It's not just any old mustard

In my early days as a restaurateur I learned a valuable lesson about guest perceptions.  By featuring the right branded products, I improved my profits.

My seafood menu featured a popular dish, Prawns Sauté. It sold for $15.50. At my sales rep's suggestion, we added Nabisco's Grey Poupon Dijon mustard to the recipe, raised the price to $17.95, and changed the name to Prawns Dijonnaise.

What happened? The Grey Poupon brand helped boost sales by 20%, the extra $2.45 was a great return on 31¢ worth of mustard, and we didn't have to reinvent the wheel.

Branding is a sleeping giant of opportunity for restaurants. Manufacturers spend millions of dollars to market their brands to the public. Television commercials, print ads, radio spots, and even grocery store promotions ensure that the biggest and best brands stay top-of-mind. When developing menu items, and designing your menu itself, here are some ways you can take advantage of the work manufacturers have already done for you:

  • Using the right branded products creates instant credibility about product quality. Many industry studies have shown that consumers believe that restaurants using well-known brands offer more consistent quality than restaurants that don't. Whether its Grey Poupon®, Heinz® Ketchup, Idaho Potatoes, or Coca Cola®, guests instantly recognize the names and are positively predisposed to purchase.
  • Be choosy about the menu items you decide to brand. For example, don't promote rich Ghiradelli® chocolate in a dessert that's labor intensive, and doesn't generate a good gross profit. Pick existing menu items that are good sellers and generate decent gross profit -- then sweeten the deal with a brand.
  • {mosimage}Use your wait staff to promote branded products. They'll be comfortable recommending products they're familiar with, and it's much easier to extol the virtues of your chicken strips when they know the chicken is from Foster Farms®. Plus, branded items generally carry a higher price point. Translation? Higher tips.
  • Logos were created to be seen. When the fiery roasted veggies feature Tabasco® Pepper Sauce, feature the logo right next to the item, like a signature icon, or printed at the bottom of the menu with other logos of branded products you use. Not all menus can go so far as to include the logo, and don't go overboard. No more than 10% of your items should be set apart with brand names or logos. (For more on Signature Icons, see "A picture's worth a thousand bucks")
  • Finally, take advantage of the marketing collateral, point of purchase materials, recipes, and product training that many manufacturers have to offer. One 13-unit steakhouse chain even received a rebate from one manufacturer to offset printing costs when their logo was added to the menu. Your sales rep is your connection. Ask what's available for certain branded products, or if they have new recipe and promotion ideas. It may seem obvious, but if you don't ask, you'll never know.

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