Menu Engineering, Managing Puzzles

By | June 30, 2009


Following on from the “What is Menu Engineering” Post:

A “Puzzle” is a menu item that is classified as profitable but not popular using Menu Engineering techniques. This begs the question: “Why is this menu item not popular? How can we transform it into a Star?” In many cases engaging tactics to transform a Puzzle into a Star is a sound approach.

Some reasons why a menu item is not popular include:

  • Price sensitivity/Value proposition – Is the item perceived as too expensive?
  • Profile & Positioning – Is the item positioned poorly or not adequately described on the menu?
  • Cultural Considerations – Are you trying to sell meat to vegetarians?
  • Seasonality – Is this item more popular at different times of the year?

Tactics for transforming a Puzzle to a Star include:

  • Change the description of the item
  • Change the presentation of the item
  • Change the location on the menu where the menu item appears
  • Change the price of the item
  • Offer the item as a special to increase its’ exposure

Finally, if all efforts to transform your Puzzle into a Star fail, it may be time to consider dumping it in favour of a more popular alternative.

2 thoughts on “Menu Engineering, Managing Puzzles

  1. Joe Dunbar

    Great post!

    Many puzzles are dogs in disguise. If an item makes it to the lower right quadrant due to a high gross margin but is way down the Y-axis (low popularity), I have rarely seen where a price drop will turn it into a star.

    Most of the time, a lower price simply won’t be enough to break across the X-axis into star territory. Further price drops will take it to its resting place as a dog.

    It needs to almost ride the X-axis before I get excited about star conversion.

    1. pkclarke

      Thanks for your contribution Joe. Great to hear from someone with lots of real world experience with Menu Engineering.


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