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Woody’s Bar-B-Q weighs in with seven tips to a successful menu
Today's Restaurant Florida Edition
Thursday, 28 March 2013 20:38

Woodys_FL2By Woody Mills

This year, Woody’s Bar-B-Q celebrates 33 wonderful years in the restaurant business. That didn’t happen by chance. It came to pass through a well-balanced recipe of hard work, good people and great food. My co-founder Yolanda Mills-Mawman and I built our concept from the ground up – armed with a dream and a stack of dog-eared recipes from my mother’s kitchen. In the earliest days, our bill of fare was written on a simple piece of paper. Needless to say, over the years, our menu has evolved.

Most recently, we tested a beautiful new menu at a few of our flagship restaurants and it has been met with rave reviews from our patrons. In the coming weeks, our new menu will be rolled out to more than two dozen of our current and new franchises across the nation. Based on our history and the lessons we’ve learned in recent months, we’re happy to share what we believe are the keys to designing a successful menu:

Keep it Fresh

While nearly all of our original tried-and-true items are still on the menu, we’ve learned that it’s important to keep our menu fresh by transitioning in new items from time-to-time. Our latest menu introduces exciting items like the juicy BIG Black Angus 1/2 LB Hawaiian Burger, lip-smacking Memphis Style Dry Rub Spare Ribs, and tasty BIG FISH Sandwich. This exercise is designed to keep our offerings engaging for long-time barbecue fans and address a wide variety of tastes for first-time guests.

Listen to Your Guests

In order to successfully launch a new menu item, it’s important to test it first. We will occasionally roll something out as a limited time offer to see how it fares or test in a select number of locations. We also often incorporate the use of questionnaires to compile guest feedback to determine whether or not something will be a good item to permanently add to the menu. Woody’s Bar-B-Q has been fortunate that our menu item failures are few and far between, but the above-listed steps proved invaluable to us in determining that our new Memphis Dry Rub Spare Ribs met customer approval. Table touches also prove a helpful measure, as guests will sometimes have a really great idea for a new menu item.

Connect with Your Staff/Franchisees

The best way to discover your best sellers is in talking with your staff and/or franchisees. To determine the best menu mix for our new menu, we requested feedback from our franchisees all over the country. Once the menu is complete, it’s important to make certain everyone knows it cover to cover. Everyone from management to wait staff should be able to list and describe the items on your menu as though they are telling a delightfully delicious tale.

Make it Legible

When you’ve been around for more than three decades, chances are some members of your fan base occasionally need their reading glasses to place an order. We worked closely with our graphic designer to determine the best use of certain typefaces and size of the font to make the menu easy-to-read for all of our guests.

You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Continuing education is vital to the success of any business. My corporate team attended a special “menu boot camp” devoted to menu development to learn about the best placement of menu items and the dynamic use of images. I highly recommend this step to anyone launching a new restaurant or attempting to freshen up an existing menu.

Pretty as a Picture

Human beings are visual creatures. A well-shot image can get your customers’ tummies rumbling and mouths watering almost as quickly as placing a plate of food in front of them. Never skimp when it comes to photography. Make sure that the “model” is a valid representation of how the food will be served to the table – patrons expect to receive a presentation that reflects the photo in the menu and doesn’t pale in comparison. Hire a skilled photographer with experience in food shoots, and your menu images will serve as one of your greatest sales tools.

Keeping it Real

Your menu copy should be short, sweet, and to-the-point. It should get their taste buds tingling, but be careful not to make it a work of fiction. Your menu should be an honest representation of the items that will arrive at their table. Customer satisfaction is the goal; no one who desires success should ever aim to disappoint.

In the end, all of these elements will come together for a menu designed to excite your patrons. Needless to say, anything they order from it should be met with that same level of excitement or greater. The most important advice you can take away from this list is to not only provide your patrons with a good read, but to give them a truly great meal. That’s what they’ll be talking about tomorrow and that’s what will keep them coming back for more.

About the Author: Woody Mills is the co-founder of Woody’s Bar-B-Q. After opening their first Woody’s Bar-B-Q in 1980, he and partner, Yolanda Mills-Mawman have spent the past three decades setting the “bar” higher for great Southern Bar-B-Q. From the humble beginnings of just one location in Jacksonville, Florida, the two have grown the Woody’s Bar-B-Q brand to locations reaching from the Deep South to the Northeast and Western fronts. To view their menu online, visit

Edited for Yolanda Mills-Mawman and Woody Mills,
By Kasie Bolling – Out of Her Mind – Fresh Ideas & Freelance Copywriting
February 19, 2013