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Why separate dessert menus?


Pan
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On the I thought I had heard everything until... thread, chefpeon wrote the following:

I don't know if this has ever been addressed here, but I am a religious supporter of dessert menus being shown and offered WITH the main menu rather than remaining hidden til the end of the meal!!!! I don't think it does any favors for the front OR the back of the house to keep it all under wraps!

I think customers should have the opportunity to see what's for dessert....they are more likely to save room for it if they see something tempting, and it's less of a "sell" for the servers when the customer already has dessert on their mind!

Seems to me, she has a good point. Is there any strong advantage to excluding desserts from the main menu, other than tradition?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I work in a restaurant that has a prix fixe menu. Dessert is included in both the 4 course $85 and the 8 course $125 tasting menu, so they don't present the dessert menu with the dinner menu. If you asked for the dessert menu, you could certainly see it, too. If you want to see the dessert menu at the same time as the dinner menu, why wouldn't you just ask for it?

Mark

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The practice that bothers me far more is the one of insisting one order dessert at the start of the meal.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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This is often perceived as a very complex issue but at its core it doesn't really need to be. Mark strikes a chord with me when he writes:

"If you want to see the dessert menu at the same time as the dinner menu, why wouldn't you just ask for it?"

That's because as a diner you can control your experience to a larger extent than you may realize--if you are in the minority of diners who believe dessert to be an integral part of a restaurant experience--and are pre-disposed to appreciate a chef and pastry chef working together to create a meal which flows, where desserts are given the same thought, why not reveal that right up front and ask to see the dessert menu? As you're planning the flow of your meal--reacting to ingredients and turns of phrase and feeling out what you might be tempted by--why NOT ask for the dessert menu and reveal to the server that you view a meal in its entirety? So I see this as very good advice from Mark--you're in control and you're responsible for conveying your expectations as a diner--so the restaurant can try their best to meet those expectations.

I tend not to dine at restaurants which "insist" I order dessert at the beginning of the meal, Bux--but I often go in the opposite direction--I'll ask the chef to do a tasting menu, to choose my meal for me and that includes dessert. I'll leave it up to him or her and only look at menus afterward.

"I don't think it does any favors for the front OR the back of the house to keep it all under wraps!"

Agreed, but it might be a good strategy if there's nothing special to offer the guest anyway! There's nothing like another perfunctory dessert to keep reinforcing the perception that dessert is a waste of time or money--an afterthought--rather than an integral part of a meal or of the experience of dining out. If there is something special--you'll see them being brought out to the dining room to other diners and you'll see and hear reactions to the desserts at other tables. You'll wonder "what was in that cool-looking glass" or you'll say "that table really seemed to like that dessert."

"I think customers should have the opportunity to see what's for dessert....they are more likely to save room for it if they see something tempting, and it's less of a "sell" for the servers when the customer already has dessert on their mind!"

Well, "seeing" the dessert isn't the same thing as reading a menu--and neither approach is necessarily more likely to ensure a dessert worth ordering. I think what's more likely to sell a dessert or create the expectation of dessert is a server who conveys enthusiasm for the desserts, a chef or owner who promotes the pastry chef as a key member of the culinary team and puts the pastry chef in more positions to interact with the public and the clientele, a critic who notes the name of the pastry chef doing interesting work in a review or a magazine writer who cares enough to place the name of the pastry chef in magazine articles when the desserts are found to be special. That helps conveys expectation and raises appreciation and awareness--and the problem is, frankly, we're still losing the battle for appreciation of dessert--even from the people whose job it is, supposedly, to appreciate dessert and pastry chefs.

"Most restaurants in my neck of the woods merely consider dessert an afterthought, and not nearly as much care goes into dessert as much as the main courses.....in fact, most desserts are "bought in" rather than made in-house."

"It sucks and it doesn't make job prospects very plentiful, that's for sure"

This is the future, as more food and pastry ingredient distributors develop lines of defrost-ready-to-serve desserts to sell to more chefs, restaurants and hotels, who are already de-prioritizing dessert and thereby reducing the number of creative jobs for trained pastry chefs and bakers: get used to it or join in our fight against it on eG by raising awareness and expressing your dissatisfaction each and every time you are in a restaurant that serves perfunctory, commercial or just plain bad desserts. When you're asked "if everything was alright" say no, that you were disappointed the dessert didn't match the expectation or level of the food, that you appreciate chefs and restaurants which care about dessert and that you'll be less likely to return, even though the food was very good, because of this.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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All good points made here although in some cases it's wise to separate higher end dining from the moderately priced middle of the road types of places that dominate the dining scene in some areas (e.g. where I live at present). What hasn't been mentioned here is the importance of training FOH staff to understand and incorporate the concept of dessert as part of the meal into their consciousness and sell that idea to the customer (albeit in a subtle way).

