Menu engineering is all about balancing the high and low food cost items – Bhanu Nehra, Mia Bella

Bhanu Nehra of Mia Bella

Bhanu Nehra used to play cricket at the State level and minor Country league in England, but due to some injuries, he had to take a step back from the world of sports. It was then he entered the FnB space out of interest and sheer passion. His first venture was as a college student when he started a cafe with the name Arab Street, followed by a Sheesha lounge and a Lebanese corner. Finally, Bhanu came up with a brand that he had planned and long dreamt of, Mia Bella in Hauz Khas Village.

The brand reinvented itself this year and is back in a brand new avatar to tantalize the taste buds in the true Mediterranean Style once again. “Mia Bella means ‘My Beautiful’ It offers its patrons a break from the rut providing a perfect romantic setting to the Delhiites where one can truly enjoy the magical sunset while sipping on one’s favorite wine with their loved ones. The big, beautiful Hauz Khas Village Lake in the background adds an old world charm to the ambiance. ‘Specially designed for couples, the place is ideal for dates or even a family get together. People can try this place and enjoy the beautiful view and ambiance along with a delicious meal,’ says Nehra.

In Conversation With Bhanu Nehra Of Mia Bella

In an exclusive interview with The Restaurant Times, Bhanu Nehra talks all about his beloved brand Mia Bella. 

Interior of Mia Bella.

Operational Challenges

According to Nehra, all restaurant owners, share a similar set of challenges. Restaurants experience high turnover rates; sometimes the entire staff can turnover twice a year.

One of the most powerful ways to overcome staffing challenges in a restaurant is through revamping the recruitment. The selection process should be tailored to the needs of the restaurant and the kind of employees most likely to work there. Hiring the most perfect people and actually retaining them for a steady period is the most prominent challenge.

‘It is important to properly categorize and create a systematic approach for hiring. Schedule interviews at times that are easy and acceptable for applicants who are currently employed. Being available during the restaurant’s downtime or during non-business hours, for employed applicants’ convenience goes a long way in recruiting well-qualified applicants familiar with typical restaurant and food service policies,’ says Nehra.

Marketing Dynamics

According to Nehra, the landscape of the restaurant business has been radically transformed by the advent of digital technology. No longer do restaurant owners depend on the ancient method of marketing that is the word of mouth to market their restaurants. Word of mouth marketing is a slow process but this will have a great impact later with the advantage of digital media and mobile technology. 

Partnering up with online food apps should be seen as the prime marketing tactic. According to Nehra, partnering with online apps inspires and prompts visitors to check out the restaurant through gamification and customer loyalty programs, which offer visitors a free purchase or discount for visiting a certain number of times.

‘For the IPLs, we were the favorable delectable providers for the cricket fans. This is in itself was a solid advertising technique,’ says Nehra.

Another effective marketing strategy today is leveraging on the network of other businesses.

‘We are very active on social media which includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We invest a good amount on Facebook, as it is the best place to connect with your customers. Whatever new dish, dessert or cocktail is made and any festival we organize, we target different audiences for a different event. It is critical to know who your client is and what you are selling to whom. Meanwhile, we also organize festivals, deals and offers and also advertise through traditional media like print and radio,’ adds Nehra.

Menu Engineering

Although one can likely have a target overall food cost in the establishment, not every menu item will carry the same food cost percentage. Some items are more costly than others, but most establishments will have a range of prices that all the menu items fit into. Consequently, it is essential to balance the menu so that the low and high food cost items work together to help you reach your target food cost. This process is called menu engineering. Menu engineering means balancing the high and low food cost items; it also includes strategically featuring or promoting items to help reach your targets.

Menu engineering plays a significant role in the life of chefs and restaurant owners. ‘We at Mia Bella hired well-known chefs to work with my personal knowledge by reading different books based on different aspects of menu engineering. The task of serving our patrons through the best menu was done with a lot of research. I read a lot of books and researched about menu engineering to master the art. I even studied and learned a lot while traveling. Different cuisines have different angles and understanding. This helped us get ideas from outside and implement it on our menu card,’ says Nehra.

Food Presentation And Influencer Marketing

According to Nehra, in the world of culinary art, the appearance of food is one of the most critical factors that will attract or reject your guests to choose a specific meal. It is a particular way how food is placed on the plate.

However, even if the presentation of food is perfect, unless people know about it, it won’t make any difference to the business. Marketing what you present is important, and the best way to this is through influencers and bloggers. One of the most significant marketing strategies today is leveraging on the network of other businesses.

Collaborating with food bloggers and social media influencers is a great way to increase your customer reach and engagement. It is a good idea to host bloggers’ meet and then ask the bloggers to review your restaurant on their social media profile.

Beautifully presented food at Mia Bella.

Technological Bedding

Technology plays a critical role in restaurant operations. According to Nehra, using a POS system in a restaurant can save time for servers, cooks, and bartenders. For example, when a server places an order for drinks, appetizers, and entrees in a restaurant that has separate prep areas for each item, they may place the entire order at once. Instead of having to make three trips to order items from each station, the requests will be individually sent to three printers, one in each station, while a full order receipt is printed at the server terminal.

‘One of the most evident problem that restaurant owners have is the lack of backend record. With POSist, tracking has become very easy. It has also established a sense of awareness amongst restaurant owners to handover the bills to every customer who comes to dine.”

Nehra concludes by sharing that he plans to open another outlet in Goa probably by the end of this year itself. ‘We are working on different concepts; the most important one is we are working on a coffee chain and also a QSR model. We will be promoting healthy food in these four coffee chains,’ adds Nehra.

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