How Casual Menus Raise Average Checks
By Robert Hood Corporate Food & Beverage Manager, Atlific Hotels | July 31, 2016
Formal dining rooms conjure up an image of great state and formal occasions when glamour, over-pricing and the prestigious and almost elitist individuals would gather, dine and converse on a level that most of us common diners would feel out of place and somewhat alienated. The menu itself would be as grand, food spelt with French words and phrases muttered in strange accents that would help us to understand that as it was expensive, and it must be good. To the 'grand restauranteur' all of this meant that the diner could not see behind the curtain to the secrets of our industry and that the guests must be at all costs separated from mechanics of the menu. Food must be perceived to be complicated and therefore expensive, in short diners were not allowed to see behind the curtain the way they do today, and we would pay a good dollar in average check spend to experience it.
Moving forward to today, a huge change has happened. There are more food options and operations than ever before, a new generation has set the standard in terms of what they feel the grand dining experience currently is and at last with food becoming a main stream culture the curtain is at last been pushed back to reveal an entire society of 'foodies' who understand the restaurant business as well as the professionals that work within it.
With this new era the menu of the grand dining room has had to change and adapt to the present economy, increased competition and most importantly the current guest needs and wants, and so we usher in the concept of the 'Casual Menu'. The environment of the dining room has also had to change to match the casual and almost 'unorganised' menu service concept. The dining room experience is practical, stylish and represents the diner in terms of environment as well more importantly the 'attitude' of the entire experience.
What is the casual menu and what does it do? Before getting into specifics of dishes and pricing strategies, it is important to recognize a couple of key components to be explored in this discussion namely, time, price, flexibility, communal dining, variety, regional / ethnic and most importantly value. All of these points have been extremely important in the development and birth of the casual dining menu and its rise in popularity among diners and it's 'food fans'. We will explore all of these points and illustrate that these factors have allowed restaurants and dining rooms to reinvent themselves to be not only current, and part of this new casual dining culture but also to be profitable and sustainable.
The casual menu represents the need for a fast and effective menu that can be produced quickly and served. The dining guest looks toward the casual menu as a time sensitive option that works as a dining option that works with other activities in which they may be participating. The casual menu needs to represent an instant dining option, it is expected by the diner that food should be produced, the meal experience enjoyed with multiply taste profiles, and accompanied by the appropriate beverage option.
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