- Restaurants including Dunkin’ Donuts, Chili’s, and Sonic are cutting dozens of items from their menus.
- “We have a lot of items that probably needed to be culled,” Dunkin’ Brands’ CEO told Business Insider.
- Casual and family dining chains, known for their over-stuffed menus, have lagged behind while fast-casual and fast-food chains have dominated the industry.
Restaurant chains are going on a slashing spree, with brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, Chili’s, and Sonic cutting dozens of menu items.
On Monday, Dunkin’ Donuts slashed its menu, beginning the process of cutting 10% of items.
“It really started with our franchisees being concerned about how complicated our menu was and how difficult it is to train employees, and find employees as a result,” Dunkin’ Brands CEO Nigel Travis told Business Insider.
“Secondly, we realized ourselves that we have a lot of items that probably needed to be culled, so to speak,” Travis continued.
While Dunkin’ braced for backlash, executives said that few people even seemed to notice the cuts. And, when test markets did protest against the loss of an item — as in the case of the Blueberry Swirl — the chain added it back into the mix.
Dunkin’ isn’t alone. Chili’s cut a whopping 40% of its menu items in September. At the ICR Conference in Orlando, Florida this week, Sonic and Dave & Busters both discussed plans to simplify menus by cutting items.
“We need to make sure everything on the menu is driving sales,” Sonic chief branding officer Jose Dueñas said in a presentation, noting that the fast-food chain has already cut 17 items and not seen a negative impact on sales.
Fast-food champions keep it simple
In many ways, the move to cut down menus reveals a shift in the industry towards simplicity over choice. As sit-down casual dining and family dining chains known for their over-stuffed menus have struggled to draw in customers in the last few years, fast-casual and fast-food chains have been on the rise.
Trimming trendy items from the menu in favor of value items and a limited, all-day-breakfast menu, McDonald’s has pulled off an impressive comeback over the last two years. Nomura named the company the top US restaurant stock to watch out for in 2018.
Dave Hoffman, who worked at McDonald’s for 22 years before becoming Dunkin’ Donuts’ US president in 2016, “came in and said operating a Dunkin’ is more complex than operating a McDonald’s,” Travis said. “That was kind of a telling statement.”
With the rise of delivery, simplicity is doubly important. Chains such as Wingstop have emphasized their minimalist menu as a top reason to believe they can come out on top in the rush to use third-party delivery services to boost sales.
And, many executives say that menus had simply gotten overloaded as chains tried to win over every possible person — especially millennials — instead of focusing on their core customer.
“Every dish that’s taken off has somebody who likes it out there,” Steve Provost, Chili’s chief marketing officer, said in a call with reporters in September. “But we think we’re at a moment with this category, with the tremendous headwinds it’s facing, where less is truly more.”
“We’ve got to keep it tight … I think we’re on a process now where we’ll keep looking at low-moving products and decide to pull them out or not,” Travis said.
The Future of Retail 2018 by the BI Intelligence Research Team.
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