All-day operator Loungers is staying agile in its approach to menu management by leveraging customer feedback through trial periods, according to head of food, Caine Langford.

The Bristol-founded listed group now operates 200 Lounges and 238 sites overall including Cosy Club and its latest roadside diner concept, Brightside.

Having one set of menus across each of its concepts is the “secret to consistency” across its growing estate, according to Langford. 

“All three brands are an all-day offer- so it can be quite challenging to make sure you’re varying menus across that offer”, he told delegates at MCA’s Restaurant Conference.

He added, “When you’ve got lots of different menus, it can be quite challenging to keep your key guiding principles aligned and cascade that through your teams.”

Instead, he aims to protect each individual brands by ensuring dishes “stay true” to the identity of each brand.

“We’re quite agile”, Langford said, explaining that Loungers harnesses trial periods to delve into, and implement consumer feedback.

“We will have an idea and Justin [Carter], our Lounge MD, will say ‘stick it in a site tomorrow’.”

With a large menu across the Lounge brand, Langford said that the brand aims to cater to a large audience, adding “I think we do manage to tick all the boxes.”

Staying agile also means adapting to consumer spending challenges.

“I think from a cost-of-living point of view, we’ve had to think about menu stretch a bit more, to make sure we’ve got some entry level dishes”

“For example, on our breakfast menu, a simple humble breakfast muffin”

“I think that protects us from value for money challenges.”

The group has seen a recent uptake in its Cheeky Mondays deal, which offers a free dessert or drink with your meal, alongside its Tapas Tuesday offer.

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“They work really well to put bums on seats during quieter days”, said Langford.

“We are seeing an increase in both of those, in these times it is natural that you’re going to see that.”

After slimming down its menu after the outbreak of Covid-19 , it has purposely not returned the number of menu items to pre-pandemic levels, in order to “keep a good focus on operational delivery.”

Cuisine types that have seen recent success for the brand, sit largely within the Asian category.

“Korean has seen a real improvement, and Malaysian food is working really well”, said Langford.

He added, “we also introduced flatbreads recently, which really disrupted our category mix which is quite unusual for us”.

Meanwhile, describing some of the pitfalls operators may encounter when it comes to menu management, Langford said, “Forgetting your key dishes.”

“It’s really easy to focus on your new exciting dishes, which are going to take 5% of your market”, he added, stressing the importance of continuously improving existing core menu items.

 

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