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Pimp Up Your Sides for Premium Profits

increase your restaurants profits by introducing side dishes - salvo 1968
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Pimp Up Your Sides for Premium Profits

As rents increase and ingredient prices rise, it puts more stress on restaurant owners to look for ways to increase their bottom line, and while most chefs will look to cut costs or raise prices, adding side dishes to their menu is often an overlooked strategy in increasing a restaurant's sales and profit.

When we think of a restaurant menu, our minds often drift to the main courses – the steak, the pasta, the pizza and the more expensive things on the menu. However, side dishes like a crisp Caesar salad, seasoned fries, or a portion of chicken wings are more than just add-ons; they're a goldmine for restaurateurs and caterers. 

Adding side dishes to a menu is a great way to increase the average order size per customer as a well-crafted side dish menu can encourage diners to add one or two more items to their order, subtly boosting sales without the need for hard-selling. This increment in sales, while seemingly small per order, accumulates over time, contributing to your restaurant's overall revenue.

But it’s not just about overall sales, side dishes tend to have a much higher markup than main dishes where restaurateurs can enjoy greater profit per side dish with a much lower cost of ingredients. And appeal of side dishes don't just lie in their cost-effectiveness; they typically require fewer ingredients and less preparation time, reducing labour costs and helping your kitchen staff serve your hungry customers faster and with less preparation space.

One of the most popular side dishes taking over the restaurant scene is Loaded Fries, Barnaby McAdams, Taste Creator for Santa Maria Food Service says “The option of Loaded Fries usually means anything from £2-£5 can be added to the menu price, depending on what’s loaded on top”...”But the actual cost to create the dish in the kitchen is far lower, providing a decent profit.” 

Giving your customers an element of personalisation, like choosing which toppings to go on to the fries helps boost profits margins whilst giving your punters an opportunity to make the dish their own, playing into the growing desire to customise and personalise dining experiences. 

So, how do you start incorporating side dishes into your restaurant's menu?

You can start with menu design.

Menu Design: Maximising Visibility and Appeal

Strategically positioning side dishes on your menu helps boost visibility and likelihood of being ordered. Understanding the pattern of how customers read a menu, often referred to as the 'Golden Triangle,' guides the placement of the most profitable sides to ensure they catch the customer's eye.

The Golden Triangle on Menu Design

When a customer first glances at a menu, their eyes typically land in the middle. This area acts as the prime stage for showcasing what the restaurant most wants to sell – whether it's high-profit items, chef’s specials, or your new side dishes. The central position naturally draws the eye, making it a strategic spot for items that the restaurant wants to highlight and promote. The key here is to use design elements thoughtfully. A well-placed dish in this area, accentuated by subtle yet striking design choices, can significantly influence customer choices.

From the centre, the customer's gaze often shifts to the top right corner, making this the second most influential spot on the menu. This area is perfect for featuring popular dishes or those with a good profit margin that might not be the primary focus of the restaurant's offerings. For instance, seasonal specials or dishes with unique ingredients can find an ideal spot here.

The top left corner, following the top right, is also a vital area, albeit with slightly less attention compared to the top right. It's still a strategic location, ideal for placing well-loved or profitable dishes. The design and presentation of menu items in these top corners should be engaging, with descriptions that spark interest and curiosity, without overwhelming the reader.

The importance of the Golden Triangle lies in its ability to subtly guide the customer’s decision-making process. This psychological approach to menu layout isn’t just about aesthetics; it's a strategic tool that enhances the customer experience while boosting the restaurant's profitability. Enhancing side dishes with design elements such as boxes, bold fonts, or enticing photos, and using descriptive and appealing titles like ‘Creamy Parmesan Spinach’ instead of just ‘Spinach,’ can stimulate appetite and pique interest. Keeping descriptions balanced - vivid enough to entice but concise enough to maintain attention - is key. Descriptive adjectives should be used judiciously to maintain credibility and avoid overselling.

Creating your side dishes

Finally, the key to successfully introducing your side dishes into your menu lies in ensuring the dishes align with your restaurant's existing cuisine. For instance, if your restaurant specialises in Italian cuisine, consider incorporating Greci's premium olives and tomatoes into an antipasto. Similarly, for an american-inspired menu, Meadowvale’s range of pre-cooked, IQF chicken could help you add BBQ Chicken Wings to the menu.

This is where integrating Meadowvale products into your menu can play a lucrative role in increasing your customers average order value. Meadowvale's range of high-quality, versatile ingredients opens up a variety of possibilities for side dishes that complement your restaurant's cuisine and generates greater revenue.