I don't like, but do tolerate, going to a movie theatre and being asked if I want candy, nachos etc. to go with my popcorn or perhaps a larger size. The snack bar staff are upselling as they're required to by theatre management.

What I really appreciate and so rarely encounter is a server who, when explaining a few of the specials, mentions a dessert or two and suggest that I might wish to save room for a specific dessert that's really good that day. This can be a very effective technique to boost dessert sales but I almost never encounter it. When I have, it's been done in such an effortless and natural way that it definitely didn't seem like a pitch - more like "useful information".

Just don't get me started about restaurant coffee :wink:

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I think the point is why should you have to ask to see it, why isn't it offered with dinner? I can tell you it isn't exactly lady like to ask to see the dessert menu while your looking at the dinner menu. Granted here at eg you've got foodies who don't care if it's lady like. But in other social circles that does apply.

Personally I think dessert if part of the whole meal and should be included from the start. But in so many places dessert is an after thought-or something they haven't given any serious thought to. There's alot of restaurants that shouldn't be in that catagory-but they are.........reminds me of Zillas old restaurant.

I can understand the not wanting to order dessert before dinner too. Who knows if you'll want it by then.

As far as excluding desserts from the main menu-do you mean printed on it? That only works in fine dinning situations. I change my dessert menu weekly and the chef changes his seasonally if that frequently, they have to be printed seperately. Usually the featured entree for the night is a verbal, not written.

I think you get in dessert sales what you put into it. Having been lucky enough to work in a place thats the opposite of Teds experince I now see more to sales then just the quality of the product coming out of the kitchen. It really does come down to the sales staff/wait staff. I think they make or break a restaurant. In Teds example his chef has tried verbally to clue the staff into the importance of selling, but honestly it's time to let people go that don't perform. You can't let a negative vibe run/ruin your sales. If the waitstaff doesn't realize selling extras inpacts their pockets-their too dumb to qualify as staff I'd keep.

I'm currently working in one kitchen where the wait staff is outstanding. It's remarkable, something I've never seen to this extent before. In March a dead dead month at a golf clubs they ran a compeition on dessert sales. I had one girl sell over 200 in the month (I don't have all the numbers yet-but I thought they were remarkable given this type of food outlet), several other girls were over 100. They gave the winner $55.00 cash.....big deal- right-but they regularly run competitions and the wait staff really gets into it. It sort of cuts into their bordom and they have fun with this.

Ultimately so many things interrelate in the restaurant. But it still all comes down to the owners/managers and chefs.......too often they get stuck looking too narrowly at a couple factors instead of seeing the place as a whole and working it that way.

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Dessert should be selected after the rest of the meal, in my opinion, because its only after tasting the appetizer and entree that you can really "balance" the meal with the dessert...Perhaps the food was lighter.heavier/spicier/blander/saltier than you expected, and so your dessert selection might need cool tropical sorbets, or dense dark chocolate, or sweet coconut foam, etc etc to balance your meal.

I recently went to dinner, and the food was more bland than I expected, smaller portions, etc. I went with the dense chocolate dessert, not my usual choice..but I needed strong flavors.

Edited by Kim WB (log)
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I can see asking for the dessert menu when you're looking at the dinner menu, but what annoys the hell out of me is restaurants that post their menus at the front door or online and don't include the dessert menu :angry: . The message is loud and clear to me: "dessert isn't important to us so don't expect much".

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Kim - by your logic - would you not need to wait til you had tasted each course before ordering the next? or is your point about balance more about determining how much more one can consume?

If a diner is capable of reading the offered dishes in each course (say appetizer, salad/soup, entree) to balance their meal then I think they might also be able to figure in the dessert.

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The practice that bothers me far more is the one of insisting one order dessert at the start of the meal.

Gee, I love it when you have to order dessert at the outset of the meal. I hate starting the whole ordering process over again after my main course. Also, if they just bring it, I eat it. If I stop and think about it, I might just skip on dessert altogether. That's why I like set menus so much. It all just flows.

