Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Fox Special ... When Menus Attack


I was at Range for dinner last night (dinner was great) and one of the things I really admired about the restaurant was the menu. Range's menu was concise, simple and offered all the necessary choices for diners from all preferences (you know, like pesky vegetarians). Other successful restaurants in this city and others, (e.g NoPa, Boulevard, Mofo Ssam to name few) are very good examples about incorporating simple, straightforward, and well written menus that don't try to challenge the diner's English reading level during each dinner experience.

As I have been narrowing down a restaurant concept the last month or so, I've had more and more discussions regarding menu size and design. I think one of the most annoying things I've encountered at restaurants is an overly complex menu with too many choices and ridiculous subsections. I'm not sure how others feel, but when I get a menu that's thicker than a small novel, I'm a tad demoralized.

Simplifying a menu does not mean the food has to even be different, but it must offer clarity for the diner. Limiting a menu and showing restraint can also help simplify some of the challenges of over-extending kitchen staff and prep times. I also think the most important and overlooked aspect is customer satisfaction and turnover time. A concise and well worded menu means the diner can select/place their order more efficiently and expect their food sooner rather than later. It also means less buffer time for the customer spent reading, less buffer time for the kitchen between turns, and less buffer time for the waitstaff between seatings. Less time wasted normally equates to more customers served and more money saved.

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