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Kruse Report: Customization is king

Restaurant patrons have come to view customization as a fundamental right, as they mix and match their menu choices to suit their moods, pocketbooks and diet plans.

This mindset creates both challenges and opportunities to restaurateurs, who must balance profitability imperatives with the need to cater to customer demands. Resourceful operators have found a number of strategies to accomplish both.

Preparation techniques. Red Lobster’s daily selection of fresh fish can be wood-fire grilled, oven-broiled or blackened, while other menu items can be steamed or fried. The chain’s Shrimp Your Way option also allows crustacean cravers to customize their own combination plate by selecting options like fried shrimp, scampi, coconut shrimp bites or popcorn shrimp.

Next: Ingredients and toppings

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Ingredients and toppings. At ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, the new sibling to Chipotle Mexican Grill, patrons literally start from scratch as they build their bowls. First, customers choose rice or noodles and then add tofu or grilled meats and exotic vegetables before finishing with homemade sauces, garnishes and crispy toppings to suit their taste.

Pie Five Pizza Co., a Texas-based offshoot of Pizza Inn, delivers hand-crafted pizza in five minutes. The Build Your Own menu comprises thin or pan crust, a trio of sauces and a long list of toppings including multiple cheeses, meats and vegetables.

Next: Meal components

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Meal components. In the latest iteration of Applebee’s long-running ‘2 for $20’ promotion, diners choose a shareable appetizer from a list of favorites like Boneless Wings or Queso Blanco, and then select two full-size entrées like Bruschetta Chicken, Riblets or Chicken Fettuccine Carbonara.

Contact Nancy Kruse at [email protected].

TAGS: Menu
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