Is Having a Big Menu Really Better?

I was just recently at The Cheesecake Factory this weekend. I hadn’t been there in quite some time because I always dread having to read the dictionary (their menu) in order to figure out what I want.

I sat down and began my journey through the ages and was shocked to see the menu had expanded to even more options than when I was there the last time. There was around 20 pages and even an index and glossary at the end (just kidding, but it really was twenty pages).  I know some people may feel comforted by the countless number of options large menus provide but I’ve always just felt overwhelmed.

It takes me about 30 minutes just to choose what to eat, and as I’m choosing I’m already certain I actually wanted something else. I like having options but I hate having to study a menu.

too much

So the question is this: Is Having a Big Menu Really Better?

So let’s imagine a menu of 50 choices and one of 10 choices. For the fifty, 20 items are excellent, 10 items are good and 20 times are just alright. But the restaurant with 10 items has ten excellent, top notch dishes. So what’s a better scenario? Having everything be tasty or just a portion of the options? Having large menus can easily fall into the latter.  When everything is amazing there aren’t disgruntled customers, bad reviews, and more room for things to just go wrong in general.

I also think it’s important for menu items to compliment each other. For example, the Cheesecake factory has foods ranging from Chinese to Mexican, and everything in between. And don’t get me wrong, I love all types of food, but I think a more streamlined approach to menus are more effective.

Evan Carmichael put it great put it great when he said “Large menus lack focus. When you try and offer EVERYTHING your customers like, you aren’t giving them more choices and more reasons to come back, you are confusing them. They don’t know what your specialties are, what you supposedly do well, what they should order, and how to describe you to their friends. If your message is focused and easy to convey, more of your customers will convey your message.

What do you think? Are you for the larger than life menus or do you lean towards a more modest approach?