Point of sale

Top 3 Menu Pricing Techniques That Works to Drive Restaurant Profits

Diksha Adhikari
April 10, 2024
1 mins

Table of Content

Your menu directly influences your profits. Here's how: if you serve $6 seasonal salads in 20 oz bowls, this pricing might not be sustainable throughout the year due to the fluctuating costs of ingredients like strawberries and mangoes. Yet, altering the recipe could compromise the dish's and your brand’s integrity and popularity and lead to potential losses.  

Randomly assigning menu prices without a strategy overlooks the complex factors that shape customer choices and restaurant operations. Thoughtful menu pricing is indeed a delicate balance. It necessitates continuous attention and adjustment. By strategically pricing your menu, you safeguard your restaurant's financial well-being, deliver value to your customers, and secure a competitive edge. 

This guide explores proven strategies to design a profit-driven menu, from analyzing dish popularity and profitability to psychological pricing. You’ll learn to adjust your menu for maximum revenue and customer satisfaction!

Understanding Menu Pricing

Menu pricing is a critical element of your restaurant's financial well-being. It's how you decide the price for each dish to ensure you cover costs and make a profit. However, it's not just about the ingredients (direct costs). You must also focus on labour, rent, and utilities (indirect costs).

There are different pricing models to consider, each catering to various customer demographics and restaurant themes. 

For example, a promotion-based model works well for restaurants focusing on unique items, while upscale eateries might opt for minimalist menus without currency signs. Choosing a suitable menu pricing model is critical. It should align with your target market and restaurant concept. 

Types of Menu 

  1. Static Menu: Organized into sections such as starters, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and sides. These dishes remain consistent throughout the year and are commonly found in fast casual and fast-food settings. 
  1. A La Carte: Meaning "according to the menu" in French, this style often highlights seasonal selections and provides more ordering flexibility than a static menu. 
  1. Menu Du Jour: Features selections that vary each day. The "plat du jour" refers to the day's special dish, similar to a daily special.
  1. Cycle Menu: This approach rotates daily menus over a specific duration before starting the cycle anew. For instance, a unique menu might be offered daily over a fortnight, after which the cycle recommences. 
  1. Table d'Hote: Translated from French as "the host's table," this menu style offers main dishes at a fixed price, allowing customers to choose between an appetizer or dessert. Additional charges might be incurred for selecting higher-priced starters or desserts.
  1. Prix Fixe: This dining option presents a three-course meal at a fixed price, including an appetizer, main course, and dessert. Contrary to the Table d'Hote menu, where guests can select their combination of three courses, the chef curates the Prix Fixe menu's selections. It offers a distinct culinary experience.
  1. Tasting Menu: This menu showcases a series of small dishes designed to provide a comprehensive meal. Tailored to accommodate dietary preferences or reinvented for repeat patrons, tasting menus promise a unique culinary journey each visit. They allow diners to explore an array of flavours and textures.
  1. Beverage Menu: This menu details the restaurant's drink offerings. It typically includes a selection of cocktails, wines, beers, and other alcoholic beverages available for purchase individually. In more casual settings like coffee shops or juice bars, the beverage menu might be prominently displayed on a wall with various drink choices available.
  1. Dessert Menu: Similar to the beverage menu, this catalogue of sweet endings is typically offered separately from the main menu, with items available for individual purchase. It's often revisited alongside the beverage menu towards the meal's conclusion. It invites guests to indulge in after-dinner drinks and desserts.
  1. Wine Captain's Book: This comprehensive guide deepens the backstory and characteristics of each wine. It provides guests with detailed insights to enhance their pairing decisions.
  1. Children's Menu: This menu is designed with younger diners in mind. It features a more concise selection of dishes presented in vibrant, engaging formats complete with activities. It's typically disposable, facilitating effortless cleanup.
  1. Takeout Menu: It offers a curated selection of dishes for on-the-go dining. This menu focuses on items that maintain quality during transport. It provides more convenience to diners and lets them enjoy their favourite anywhere.

Strategies for Effective Menu Pricing

Choosing the correct prices is vital for your restaurant's success. It can mean the difference between flourishing and barely making it. Consider these strategies for effective pricing. They will help you remain competitive and keep your business running.

1. Cost-Based Pricing

Start with cost-based pricing to secure a good profit margin. Calculate the direct costs first. This means adding up the ingredient costs for each dish. Try to pinpoint a price that's competitive yet profitable.

Regularly revisiting these costs is non-negotiable. Because market prices for ingredients are as predictable as the weather, a rapid increase in dairy prices or a decrease in vegetable costs can impact your earnings. Change your prices accordingly to maintain your profit margins.

Pro Tip: Always include a buffer in your calculations. This accounts for unexpected increases in ingredient costs or operational expenses. It ensures your profit margins remain healthy, even when costs rise.

2. Competitive Pricing

Competitive pricing is about understanding where your restaurant fits in the market. Start by researching what your competitors charge. This doesn't mean you should copy their prices, but it helps to know the range. You aim to offer value that matches or exceeds what's out there without compromising quality. 

Be wary of undercutting competitors too much. It might bring in customers initially, but if it means sacrificing quality, those customers won't return. Plus, it squeezes your profit margins. Focus on your restaurant's unique offers and set your prices based on that. If you provide something unique not found elsewhere, charging more is justified.

Always consider the perception of your prices. Too low might signal poor quality, while too high could alienate potential customers. 

Pro Tip: Use competitive pricing as a tool, not a rule. Stay aware of what others are charging, but your prices should reflect your restaurant's unique value and costs. 

