The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

by Katie Sawyer, 9 minutes read
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The success of a restaurant depends on many factors that can heavily affect a business’s success, some of these factors include the location, current popular food trends, customer service, the restaurant’s atmosphere, as well as how good the food is. The last trait, in particular, is an area where many restaurants mess up. They get too comfortable and the next thing you know, their menu becomes outdated and their customers slowly grow tired of it. Now that’s not to say that restaurants should completely forget about the other factors related to their business. Without a great location, you won’t have the consumer base available to keep your business alive, and without good customer service, people will be so turned off that they won’t want to visit your restaurant again.

That said, restaurants should constantly go over their menu items to be assured their customer demographics are finding new reasons to come back to their restaurant and that they’re adding items that would add to the success of their store. While every restaurant is different and caters to their own niche demographic, careful considerations should be given to be assured that whatever new items you’re considering to add are best for the overall goal of the business.

Careful considerations should also be made regarding the platform you use to create and send out your employee schedules. If you’re still using pen & paper, you’re wasting hours that you could be using to strengthen your restaurant. That’s why you should click on the button below to begin your free trial of Deputy.

How to make room for new menu items

The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

Before you make the jump into adding a bunch of amazing menu items to the mix, you first have to make room by taking out some of the older items. While this may be a difficult step for you, it has to be done so you don’t end up with a cluttered menu that has too many items. If you’re unaware of the issues with having a menu that has too many items, take a look at the points below.

  • Quality of food will drop because chefs will lose focus trying to prepare too many menu items.

  • Customers become overwhelmed with too many menu items.

  • Too many recipes and inventory items that can end up as an overabundance of expired items which would be a waste of money for the restaurant.

Now that you understand why it’s important your restaurant doesn’t have a cluttered menu, here are some tips for figuring out which items you should get rid of.

Pinpoint the most popular menu items

The first and most important step is to point out the items that you don’t want to get rid of. This includes your best sellers and other items that are synonymous with your brand. For example, if you owned a restaurant called “Stacy’s Chicken & Waffles”, then chicken & waffles should always be one of the choices on your menu. While you should have somewhat of a grasp on the items that are best sellers, you should go through your systems and check your system’s data regarding which menu items sell the most. Another avenue is to go through your Google and Yelp reviews to see which menu items your customers reference as their favorite.

Narrow the focus of your menu

A restaurant menu with items that range from Calzones to Chinese food can overwhelm your customers with too many choices. Not only that but a restaurant with such a wide variety of menu items usually means that they don’t specialize in any of them and the quality of the entire menu will suffer as a result. To fight this, make sure your restaurant only specializes in one particular type of food. This could mean Italian food, Ice Cream, Korean BBQ, Tex-Mex, etc. Whatever you do end up going with, just make sure you follow it to the fullest to ensure you’re building a consistent atmosphere for your restaurant. Not only that, but you’re helping your chefs perfect their cooking by focusing on a single style of food.

The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

Rotate menu items

If you’re worried that a smaller menu will bore customers or that you don’t have enough variety, you can always get into the rhythm of rotating menu items to ensure your customers have a steady supply of new menu items. To ensure you don’t end up with too many items that will lead you right back to your original problem, follow these guidelines for how and when to rotate menu options:

  • Add and/or take away items depending on the season. It’s no secret that people’s preferences change with the weather. While your ice cold lemonades may sell like crazy during the summer, you may want to switch it up and add a hot cappuccino during the winter. Also, if you run an ice cream shop, you may want to consider changing it to a cafe during the winter.

  • Weekly specials are another great avenue for adding variety to your menu. Your chefs get to practice creating a wider variety of dishes and it’s an effective method for figuring out which items would be a good addition to your menu. If it does a lot of sales during its week on the menu and your customers won’t stop asking you to bring it back, then you know it is a prime candidate for a spot on the menu.

  • Customizable dishes are another avenue for ensuring your customers never run out of options and get exactly what they’re in the mood for. Customizable dishes cover everything from build-your-own-burgers to make-your-own-salads. With all of the options that come with customizable dishes, you can rest assured that all of your customers will be pleased. Just make sure that you always have enough ingredients on hand for all of your customizable menu items.

Now that you have enough extra room in your menu for additional dishes, let’s move onto discussing the most popular menu items that will have customers coming back to your restaurant for more. These items have been tested and proved to be successful in a number of different restaurant environments, so you can feel comfortable knowing they’ll also do great in yours as well.

Most popular restaurant menu items

To help guide you through which items are the best fit for your restaurant, we’ve organized the menu items into categories that help describe the type of dish they are.


