A while back, the FDA began to require that all restaurants that have 20 locations or more, begin to display calorie counts on their menu next to the menu item. It was the intention of the U.S. government to inform the consumer of hidden calories within their fast-food choices to help the diner make better health decisions when dining out. And a groan was heard across every major fast-food chain across the United States.
Fast-food prides itself on just that: being fast. And while some healthy items exist on the menu to appease health-conscious diners, the majority of fast-food is not created with consideration of the caloric density. So it comes at no surprise that restaurants everywhere weren’t even a little excited to place these numbers next to their menu items. Some put it off and a lot of them contacted us to assist in executing this FDA-enforced nightmare. For some, this meant going back to the drawing board and collaborating with our Registered Dietitian to lighten up their menu items. However, when COVID-19 lockdown hit in the spring of 2020, we began to see an undeniable benefit of sharing this caloric information with consumers.
The Silver Lining
At MenuCalc we pride ourselves on being positive, especially when we need to step up to the plate and advocate for our restaurant clients. As restaurants began to recalibrate their operations in response to the pandemic, we went back to the drawing board to see how we could make their nutrient data useful. There had to be some way to repurpose this data to give back to our customers. And it was then we realized that the nutrient data alone held all of the inside information that our food business clients were craving from their diners: their preferences.
An Inside Look
Around the office, we use words like “crystal ball” and “bird’s eye view” to describe what SmartMenu provides to the restaurant operator. And that’s because we’ve realized how to use that cring-y nutrient data as a foundation for diner insights.
Think about it, when you go to order food and you have a specific cuisine preference, what do you need to know? You need to know what you have a taste for. And to determine that, you need to know what ingredients that you enjoy, right? Well, if we flip the switch and begin looking at that nutrient data as ingredient data, from that data-pool emerges dietary preferences (such as low-fat, low-carb, high protein, etc) as well as flavor preferences (mayo or mustard, or both). Once these preferences are compiled over thousands of customer orders, patterns begin to emerge that shine a spotlight on your specific dining audience. No projections, no relative data, but actual dining data sourced from your personal online dining audience telling you what they want, how they want it and when.
The making of the perfect restaurant menu takes a massive amount of trial and error. Mainly because there are so few places to derive concrete data about a dining audience. While POS systems might lend information about the location and time of day that a meal is ordered, they are limited when it comes to observing and tracking the behavior of a diner as they move about the menu. And this is precisely why, in response to COVID-19, we rolled out SmartMenu. Online operations and customer preferences shouldn’t be a guessing game. Menus should change more often than every 25 years. But the truth is, determining what a customer likes and why they don’t like it, is an expensive endeavor, and it’s easier to rely on tried and true favorites than to present them with new options that match current dining trends.
If you’ve ever really wanted to get a handle on your customer preferences and make data-driven decisions, here’s your chance. Flip that nutrient data from headache-inducing into something worthwhile. All of the things you want to know about your diners is right in the data. If you already have a MenuCalc account, set-up is nothing more than an extension of your existing account. If you’re new to MenuCalc, you can be operating your new SmartMenu by next week.
Never make a decision without concrete data ever again. Get SmartMenu.