3. Demand-Driven Pricing

Demand-driven pricing adjusts to what customers are willing to pay, especially for seasonal or trending dishes. This strategy considers customer demand peaks, like seasonal specialties or trendy food items. It allows you to charge more when the demand is high. 

The location of your restaurant and the dining experience you offer also holds a say. Customers might be willing to pay more for a meal in a prime location or an establishment offering a unique dining experience.

Understand your market and adjust your prices based on what your customers value. A beachside cafe can charge more for seafood during summer when demand spikes, just as a downtown restaurant might see an increased willingness to pay for cozy, comfortable dishes in winter.

Pro Tip: Keep an eye on food trends and local events. Launching special menus or dishes that align with these can justify higher prices due to increased demand.

Key Formulas for Menu Pricing

Navigating menu pricing can feel like a puzzle, but the proper strategy ensures your dishes taste great and contribute to your success. 

1. Incorporating Technology and Tools

Leveraging technology to price your menu makes the process easier and more intelligent. Forget the days of juggling spreadsheets and guesswork. Modern tools can automate the grunt work for you.

Point of Sale (POS) System

A robust POS system, like OneHubPOS, is the nerve center of your restaurant's operations. It tracks sales, processes transactions, and, most importantly, serves as a goldmine of data for making informed pricing decisions. 

Real-Time Recipe Costing

Integrations with inventory management and invoice processing tools amplify your POS system's power. They automate the tedious task of updating recipe costs as ingredient prices fluctuate.

Inventory Management System

An inventory management system is vital for controlling your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). It provides insights into what to order, how much, and when, optimizing your stock levels and reducing waste. This direct impact on COGS is crucial for accurate menu pricing.

Reducing Labor Costs

Efficiently managing labor costs doesn't necessarily mean cutting back on staff. Tools for payroll and team management help you analyze labor expenses and optimize staff scheduling. This efficiency lowers your prime costs and improves service quality.

2. Menu Engineering for Higher Profits

Ideal menu pricing considers customer demographics, cost fluctuations, and your restaurant type. It requires careful analysis and strategic pricing to enhance profitability.

Conducting Cost Exercises

To pinpoint these ideal prices, start with accurate and perfect food costs. Knowing these helps you understand both your overhead and desired profit margins. From here, you can adjust prices based on potential cost changes and their effects on your margins.

Key Formulas for Calculation
1. COGS Formula

COGS = (Beginning Inventory) + (Purchased Inventory) - (Ending Inventory)

2. Food Cost Percentage Formula

Food Cost Percentage = (Total Food Cost / Total Sales) * 100

These formulas provide a foundation to determine what you must make per menu item, essentially your break-even point.

3. Break-Even Point (BEP)

This calculation tells you when your revenue starts turning into profit.

Break-even point = Fixed Costs / (Price per Unit - Variable Cost per Unit)

4. Maximum Allowable Food Cost (MFC)

Adjusting your plate cost based on your MFC provides a targeted menu price that ensures profitability. 

Marginal Cost (MC) = Change in Total Cost / Change in Quantity

For Example: If your food cost is $2.20 and your targeted food cost percentage is 32%, your menu price should be at least $6.88. 

$2.20 / 32% = $6.88

3. Psychological Aspects of Menu Pricing

Understanding the psychological aspects of menu pricing can transform your menu into a powerful tool for boosting profitability. 

  • Start by analyzing which dishes are both popular and profitable. 
  • Involve your entire team, from the kitchen to the floor, to identify standout items across all categories. 
  • Get into the latest research on pricing psychology. Small changes, like opting for whole numbers instead of decimals or choosing the right font size, can significantly impact customer choices. 
  • Your prices should cover operational costs while meeting customer expectations. This means considering how similar items are priced at nearby venues. 

Every detail counts, from how prices are displayed to the descriptions accompanying each dish; all can enhance the dining experience and your bottom line.

4. Adjusting Prices for Delivery and Takeout

Adjusting prices for delivery and takeout can make a significant difference in your small business's success. You might wonder why a separate pricing strategy is necessary. Well, delivery and takeout services come with their own set of costs. 

Here's a straightforward strategy:

  • First, assess your current menu prices. Ensure they cover your costs and desired profit margin. 
  • Next, calculate the added costs of delivery and takeout services. This includes packaging, additional labour, and delivery fees. 
  • Then, adjust your menu prices slightly higher for these services. The goal is not to overcharge but to cover your extra expenses.

Yet, transparency is critical. Communicate these changes to your customers. 

5. Regular Review and Adjustment

Regularly reviewing and adjusting your menu pricing is critical. Costs change, and so should your prices. Everything, from your ingredients to utility bills to labour costs, can vary. These factors affect your profitability. Make it a habit to review your costs periodically. Every few months is a good start.

When you review, consider customer feedback. Are they happy with your prices? Do they feel they're getting value?

Lastly, don't forget about seasonal changes. Some ingredients become cheaper or more expensive. So, adjust your menu and prices accordingly.


Perfecting your menu pricing is a continual process that affects your restaurant's success. Staying informed about your ingredients' costs and market demand is essential. Adjust your prices based on these factors, ensuring they reflect both the value you offer and your operational costs. 

Consider customer feedback seriously. Their perception of your price-value equation can guide your adjustments. Moreover, use your menu smartly by featuring dishes with higher profits. Try psychological pricing to attract buyers. Always aim for a pricing plan that boosts profit. This keeps customers happy and coming back.

Diksha Adhikari
Content Marketer - OneHubPOS

Diksha, a seasoned content marketer, brings hands-on experience in website management, social media marketing, and branding. Her expertise drives efffective and results-driven digital strategies.

Read more