For some people, a menu is like reading James Joyce’s Ulysses–they want to read every item, read every description, and even try to find out the calories. But for others, reading a menu is a game of treasure hunting–search for the relevant target and acquire. In order to get the most out of your menu (besides a good design, which we have covered before), it’s a good idea to have a good variety of dishes to have. To get started, here are the five kinds of dishes to include in your menu.
Whether it’s a hamburger, spaghetti, or a salad–it’s a good idea to have at least one dish that will be recognized by most people. Of course for most restaurants, it would be bland to just label their dish “The Hamburger,” so feel free to call your obvious dish “The Classic,” or something in that nomenclature.
Regardless of what you’ll call it, it’s important to have this dish in bay because if your customers aren’t willing to try out your new or unique dishes, your obvious dishes can serve as a safe fallback. Some examples of obvious dishes might include the “Keep it Simple” from Red Robin or the “#2: Jersey Shore’s Favorite” from Jersey Mike’s.
In some cases, people might be so enticed by your menu choices that you want to try them all. And in that situation, the ideal solution is to provide a sampler dish. In order to get the most out of your sampler dish, try to poll which five entrees are the most ordered, and create a dish around that. Five dishes are a good item to start with, but if you only want to do three or four, or even six–that choice is up to you. If you want to make multiple samplers, make it a build-your-own system out of select menu choices or create multiple pairs of menu items (like steak & shrimp or chicken & pork). Common samplers might include the “Triple Dipper” from Chili’s and the “Have it All” series from Applebee’s.
No restaurant is complete without its own bespoke dish, or a signature dish. Take the time to make a dish that only you can perfect, something only others can try to imitate and fail.
It might sound like a tall order, but if celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal swear on their signature dishes like snail porridge, having your own unique dish might give your menu a big boost.
Think of “The Twist” as “The Obvious” but with a few different defining features. There’s likely a good chance that your customers are already satisfied with your obvious menu item, and they are ready to take things a little further.
Maybe add a few habanero peppers and Worcestershire sauce on top of Ciabatta buns? Regardless of what you alter to your standard menu item, it’s probably a good idea to just change enough ingredients to your recipe to not overwhelm y our customers. It is only a twist, after all.
Dessert can go either way. They can either be a boost to your overall sales, or a costly deficit. But if you do choose to offer a dessert menu in your restaurant, make sure it’s something that’ll make an impact. In this case, the impact should be delicious enough but just barely filling enough to come back and want more.
If you want an idea of popular desserts and/or dessert spots, Fodor’s has a list of popular dessert destinations.
At the end, you do have total control of your menu choices. Remember, restaurant menu design has advanced so far it’s gone to a scientific level. But at the end though, your menu should be customer-based.