The Lumina Intelligence Menu & Food Trends Report 2021 analysed spring/summer 2021 menus from 89 operators across chain and managed pub/bar restaurants as well as fast food channels against menu data for the same period in 2019 and 2020.
It found that chain restaurants had implemented the largest reduction in menus year-on-year with an average number of 64 dishes, down from 80 (-20%) in 2019.
Simplified and reduced menus were aimed at mitigating challenges around staff shortages and supply chain disruption leading to product availability issues.
Speaking to MCA, BigHospitality's sister site, Lumina Intelligence insight director Blonnie Whist said: “Whilst we have seen dish counts rise since restrictions have eased, menus still remain significantly smaller than before the pandemic.
“Whilst we expect menus to continue to grow, operators are still navigating staff and produce shortages. With a smaller menu, operators can potentially rely on fewer ingredients and fewer staff, which mitigates the potential need to close due to staff illness or lack of produce.
“Smaller menus also help manage costs and with hospitality businesses trying to recoup the revenue they lost during the past 18 months, owners will be keen to drive efficiency.”
The report also revealed that same-line dish price inflation – options retained on menus for Spring/Summer 2021 with the same name and description – was up 1.7% for chain restaurant and pub/bar restaurant menus, with chain restaurant inflation slightly higher than pubs at +1.8% vs 1.5%.
VAT reductions during this time period had perhaps allowed operators to make more modest increases, the report suggested.
In addition, more than one in five dishes on menus now featured an element of upsell, up by +15% year-on-year.
“Despite the challenges the sector has faced over the past 18 months, menu price inflation has remained in line with the wider economy,” Whist added.
“Operators will be reluctant to outprice consumers and risk losing footfall to competitors. Through smaller menus, operators are able to efficiently manage costs in order to mitigate any extreme price increase.”
According to the research, almost half (47%) of chain and managed pub main dishes featured at least one dietary requirement flag, up from 41% in 2019, while 28% of all dishes on menus are now customisable, up by +38% year-on-year.
Customisation was allowing operators to maintain choice for consumers whilst retaining smaller menus as well as enabling operators to better cater to dietary requirements, with 51% of customisable mains featuring a dietary requirement flag.
The Lumina Intelligence Menu & Food Trends Report is part of its Food Strategy Forum. To find out more click here.