November 11, 2021

Menu Matrix: Why Every Restaurant Needs One + Free Template

If you’re reading this, chances are that you have spent a good amount of time creating a menu for your restaurant. You understand that your menu is at the core of defining your venue, and it’s why people come back (or don’t). But have you developed a detailed menu matrix for your team?


In this article we are going to talk about creating a Menu Matrix and why it is crucial for the staff working in your restaurant to have one.


What is a Menu Matrix?

Example of Menu Matrix Categories (dev.yelliapp.com)

The term “Menu Matrix” can actually mean a few different things depending on who you talk to in the industry, so I want to start by defining what we are actually talking about here.


A Menu Matrix refers to a detailed and categorized break-down of each menu item, usually formatted in a spreadsheet or database. The matrix is updated by chef or management as the menu changes, so that team members can use it to study the menu. Categories typically included in a menu matrix are:


  • Dish Name
  • Photo of Dish
  • Category (appetizers, mains, desserts, etc)
  • Raw Ingredients
  • Allergy notes (does the dish have an allergy, can it be modified?)
  • Table Talk (how the dish would be described to the guest)
  • Garnish
  • Price Point
  • Any other Chef notes, or history of the dish


Of course, every restaurant is different, so you might find other important notes to add that best fit your venue. 


Why Do I Need One?

Now that we know what a menu matrix looks like, let’s talk about why you need one.


Simply put, you need to give your team access to every detail about your venue (and the menu is a pretty big part!) if you want them to perform at the highest level possible. As a waitress, there was nothing more frustrating than not knowing a piece of information that could help me through my shift. 


If all I know about the peach cobbler is that there are peaches in it and it comes with vanilla ice cream, my guest with an almond allergy might have a less-than-perfect experience when she eats it and realizes there is almond extract in the pastry. Of course you might say that it’s the servers responsibility to know and communicate these things with their guests, and you are absolutely right. But, how can we expect servers and bartenders to relay information that they don't have themselves?


I can’t tell you how many restaurants I’ve both worked in and worked with who don’t provide their team members with crucial menu information. It’s pretty common for menu training to look like this: grab a menu from the host stand, sit on the line for an hour and take notes, then make mistakes for the first month of your job until you figure it out.


If we’re talking about increasing efficiency and lowering turnover rates, two things that restaurants need to do now more than ever, this approach just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.



How Do I Create A Menu Matrix?

Ok, so now you’re ready to create a menu matrix for your team. Getting started is the hardest part, so we’ve done that for you.


Here is a free template for you to use to get started with your menu matrix. You will need to work with whoever is closest to the menu, whether that’s the head chef or the owner, to put this together. Take your time and make sure the information is correct and up to date.


I do want to note here that it is really important to your team that management works together on this. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have a manager tell you one thing about a dish, just to ring it in and have chef get upset at you because he can’t accommodate. Remember that your staff should be able to trust the resources you give them.


Once you are done collecting and organizing all of the information about your menu, you have a few options.


Sharing the Menu Matrix With Your Team

The most important part of creating a menu matrix is being able to easily share it with your team! Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste. 


The most traditional way to share the menu matrix with your team is to print it out and physically hand it to each employee. However I would argue that this is actually the least efficient, because any time you have to update anything you will have to reprint and redistribute them to everyone. That’s a lot of time with the printer that nobody wants to spend.


So, the best way to share your menu matrix is by using some form of technology, even if it’s just a link to a google doc like the template above. Using Google Suite is a great option for teams, because collaboration is simple and documents can be easily updated and accessed.


Using a restaurant-specific communication platform is a great option as well. They offer built-in templates for creating your menu matrix, along with push-notification features whenever material is updated, making communication easier and more efficient.


Check out 5 Reasons To Use Technology In Your Restaurant for a deeper dive on this.

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Conclusion

Giving your team the tools they need to do the job is more important than ever for restaurant operators. Your menu is the heart of your venue, and your success lies heavily on how well your team can sell what is on that menu. By creating a thorough and detailed menu matrix, you’re giving your team an edge that your competitors could likely be lacking; clear and consistent communication.


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