What is menu Engineering?


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Menu engineering is the study of the profitability and popularity of a menu.

It is also called menu psychology. It is also how to increase the profitability of the food business through strategic pricing. Menu items are then divided into four sections-Stars, plow horse, puzzles and dogs.

This exercise helps in controlling food cost and evaluating items in a menu. It also helps in strategic pricing of certain menu items so as to achieve higher profitability. No matter attractive of a menu you put out, based on consumer choices, dishes will fall in one of the four categories.

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To do the exercise of menu engineering, you’ll need the following:

Standard recipes

-This give you the potential cost of each recipe and overall potential cost of your outlet.

-Number of portions sold over a period to know consumer preferences and profitability


A menu item becomes a STAR when it is low in cost and high in number of portions sold.

Stars should be really easy to spot on your menu.


Dishes which are highly popular and not profitable get characterized as PLOW HORSES.

Experiment with a marginal increase in price. Ideally place in a place of lower visibility on the menu.


A PUZZLE are those dishes which are extremely profitable but do not appeal to the masses.

Feature this in highlights or in boxes. Encourage your team to sell these items on the menu.


Dishes which are neither popular nor profitable are known as dogs. While re-engineering a menu, it is important to take a call on these items or remove it from the menu itself.

These items are normally plotted on a graph for ease of identification.

Nigel J Lobo
Nigel J Lobo is currently the Executive Chef and Group Culinary Administrator at the Royal Orchid Hospitality Group in Dubai. Prior to this, he was the Chef de Cuisine at The Eloquent Elephant at the Taj Dubai. Nigel holds a Bachelors degree in Tourism Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Kitchen Management from the renowned Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD). He spent his formative years training at Miramar under Michelin star Chef Paco Perez, at Compartir under Chef Mateu Casanas in Spain; Attica in Australia under Chef Ben Shewry, La Vie under Chef Thomas Buhner in Germany and at a local tapas bar in Valladolid-La Tahona under Chef Jose. Nigel remains passionate about Modern European cuisine and being born and raised in the UAE, he has harnessed the locally available produce to create successful menus which he has rolled out across all the group’s outlets. Keen to share his experiences to educate and guide young chefs or students who are looking at starting a career in the Food & Beverage industry, Nigel recently launched his website (www.nigeljlobo.com) which has different sections breaking down complex F&B terminology into simple, understandable lingo. A career that started in his late teens, Nigel has developed his skills over the years and currently oversees the operations for ten of the group’s restaurants – from efficiently controlling the logistics of services and supplies, pricing the menus for various segment and portioning the plates, to training staff and maintaining consistency in product offering across all restaurants. A sports and music enthusiast, Nigel enjoys playing squash in his free time and has been a lifelong supporter of the English football club Arsenal FC. Nigel is also a trained pianist and now admits that playing the instrument, something that used to be a chore whilst growing up, is now his best remedy to unwind and destress.