MenuMenu EngineeringRestaurant Industry Insights

The Benefits of Barbell Pricing in Uncertain Economic Times

In 2014, Technomic conducted a study illustrating the benefits of barbell pricing in the restaurant industry. Today, that practice is coming back, as restaurants look to the past for a way to ensure their future. 

Let’s explore this practice and why restaurants are implementing it as 2023 looms ahead. 

What Is Barbell Pricing?

Barbells are used in weight training, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. This metal rod is fitted with end collars holding various-sized discs of different weights. In a gym, this setup provides the ability to change the weight for users with various goals and athletic abilities. So, what does this have to do with menu pricing

A barbell menu accommodates customers who want lower-cost choices and those who want gourmet-style dishes. As a result, a restaurant does not have to limit its offerings to one or the other and can effectively appeal to a broader market.  

How Does Barbell Pricing Work in Restaurants?

Barbell menus offer a tiered pricing structure. This form of pricing attracts a larger customer base and enables guests to make choices based on their unique situations and desires. For example, on one side of a menu, a restaurant features items that appeal to price-sensitive customers or those who are looking for a bite to eat, something to go along with their beverage selection. This approach attracts guests who are feeling the effects of inflation and an uncertain economy. If done correctly, it can also encourage trade-ups.

What’s the Best Method for Implementing a Barbell Pricing Strategy?

According to Restaurant Business, executives of at least eight chains used the term “barbell” on earnings calls in 2022. This type of pricing serves the current environment when guests with higher earnings are not changing their dining habits and still have discretionary spending money. In effect, it doesn’t discount the meals still selling well or affect the check average. 

Instead of initiating discounts across the spectrum, restaurants offer affordable options in addition to their traditional menu. Restaurants can implement this by providing different-sized portions or dishes made from less expensive ingredients.

The average check size is a key performance indicator for restaurant operators. It’s determined by dividing the total sales by the number of covers for any given period. This metric clearly shows a menu’s performance, including recently implemented changes and gaps that servers may have in their training. Whenever you make menu and pricing changes, make sure to keep a wary eye on this indicator and how it’s trending. 

Performance must be closely monitored during any menu changes to distinguish between brand-damaging discounts and effective strategies, ensuring the alterations aren’t eroding margins. 

What Is Menu Psychology?

Menu psychology has always been important in restaurant operations. Today, it’s particularly critical. This strategy includes menu engineering or how to lay out your menu to optimize sales. A few long-time strategies in restaurant menu development and pricing include removing currency signs, combining premium and economical-priced items, and always having mouth-watering descriptions that don’t translate to the first chapter of a novel. 

How Can I Ensure I’m Not Outpricing Competitors?

Implementing a new restaurant pricing strategy can seem daunting at best. Yet, it’s essential in today’s volatile market, enabling operators to protect margins while balancing guest sentiment. Successful restaurants take into account profit margins, food cost percentage, and competition.

At EMERGING, we developed F&B Insights in response to the challenges our partner restaurants were experiencing in the wake of labor shortages, inflation, and supply chain upheavals. This platform lets you see how restaurants near you are pricing particular items, ensuring your prices aren’t affecting demand. For those looking to expand, getting an early birds-eye-view of restaurants in the location you’re considering can help you develop an effective pricing strategy right out of the gate. To learn more about F&B Insights or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING.


What is barbell menu strategy? 

Barbell pricing promotes low and high-priced menu items. This strategy is gaining momentum in today’s uncertain economic environment. For some restaurants, this may include small plates. For others, this approach entails offering some items with lower-cost ingredients.

How can the profitability of a menu be improved?

One proven method is nudging customers towards high-margin items. Operators can do this via menu engineering, a strategy that is both a science and an art. It includes highlighting the menu items you want to sell the most by using visual cues that draw a guest’s eyes to that item. You can also use the fundamentals of human eye movement to your advantage. For example, the top right-side panel gets the most attention with two-panel menus.

  • Subscribe to our latest insights


Are you capital raise ready?