Before we get into the entrees, we first have to cover what comes before the main dish. Your customers will need something to distract them while their food is being prepared, so make sure you don’t skip over these items and give this area just as much attention as you would your entrees. If your restaurant currently doesn’t serve appetizers, please consider adding them to the menu. They work to prepare your guests for the entree and are a great way to add to your sales numbers.

  • Mozzarella sticks

  • Cheddar Biscuits

  • Mac & cheese (with an option to add bacon)

  • Pigs in a blanket

  • Spinach cheese dip with chips

  • Onion rings

  • French fries (with an option to add cheese/ bacon)

  • Baked potato (with an option to add cheese/ bacon)

  • Breadsticks

  • Salad

The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

Comfort food

Comfort food is loosely defined as food that have a pretty straightforward recipe and has a nostalgia factor that will remind your guests of great meals from their past. They are also known to be a very filling and hearty meal for those that enjoy them. The below items are comfort foods that have proven to be successful in driving sales for a number of years.

  • Chicken pot pie

  • Mashed potatoes

  • Fried chicken

  • Burgers (with an option to add cheese/ bacon)

  • Chicken soup

  • Meatloaf

  • Lasagna

  • Spaghetti with meatballs

  • Chicken burger

  • Chicken parmesan

  • Chicken Pesto

  • Burger Sliders

Locally sourced foods

The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

A big trend that has stayed in popularity for some time now is restaurants choosing to serve dishes that contain ingredients that were locally sourced. Customers like seeing this on the menu because it gives them the chance to support their local economy while they’re ordering their meals. They also like it because it means their food is much fresher and wasn’t in the back of a truck or jammed in a freezer for weeks. To help give your locally sourced items a boost in attendance, give a little description of what they are and how they’re sourced on your menu. It works to give your customers a backstory on what they’re eating along with how it got to their plates. They will enjoy the attention you put into the menu and will be more comfortable ordering the items from this section of the menu. In terms of items, it’s hard to specify which would do good on your menu because it varies wildly on where you’re located, but here are some items that can give you a better idea of what to expect.

  • Burgers with locally sourced beef or chicken

  • Salads with ingredients from nearby farms

  • Lobster rolls, shrimp, grilled fish if you’re next to a fresh body of water


The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

This dish is so iconic that we had to give it its own category. It’s versatile and is able to be used in a variety of different restaurant settings. For example, if you run a Mexican restaurant, you can stack tortillas and some toppings on top of each other to create a Mexican Pizza. If you run a seafood place, you can build a pizza how you would normally build one and just substitute the topics for items like fish, shrimp, etc. This goes on for most types of restaurants and the best part is that it gives new customers the chance to try out your food through pizza, which is an item that most people are familiar and comfortable with. The ingredients are also typically low cost so you won’t have to worry about spending a lot more on supplies. So set out and do your research on the types of pizzas that would be the best fit for your restaurant.

Kid menu items

The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

Depending on the area you’re in, you will likely have families come in that have small children with them that are just as hungry as their parents. This is why you should pay close attention to your kid-friendly items and ensure you aren’t just slapping together a bunch of items for the sake of just having something available for children. Here are some examples of dishes that are not only kid-friendly but have proven to drive sales for a number of restaurants.

  • Grilled cheese

  • Tomato soup

  • Chicken fingers/ nuggets

  • Flatbread pizza

  • Mac & cheese

  • Mini burgers

  • Mini pizzas


The Most Popular Menu Items That You Should Consider Adding to Your Restaurant

You can’t have a piece on popular menu items without touching on the sweet, savory treats you look forward to after every meal. Desserts are a staple of American dining and your menu should contain a number of choices that will leave your customers’ mouths watering. While chocolate cake and ice cream are always a great option, there are a number of items that restaurants should consider.

  • Apple pie

  • Pumpkin pie (a great choice during the Fall)

  • Giant chocolate chip cookies

  • Banana split

  • Molten lava cakes

  • Cinnamon rolls

  • Cheesecake

  • Baklava

  • Lemon cake

  • Cannoli

  • Strawberry shortcake

  • Apple Cobbler

Last thoughts

With everything that goes on with running a restaurant, it can be easy to lose focus on the most important part, the food it serves. Analyze your menu and speak with your staff about the menu items you can do without so you have enough room for any new menu items.

While food is what brings people in, your employees are in charge of delivering the customer service that will build your atmosphere and keep people coming back. That’s why you should offer them an employee scheduling platform to use that makes it easy for them to receive their shifts as well as quick for your managers to make the schedules so they can focus on bettering your restaurant. To learn more on how Deputy can help you achieve this, click on the button below to start your free trial and see it in action for yourself.