Restaurants like Olive Garden and On the Border have a lot on their menu, but in New York City, upscale Japanese restaurants are scaling down their menu for a more specialized approach. The service is focus-oriented to allow a showcase of expertise, so instead of multi-offerings, the concentration is on tempura, sushi, or ramen, for instance.
Japanese restaurateurs, Harris Salat and Tadashi Ono are taking the lead and will open Sushi Ganso in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, after tackling ramen and yaki-grilling in two other places. Sushi Ginzo Onodera is also riding the wave and will offer only omakase, while Sushi Seki is opening up a sushi bar with tatami rooms for omakase on its second floor and a kaiseki tasting menu on the ground floor. Another Japanese place to watch out for is a rooftop beer garden called Kimoto.
The Perfect Menu
So can zeroing in on specialties really be favorable to restaurants, like what these Japanese restaurants are doing? It’s not 100% bulletproof but one advantage is that this simplification is making the choice easy for the customers. You are easing the burden of choice, which is why the recent trend of sharing plates, tapas-style, has become quite popular due to the fact that you are removing the pressure of decision-making.
In a study made by Bournemouth University, the quest was to find an answer to the ideal number of choice that people wanted from a menu selection. Based on their findings, it came down to this number, which, if lessened, feels like there are too little choices, but anything more would be overwhelming: In fast food joints, customers would be satisfied with six items per category. The categories being appetizers, chicken, fish, vegetarian and pasta, grilled and classic meat, steaks and burgers, desserts. While in fining dining restaurants, seven starters, seven desserts, and ten main courses would suffice.
Even big fast food chains like McDonald’s should slash some items from their menu if you ask the McDonald’s franchise owners. The reason is that they feel like the seasonal items and dollar menu options are just too many for McDonald’s. The complaint of their owners and managers is that the menu has become unwieldy that it slows down operations including drive-thru wait times when they are supposed to serve “fast food.” So if they had their way, they would gladly remove the McWrap, Espresso coffee, and Happy Meal options, just because they take longer to prepare.
What To Consider
All this talk about trimming down food choices should boil down to several considerations – the size of the restaurant’s kitchen, the number of seats in the dining room, and the available manpower. But in general, a small menu is easier to manage and can be easily spruced up by providing nightly specials.
A large menu, on the other hand, entails bigger chance of food spoilage and can take exceedingly longer to prepare. It also involves more training hours for the kitchen and wait staff.
Not everything has to go on the menu. Usually, a food trend will not take long before it becomes a food fad, so it’s better not to add it to your regular menu. What you can do is build your menu with classic dishes and add your own unique take. You are free to experiment, but the standard menu should be the dishes that you can whip up quickly, and not mention, familiar to your customers.
Menu Engineering Exists
Yes, there is such a thing, according to Professor Brian Wansink, author of Slim by Design, Mindless Eating Solutions to Everyday Life, who has done an extensive research on this subject matter. According to him, “What ends up initially catching the eye has an unfair advantage over anything a person sees later on.”
And how exactly do our eyes travel around menus? According to Professor Wansink, people usually scan the menu in Z-shaped fashion, starting at the top-left hand corner. But we are drawn to items placed in boxes, bolded and in a different color, with pictures or icons.
In another finding by Oxford experimental psychologist Charles Spence, he said that by giving an “ethnic label” to a dish, such as an Italian label, “people will rate the food as more authentic.” If you add a vivid description, chances are people will make more positive comments about its appeal and taste, because this draws their attention towards a feature in the dish, which helps bring out certain flavors and textures.
And just to see what sound and atmosphere can do, throw in some classical music, and you’ll see increased sales in wines and over-all spending in upscale restaurants. Slow music combined with the scent of lavender will make people spend longer in restaurants.