What Is A Menu Matrix?

The menu matrix is a method of categorizing a menu and providing a detailed breakdown of each dish. It helps you understand the popularity and profitability of your menu items so you can increase sales and reduce food waste. The menu matrix is formatted onto a spreadsheet or database so menu engineers can easily apply the findings to their menu designs.

How to Use the Menu Matrix

Plotting out your menu items with the menu matrix is the easiest way to discern their ranking. The menu matrix tracks an item’s popularity and profitability. Choose a timeframe to track your menu items. Record the volume sold of each item along with the profit brought in by each menu item. Plot the information on a graph; the Y axis will reflect the volume sold, and the X axis will reflect the profit of the item.

Menu Matrix Template

Menu engineering matrix graph charting popularity and profitability

In the menu engineering field, common terminology groups together different levels of profitability and popularity:

  • Plowhorses: Low Profitability and High Popularity – Plowhorses are menu items that do not have a high-profit margin but are crowd-pleasers, making them essential to your menu. A classic example is steak or fresh-caught, unique fish. You might consider using less expensive ingredients or decreasing the portion size to make it more profitable. If the item continues to have a small profit margin, you should avoid upselling or featuring it on your menu.
  • Dogs: Low Profitability and Low Popularity – Dogs represent food items that are ordered infrequently and have a low-profit margin. Consider removing these items from your menu. However, there are cases when you may want to keep Dogs on your menu. One example may be kids’ options, such as a grilled cheese or kiddie burger, which may not sell often but are important to keep on your menu for families. If continuing to offer items in this category, avoid upselling or accentuating them on your menu.
  • Stars: High Profitability and High Popularity – Stars are the items that have a high-profit margin and customers order frequently. Typical examples include pasta or popular cocktails, like margaritas. You should showcase Stars the most on your menu, promote them, and avoid drastically changing their ingredients.
  • Puzzles: High Profitability and Low Popularity – Puzzles are items that have a high-profit margin but are hard to sell. The recipes of these items may need to be tweaked to appeal to guests. Additionally, servers should upsell these menu items, and menu engineers recommend highlighting them on your menu.