removing them off the menu because they are not profitable.


Dogs are the items on your menu that are both expensive to prepare and unpopular with your guests. They are taking up space on your menu that could be used for more profitable goods. You can either skip your Dogs or hide them on your menu to de-emphasize them.

You might also consider renaming the item before getting rid of it completely. Because you may not always be able to simply cancel some products.
The menu items that do not contribute to earnings or profitability are dogs.


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