Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Joy & Burden of a Changing Menu

A debate among our staff, our supervisors and our customers has been brewing around here for a few years now. That hot button is the ever-evolving face of our menu.

Most of our customers know that, while we have several "staples" on our menu, we do make changes quite often - even daily. Most of our changes are in relation to a new special dish that we would like to try. However, when we change a "staple," the backlash sometimes can be a bit overwhelming.

On one hand, we certainly don't want to alienate any customers' favorite dish. On the other hand, as a recent article indicates, it's almost the equivalent of a radio station playing the same top 10 songs over and over and over. At some point - while you love the new tune at first - you just get sick of it.

So changing things on a menu keeps things fresh, new and interesting. It doesn't allow for the guest to get burned out on a menu item; it almost forces them to try new things and expand their palates. Trying new items is undoubtedly more rewarding than repeating the same meal over and over, plus it allows guests to increase their knowledge of food. I think those are great arguments for consistent menu changes. It keeps the interest there, and knowledge can be a powerful thing - no matter the subject.

However, there is a large burden associated with the daily grind of menu changes. First, as mentioned above, you do run the risk of alienating a customer's favorite dish. Second, you are constantly changing things on your staff. Just as a chef or a server gets comfortable with a dish - its look and the steps needed to create it - you change everything.  Next thing you know the staff is forced to learn something new, a time-consuming process involving the kitchen line set-up and the most economical way to help create the new dish.  
Plus, in our business, we have a lot of part-time employees. Changing dishes on them almost creates a full-time job for them in the aspect of keeping up-to-date with the changes.

Lastly, the daily grind of updating the menu and point-of-sale system, calculating menu item costs, creating recipes and training the employees can certainly take its toll.  It can be a difficult thing for us, the staff and the customers. The alternative, however, lends itself to becoming boring and uninteresting.

The last few weeks, we made some changes to a few of our "staples." First, we changed our infused chicken breast from a garlic buttered chicken to one that is glazed with honey dijon. We also eliminated our seared tuna appetizer and turned it into a more fun and interesting tuna nacho appetizer, which has received rave reviews. And lastly, we eliminated the spaghetti carbonara. When we review our menu sales, it came down to the simple fact we were averaging 1 spaghetti carbonara a day for a 3 month period. To us - and in the name of efficiency - it just doesn't make any sense to keep a dish like that on our menu. We decided to replace it with a popular special pasta that we had recently created. That dish is now on our menu in a trial period. The dish: shrimp and asparagus bowtie pasta with sundried tomato and basil cream sauce. We think it's a great dish and gives the customer a little more variety under our pasta category.

We'll probably never remove our most popular, highest selling dishes. But we do like to experiment with the newest and freshest ingredients available to us. After all, this is our job... to cook. We never want to stunt the growth of our staff, and we always want to encourage them to better themselves while increasing their cooking knowledge. Yes, we will always have some of your favorites, but just remember that if you are looking from something new, fresh, trendy or interesting, we will be the place for you. Trust the venue!

We also listen to your comments on our menu. Blog with us. Tell us about your favorites!

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