When you first decide to expand your menu, the idea of it all is so exciting! Having your team be creative in the kitchen to dream up new products and mouth-watering flavours, seeing the variety of finishing touches from a passionate team that elevates the product, and aiming to create something your customers will love is all a thrilling piece of adding a new item to your menu.
As the testing of items and flavours moves from testing to the final touches stage, the stress can kick in… will customers like the product? Will they like the flavours? Will it sell as well as we think it will? All of these questions and more begin to creep into your thoughts and you realize how strategic you must be to introduce a new item to your menu.
We are sharing a few of our top tips for expanding your menu, along with some examples from the changes we’ve made to our menu over the years so you have a real-world example of things that worked and those that didn’t.
Tip 1 – Consider your space.
One of our biggest challenges with expanding our menu is always cooler space. Our coolers are packed so if we want to add a new menu item, it either needs to be an item that doesn’t have to be kept in the cooler or we have to swap out a menu item to make room for the new one. This is something you’ve probably seen us do often under the guise of ‘putting a recipe into the JRC vault’. We did this with our mini cheesecakes when we wanted to make room for cream puffs.
Tip 2 – Consider the customer.
What have your customers been requesting? What are their favourite flavours? What price point do they feel comfortable spending? All of these questions and more regarding the customer should be taken into consideration. We’ve introduced items to our menu that we thought our customers would LOVE that ended up not being popular at all– our tarts being one of those items. All that effort into dreaming up a new item, recipe testing again and again until we created a beautiful item for our customers and, as it turned out, they weren’t that into it! While our team was so proud of the product they made, it wasn’t a fit for our client base so off the menu it went. Even when thinking of expanding the flavours you offer, consider the majority of the customers you serve and what they like the most.
Tip 3 – Consider your team.
If your team is anything like ours, your team is filled with amazing, incredibly talented and creative bakers who love to try new things. Consider the strengths of your team– what do they like to make? What are their hidden talents? Do they love chocolate work? Do they enjoy making candy? Are they a wizard with flavour ideas? Consider what your team is capable of doing and what they would like to try their hand at and allow them to experiment while keeping the customer in mind. Some of the best ideas can come out on the fly as your team members are working away and chatting about fun items they’d love to make one day.
Tip 4 – Package like a pro.
The final touches, including any specific packaging an item might need, can be just as important as the product itself. Consider our new Hot Chocolate Bombs; they are stunning but, since they are a sphere and a gift item, they needed to be packaged. Instead of just putting them into the pink bags we already have on hand, we decided to create custom packaging that shows off the beauty of the bomb itself. Each bomb sits on a bed of pink crinkle paper in a clear vinyl box and is sealed with a white and gold foil sticker that has the instructions printed right on it! This packaging is very on-brand for us– our pink, white and gold foil colour palette along with a clear box that matches other specialty items like our mini meringues.
The way you package your product sells your product. If you’re introducing a new item to your menu, be sure to consider the packaging for a consistent and beautiful customer experience.
Tip 5 – Reassess and adjust as necessary.
The time spent introducing a new menu item also includes tracking sales and customer comments once it is launched, then reassessing after a few weeks and adjusting anything that needs it.
When we initially removed cream puffs from our menu it’s because they weren’t selling as well as when we first introduced them to our customers. When we brought them back we knew we needed to make changes to make them more in line with what our customers wanted. We replaced dipping each and every cream puff with fondant or chocolate (which was making them too sweet for some customers) with colourful craquelin that gave the same look without the sweetness. Then, we made them mini! For our shop, anything mini tends to sell well– it has the adorable factor our customers love! Mini cream puffs mean a lower price point and customers can try all the flavours in one visit! These little adjustments were necessary for the longevity of the item on our menu.
Expanding your menu can be fun and challenging and is always work that, when approached with the right attitude, will always help you learn more about your loyal customers and will allow you to serve them better. Treating your customers well curating a menu of sweet treats that effectively utilize the skills of your team while simultaneously serving your clients treats they love is what this industry is all about.
Good luck with expanding your menu! We hope you enjoyed these tips and can put them to use when you consider adding a new treat to your menu.