A growing trend among many large restaurant chains is the expansion of their menus to include a wider variety of items. While this movement initially appeared mostly among “traditional” fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds and Burger King, its has caught on more recently with alternative chains, most notably Starbucks. In recent years, Starbucks has increased the number of items on its menu, from 181 in 2009 to 255 items today.
Not everyone agrees with Starbucks decision to diversify, and they don’t need to search far within the restaurant industry to understand why. The large restaurant chain Burger King recently made the decision to slow its menu diversification due to the fact that its customer service was suffering. With too many products on the menu, customers needed to wait longer for their orders. Since shifting their approach away from diversification, Burger King reported a 3.6% percent growth in same-store sales during the third quarter.
Countering this, Starbucks executives say that the increase in menu offerings has not affected its productivity (which it defines as the number of transactions per hour). While they do note that the overall rate of growth has slowed, they cite the broad retail-traffic environment as the major contributing factor, not an increase in the number of menu items. In order to ensure service is fast and efficient, Starbucks has begun experimenting with online ordering and payment options, allowing customers to send in their order and payment in advance, bypassing a line and picking up their order when they arrive. This, along with the potential for delivery options in the future, may help make Starbuck’s expanded menu a welcomed success.