Today’s operators face a host of profitability challenges: increased competition, soaring food costs and continuing labor pressures, just to name a few. When looking to add profitability, it is important to understand that “value” goes well beyond what is on the plate. Value can be found in the perception of a dining experience.

“If food is delicious and visually appealing – especially if it’s Instagrammable – customers will order it, they will share their experiences, and they’ll feel good paying the price you ask,” says Cujean Lee, Innovation and Strategy Analyst at Sysco.

Top 5 Ways to Manage Perceived Value
1. Reorganize the real estate

One of the simplest and most effective ways to increase profitability is to change
the way the plate is composed.

• Decrease center-of-plate portion size by increasing starch and vegetables.
• Choose sides that offer greater plate coverage, like vegetables that add bulk, height, color and textural interest.

TIP: Launching a redesigned item under a new name is a great way to avoid customer concerns about smaller portions.
2. Emphasize side dishes

One side does not fit all. Use side dishes to fill the plate and leave a lasting impression.
• Unique sides add coverage and interest. Use them as a point of differentiation.
• Craveable side dishes like truffle mac and cheese not only demand a premium price, they also help drive incremental traffic.

TIP: Don’t think of protein as the center of the plate; consider it “part of the plate.”
3. Change plate sizes

Whether it’s a china plate or a paper-lined sandwich basket, size matters.

• Choose plates with attractive borders that reduce coverage area and create the perception of fuller servings.
• Decreasing container size by an inch can achieve the same result.

TIP: If you do it right, food cost savings and increased profitability should offset new tableware expenditures.
4. Leverage high-value ingredients

Less expensive ingredients, especially at the center of the plate, will increase profitability and offer quality and value.

• Experiment with value cuts of protein: try lamb shank instead of chops, pork shoulder instead of loin, beef chuck instead of sirloin.
• Portico Alaskan Pollock or Portico Bounty Pacific Cod are less expensive and more sustainable – something consumers care about more and more.

TIP: Look to other cultures for inspiration. Cuisines like Asian, Mexican and Mediterranean use high-value proteins quite effectively.
5. Put more plants on the menu

The trend toward eating more plants means that they are now being prepared and served in new and interesting ways.

• Express your creativity. A flavor-packed grilled cauliflower steak offers menu appeal while providing great plate coverage and comfortable margins.
• Replace some animal protein with less-costly plant protein, like beans and quinoa.

TIP: Playful garnishes and other extras, such as spiced nuts, herb-infused oil drizzles or house-made vegetable chips, add vibrancy and value.