Our focus for the fourth quarter of this year will bring improvements to our menu management system. These changes will combine the best of the existing catering and takeout menu configuration features to deliver a unified and more user friendly experience.
Menu Configuration - Catering
Regardless of which platform you choose, what appears straightforward on the printed menu can be hard to represent on the web. With stakeholders from marketing, sales, operations, and accounting, there are many needs that have to be taken into consideration. And in many cases, this menu has to be fed seemlessly into the POS.
Currently within catering, we use three methods to map your menu items to their components and selections: flat, tray and box mapping. Each method provides a predefined and structure for menu items.
Flat mapping: A fixed mapping of one menu item to one or many production items. No optional selections are available. Ideal for beverages, and simple items.
Tray mapping: A mapping of one menu item to a combination of required items and optional items. Optional items are grouped into selection groups with varying rules on how many items are required to be selected. Ideal for platters of sandwiches, but can also be used for per person pricing of buffet style items.
Box mapping: Provides individualized selections where a menu item can be configured in many different ways using groups of production items. As its name suggests, this is used for items like box lunches.
Production Reporting and Mapping Challenges
The mapping types we designed were limited to our view of how catering menu items should be structured. Increasingly we are faced with variations to these mapping methods that require us to stretch the use of these models. Producing the desired configuration can rapidly become a difficult and time consuming task.
Production items represent the base items you want to track in your kitchens. These can be finished items like sandwiches, or sometimes components of those items like slices of cheese, ham, bread, etc. The different mapping models require production items to be organized in specific ways to identify the grouping of selections.
When you are building your production item category and group structure, you want to focus on production in the kitchen, and not the way you sell items to your guests. Ideally your production categories and groups relate to the prep stations in your kitchens. With the current mapping methods this is not easily achieved, as the structure of your items must match the selection groups you present to online guests. If this doesn't map directly to how you want to present your selection groups, artificial groupings will need to be created. This impacts your production reporting and lessens its value.
Takeout vs Catering
We are very fortunate at our MonkeyMedia offices in Vancouver, BC. Every Tuesday, lunch is ordered in from various restaurant operators in the local area. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, creates an impassioned debate like the ones we have as we dissect the options and presentation of the food delivered. Our favorite question being, "Is this catering?"
Without stirring up another catering vs takeout debate, it's clear that the lines between catering and takeout for groups is being blurred. More and more restaurants are differentiating themselves using customization at the heart of their menu. One thing became clear to us, whether you are talking about customizing that sandwich for one, or ordering a buffet for 50, you are going to want to offer your guests a simple ordering experience that meets their specific needs.
If you use our takeout module, you will likely be aware of our open mapping menu configuration mechanism. With this model, there is a high degree of flexibility in how menu items are configured. The mechanism is currently designed for single item configuration, but we are going to extend this to manage more catering friendly configurations. This will replace existing flat, tray, and box configurations in catering.
Configuring per person priced buffets will no longer require math skills of your customers or call center agents. Selections can be made using checkboxes which automatically split the selected items across the number of guests.
In addition to what is already available in takeout, open mapping will get the ability to order multiple quantities of a certain configuration, e.g. 3 pepperoni pizzas with mushrooms on the left, and 2 more pepperoni pizzas with double banana peppers. Previously this would have been 5 individually configured items, whereas now, it's just two.
Production reporting has now been freed from front end selection considerations. You can now design your production reports around your kitchens' catering production line.
Transitioning Your Menu
How do you take advantage of this configuration? The transition from the existing catering configuration to open mapping will happen automatically. Existing menu setups will effectively remain the same, but will be contained within the new structure. You will then be able to take advantage of the new options at a time that suits you. That may be with existing items, or maybe with new items. Our Client Services and Support teams will be able to assist you with this.
We are very excited to be bringing open mapping to catering, and to be adding the quantity enhancements to takeout. We feel that this will benefit your customers and call center agents alike. So, not only will you benefit from a simplified user experience, you may also see a reduction in the time it takes to place orders, freeing up agents to take more orders, increase sales and grow your profits.
Terry MatthewsDirector of Product Management