HOW to Introduce a New Product to Your Menu Successfully

This is part two of a two part series. Last issue, we focused on why you should add new products to your menu. In this issue we’ll discuss how to introduce those new items successfully. 

So, you’ve identified a new product that might be a good fit on your menu. Now what are the best practices to successfully launch an exciting, profitable product?

First, identify your objectives for making the change and establish a barometer for success. It’s important that these objectives be realistic and obtainable, especially for the short-term. This will allow you as the business owner to measure success or failure more easily and will help recognize the need to make changes quickly.

Secondly, test samples Stockton Graham & Co. has sent out with your staff. Remember, just because you dislike a certain flavor experience, doesn’t mean your customer base won’t enjoy it, and vice versa. Having a cross section of your staff’s opinions will give you a better idea of how the general public might react, too, so pay attention to their feedback. Determine their key benefits and objections, and how to overcome those potential objections. At this point, we recommend bringing in a few key customers to get their thoughts, as well.

If the response is basically good across the board from in-house testing, run an expanded test sampling during select times of the day. If you’re looking to add a new smoothie flavor, for example, have small cups of the new item out during the time of day when you typically sell the most smoothies. Solicit all the feedback you can get. What would your customers be willing to pay for this drink? What is the value to them? Would they like to see this on the menu, even if just for a short time? Does the drink look appealing? What garnishes would they recommend adding, etc.?

Was the item well-received from a wide variety of customers? If so, it might be worth now looking at operational changes that are needed to accommodate the new product. Are there any adjustments in storage? Arrangements for preparation? Purchasing new equipment? How much should we invest in marketing? In some cases, the return won’t be high enough to justify the investment. We like to recommend adding drinks that stand out and fit easily into current operations.

Sampling for Success
Sampling for success starts with your staff. In the initial experimenting in-house, try new things and flavor combinations. Maybe your new smoothie flavor tastes great over ice and mixed with water as a juice? Let them have fun with it. It’s highly possible your next great offering comes direct from an employee, so allow for a little craziness behind the bar.

Involving staff in the testing phase should also be the time to focus on making the drink taste and look its absolute best. Training programs and seminars will help sell more drinks, period. Staff will be better educated on what they sell and that generates increased revenue.

Now your business is ready for a limited-time new offering. You are ready. Your shop is prepared. Your employees are trained. Your customers are primed. Have a steady supply of posters, counter cards, etc. ready to push this item. Hand out coupons for $1.00 off each drink or buy one drink, get one free. Continue to generously sample. Use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to generate buzz and extend special offers.

Hopefully, you’ll find your one time sample from Stockton Graham becomes a menu staple, expanding your base and increasing profitability. You might find, however, that the sampled item proves to not be a good fit. If you’ve followed these tips and the sampling does not meet your set expectations, find something else and move on quickly; you never know what the shop down the street just tried!

For more advice or to request samples to find your next menu money maker, call a Stockton Graham & Co. customer care associate at (800) 835-5943.

Jeff Vojta, Co-founder and CEO
Stockton Graham & Co.