As some casual-dining chains move to simplify their menus, often offering fewer items to streamline operations or focus on what they do best, Ted’s Montana Grill is taking a different approach with what management calls the largest menu revamp in the 45-unit chain’s 16-year history.
The new menu, which launched about two weeks ago, has more items, with entrées now organized mostly based on protein. There are separate poultry, seafood and burger sections, and a steak section divided between beef and the chain’s hallmark bison offerings.
New separate kids’ and drink menus also have been introduced.
In advance of the new menu launch, the Atlanta-based chain conducted a six-month study, interviewing more than 1,000 current and lapsed guests, as well as people unfamiliar with the restaurants, to discuss the menu, atmosphere, branding, perception and restaurant locations.
“This is the first time we’ve done research this extensive in probably five years,” president and chief operating officer Kristi Martin told Nation’s Restaurant News.
The main menu-oriented takeaway was that customers wanted even more variety.
Among the new items are:
Salmon Burger: In the seafood section rather than the burger section, the burger has lemon, bacon and a fried egg, and is topped with dill cream sauce, locally sourced arugula and a grilled tomato.
Turkey Burger: In the poultry section, the burger has basil, melted pepper Jack cheese, Sriracha aïoli and arugula.
George’s Classic Cadillac: This burger has been retrofitted to more closely resemble its original format, with cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and a side of yellow mustard. Recent additions such as fried onions and chipotle ranch have been removed.
1977 America’s Cup: Tapping into founder Ted Turner’s win of the 1977 America’s Cup, this burger is topped with American cheese, bacon, grilled onions and a fried egg on a brioche bun.
Bison Chopped Steak: Ground bison grilled to guest’s desired temperature and served with brown gravy and grilled onions and mushrooms.
New York Strip: 12 ounces of Certified Angus Beef or bison.
Strawberry Shortcake: A sweetened drop biscuit with strawberries, whipped cream and Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream.
Additionally, the chain has added three optional steak accompaniments — grilled mushrooms, blue cheese bacon butter or a spiced coffee rub. The New York City location also now has Béarnaise sauce, which did not test well in other cities, Martin said.
Newer locations already had sauté stations, but they were added to older restaurants so they could serve new premium sides, including sautéed green beans and sautéed cauliflower. Also new to the menu is roasted asparagus and a daily featured vegetable selected by the chef at each restaurant, allowing them to source local produce or feature regional favorites.
The new menu was tested in seven locations for four months before the systemwide rollout.
Martin said she was curious to see if guests had trouble locating the turkey or salmon burgers in their respective seafood and poultry sections.
“They have no trouble finding them,” she said.
The new kids’ menu looks like a miniature adults’ menu, “which is well received by kids,” Martin said. New additions include a bison pot roast and meat loaf, and all the main menu’s salads also are offered on kids’ menus.
“They seem to be in higher demand these days,” Martin said.
The kids’ burger also has been reformulated from something resembling a slider to a proper kid-sized cheeseburger, available in beef or bison.
“We sell a great deal of bison on the kids’ menu,” Martin said, adding that, of course, they also have sell a lot of mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken tenders.
The separate beverage menu is now available for people who are coming in just for drinks, “So they don’t have to look at the back of the menu like they’re an afterthought,” Martin said.
Servers also leave one beverage menu behind at each table after the other menus are removed to encourage reordering.
Martin said the new drink menus were added midway through the seven-restaurant test and resulted in a slight uptick in beverage sales. Adjustments like that were made throughout the test period.
“We didn’t take any of this lightly,” she said.
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