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Food

At Romano’s Macaroni Grill, simplicity sells a steak

Photograph courtesy of Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Steak + Potatoes, the name of a new menu item at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, couldn’t be simpler. But that simplicity resonates with the brand’s customers, says Executive Chef Jeffrey Meyer, citing the chain’s proprietary consumer research. Supporting that idea, Technomic research shows that the ideal length for the name of an LTO or menu item is three words. Any more, and purchase intent goes down two points for each additional word.

Macaroni Grill saved its words for the description of the dish. The 10-ounce grilled sirloin comes with roasted Parmesan potatoes, sauteed broccolini and a choice of an oreganata vinaigrette-style sauce or a richer rosemary butter. The accompaniments underscore the fledgling chain’s renewed focus on its classic Tuscan roots, says Meyer. It’s a move that paid off. Over 70% of consumers surveyed by Technomic’s MenuSurf said they would order the entree after reading its description.

Steakhouse style without the price tag

Meyer specs top sirloin steak for the dish to present the best quality with the least amount of doctoring, he says, and offers a choice of two sauces so guests can customize their plates, much like a high-end steakhouse. But steakhouses charge extra for sides and occasionally for sauces, so customers see this entree as a value proposition at $25, Meyer says.

Menu engineering promotes variety

Although Macaroni Grill has a pasta in its name, and the pasta section of the menu is the largest, customers expect a wider variety of categories, says VP of Marketing Holly Wagstaff, citing the chain’s consumer research. The menu is engineered to showcase the best items in each category—meat, salads, chicken, pasta, etc.—not an abundance of dishes, she says. And like the wording of each dish, presentations are kept simple but photogenic. That emphasis on presentation has led to a surge in activity on Instagram, with guests posting photos of the steak and other items and encouraging friends to meet at Macaroni Grill, Wagstaff reports.

Sales star

Steak + Potatoes landed in the top 20 in Macaroni Grill’s sales mix over the summer. Its success has prompted the chain to permanently add it to the Carne section of the core menu. The performance also led the chain to launch another signature steak as a fall LTO, says Meyer: A porterhouse with rosemary lemon butter and crispy Brussels sprouts debuted Oct. 2. The chain is building up the Carne section with more than steaks, too, adding braised lamb shanks with roasted butternut squash. In addition to what guests see as a value proposition, “servers are trained to upsell the meat entrees by suggesting wine pairings,” says Wagstaff.

The result

Romano’s Macaroni Grill’s Steak + Potatoes; $25

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