food and beverageMenuRestaurant Experience

Menu Identity Crisis: Is the Menu in Line With Your Restaurant’s Theme?

If you can find something you love to do, and make a living at it…

Chefs become chefs for many reasons, but most have a passion for cooking and want to share that passion through feeding customers. If it were that simple, the success rate of restaurants would be 100%. There are many reasons why a restaurant thrives or does not, and can be due to a myriad of factors. Nonetheless, there is one in which the chef is in control – what is on the menu.

Mission Creep = Menu Creep

In nonprofits it is called mission creep when the organization bends its stated mission to woo possible donors. Restaurants do similar things with menus sometimes. A restaurant’s theme encompasses everything from what will be served, the décor, and the overall experience that the chef envisions. The menu tells what the restaurant is all about; formal, relaxed, hip, or to go. What happens when the menu strays into territory that is not part of the restaurants purported theme? While meant to possibly lure in customers who otherwise might not be coming through the door, it may lead to a feeling of confusion, being overwhelmed and in the end not having a good experience. That leaves the question of whether it was really worth putting those items on the menu.

The example:

Let’s say that there is a burger restaurant, and they make really good burgers. Their success has been as a burger restaurant, but they want to try to appeal to bringing in non-burger customers. Not everyone who comes in wants a burger, so they add a grilled cheese to the menu. A group enters the restaurant and most order burgers. The non-burger eater orders the grilled cheese. It is a squashed hamburger bun turned inside out with processed cheese. The eater was expecting a golden square sandwich with creamy, melted cheese. Burger eaters smile and dab ketchup from their chins. Non-burger eater walks out with a negative vibe.

Burning questions:

  • Did the non-burger eater make a mistake thinking it should have been as satisfying as the burger-eaters’ experience?
  • Or should it maybe have not been on the menu in the first place?

Pleasing everyone:

The target audience is the group that should come back over and over, spread the word in a positive vein, thus making the restaurant a success story. In theory it is nice to try to please everyone to get everyone to be a customer, because in essence everyone might be a potential customer. But as illustrated in the scenario above, it can backfire. The grilled cheese eater probably would have not gone into a burger restaurant had the item not been on the menu. This person was not the target audience, the burger eaters are. The burger place was attempting Menu Creep.

In reality, not everyone has to be a potential customer. And that’s ok.


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