Rethink Your Restaurant Menu (Part 2)

So we talked about four categories in part 1: Star, Plow Horse, Dog, Puzzle, let\’s see how you can react based on each of them.


Star (High Popularity, High Profit): Customers often order this dish, and it makes you money.

  • Tweak the price upwards. If you’re the only restaurant which offers this unique or high-quality dish, your customers will be willing to pay just a bit more for what they get.
  • That being said, there is no reason to gouge your customers with a hefty price increase, but there’s also no reason to downplay the effort you put in to create your signature dish.
  • Don’t arrange the items on your menu to show the most expensive items first. Instead, arrange them to show the most profitable items first. So, highlight the stars on your menu so that customers will notice & order them more.

Plow Horse (High Popularity, Low Profit): Customers often order this dish, but you don’t make much money, or only break even on it.

  • Plow horses are your potential stars in the making. You’ve already made them popular – customers want to order these dishes. Now, you just need to bring them to the next level and make them more profitable.
  • Change the size & price of the dish depending on the time of the day. A dish could be low profit in a small lunch set, but during dinner time, ala carte prices could yield you a healthy profit margin.
  • Offer a twist on your popular dish by having alternative versions with premium ingredients or customizable toppings. This gives your customers the option to spend more to enjoy a more premium dish and boost your plow horse’s profitability to rival that of a star.

Dog (Low Popularity, Low Profit): Customers don’t order this dish, and you don’t make much money from it.

  • Get rid of the dogs immediately. Despite the sentimental value (maybe it’s you or your chef’s favourite dish), if no one orders it, it’s still a dog which takes up space on your menu & costs money every day.
  • Dogs are not even worth the effort to change it into something better. No matter how emotional it may be, the best thing is to remove it from your menu.

Puzzle (Low Popularity, High Profit): Customers don’t order this dish, but it could make you money if ordered.

  • Figure out your puzzles. Why are they not ordered? Is it because they’re not marketed correctly?
  • Rewrite their menu descriptions using more descriptive words to appeal to customers, use better or more premium ingredients, and consider having a limited time offer on these items. With the right effort, your puzzle could just transform into a star.


Regardless of how many stars, plow horses, dogs and puzzles there are on your menu, you must always be thinking of how to make your menu better, and your business more profitable.

This means cutting your costs but also maintaining your ingredient quality and your service, allowing customers to continue to have strong loyalty and positive experiences with your brand.