A man with a national clientele who calls himself a "menu engineer" is helping a local enterprise maximize the impact of its menu.
He is Gregg Rapp, a restaurant consultant whose clients include chains with venues in Southwest Florida such as Applebee's, Marriott, Subway, TGI Fridays, IHOP, Cracker Barrel and more.
Rapp was fascinated by having a chance to help what he called an "unusual" business on Marco Island. It's the Marco Movies, a four-screen cinema with a busy kitchen and a full dinner menu.
How did Rapp get to Marco? For one thing, his mother lives part-time in Bonita Springs, so he knows our area. Also, Marco Movies owner Nick Campo had heard a lot about the "menu engineer" and invited him to tweak and critique the food and beverage menu at the theater.
"I wanted to find out how he could help me so I asked him to come by," Campo says.
"We didn't need to make changes with the food because the dishes are popular and priced correctly. His help was valuable, mostly cosmetic, moving things around to different areas on the menu where they'd be seen.
"We wanted to highlight items that are fast movers, popular and of course things that are more profitable. We also are adding some graphics to make the menu look a little different and more attractive. It should make a big difference. Either way, we'll know in a while."
For Rapp, the Marco Movies menu has some challenges.
"The menu has to have all the information because the servers need to get the orders without having to explain a lot, so the patrons can watch the movie. So the menu has to work even harder than a typical menu.
"It helps to make it easier for the customer to navigate if we put a little more space around the items and categories. People's eyes almost always go to the upper right corner of a page, so that's where we put our best items or categories."
Rapp was impressed with the fact that a movie theater serves good food too.
"You wouldn't automatically expect that," Rapp says.
The big chain restaurants on Rapp's client list have some different menu needs.
"In the chains, we have pictures of the items we want to sell," Rapp says. "Also, dollar signs emphasize cost, so when you take the dollar signs away it de-emphasizes the price."
Rapp's tips for moneymaking menus include using brand names.
"At Marco Movies, Nick uses Orville Redenbacher's popcorn and should use the logo on the menu. It raises the value to consumers to know they're not getting some generic popcorn."
Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.