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Very good points made by everybody here, but I am still confused to why there is a need for a separate dessert menu and to make another major order during your dining experience. Why not have it at the bottom, other side or next page of the menu? Is it an issue of logistics? When did this tradition of making a post entree order for dessert come about. Has this always been the case? :huh:

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Kim - by your logic - would you not need to wait til you had tasted each course before ordering the next? or is your point about balance more about determining how much more one can consume?

Ideally, that is how I would prefer to order. I'd choose an appetizer, a bottle of wine, see how that works, get an idea of what is coming out of the kitchen, then order the next course, wine, etc..but that is impractical from many viewpoints, both consumer and kitchen's. Although, when afforded the luxury of time, I've ordered meals that way.

The dessert, for me, ties the meal together. I do make a point to balance apps and entrees...but often find myself, as the entree is being cleared away, with a strong craving or desire for fruit, or cheese, or chocolate, or something very tart, or something very creamy... not based on any dessert menu I've seen, just by what my palate has a taste for.

I'd have no issue with dessert being part of the menu..I would simply not examine that part until after my entree was done, and I could listen to what my body and mind were telling me would be the perfect ending!

( and its not an issue of what one could consume..I eat when I'm not hungry all the time! :laugh: )

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Dessert should be selected after the rest of the meal, in my opinion, because its only after tasting the appetizer and entree that you can really "balance" the meal with the dessert...

I absolutely agree that dessert balances the rest of the meal, which is why I like to see a dessert menu as I am ordering th rest of the meal. I do not pre-order the dessert, but it helps me make the other decisions. Most of the time I can't eat appetizer, entree and dessert--its just too much food. If a dessert looks really good, I will skip the appetizer, or get 2 appetizers and no entree or some other strategy like that. If the dessert menu is uninspiring, then I go ahead with appetizer and entree. I don't want to be too full at the end and miss out on a fabulous dessert! :sad:

And on another issue:

Sinclair Posted on May 5 2004, 06:09 AM

I think the point is why should you have to ask to see it, why isn't it offered with dinner? I can tell you it isn't exactly lady like to ask to see the dessert menu while your looking at the dinner menu. Granted here at eg you've got foodies who don't care if it's lady like. But in other social circles that does apply.

I do not think its unlady-like to ask for the dessert menu while perusing the main menu. Would you not ask for salt yourself, or alert the staff about an allergy? This is no different. I, a lady, may want dessert and I want to make an informed decision. There can't be anything more ladylike than to want dessert!

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Kim - by your logic - would you not need to wait til you had tasted each course before ordering the next?  or is your point about balance more about determining how much more one can consume?

"Ideally, that is how I would prefer to order. I'd choose an appetizer, a bottle of wine, see how that works, get an idea of what is coming out of the kitchen, then order the next course, wine, etc..but that is impractical from many viewpoints, both consumer and kitchen's. Although, when afforded the luxury of time, I've ordered meals that way."

Kim and chefette--I think you've both hit on the reason why tapas, and now "small plates" restaurant and bar menu concepts with varied sources of inspiration are trending upward--diners like you have spoken--this is how they want to eat instead of being locked into 1) the a la carte standard conservative one-app/large portion entree/too full for dessert meal or 2) the fixed price tasting menu promulgated by too many chefs.

They want an interesting variety of food in manageable "tasting menu" portions, at their own pace--and ideally these places offer interesting dessert options as well.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I generally always have to ask for the dessert menu which annoys me, but I communicate to the server that I'm interested and hope that they would tell me about anything special or their favorite. I plan my meal and include dessert in the planning just as I would at home by reading the descriptions of the course ingredients and imagining how they will taste together and whether they are heavy or light. I have never been pressured to order dessert with the dinner but I let it be known that I may have dessert. One thing I don't like is when they try to whisk the dessert or wine menu away as I like to keep them close and peruse them as I eat in case I change my mind or need to order another bottle. But then I'm one of those who's in the habit of reading while I eat...

Why is the wine menu separate?

Ladylike or manlike behavior is so retro. :raz:

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Hi all.....

thanks to Pan for quoting me from another thread and starting this one.

As a pastry chef AND a restaurant diner, I see things from both ends (as we all do).

Some restaurants have their desserts printed on the main menu. This is good when you

first sit down and plan out your meal. It's always nice to know what the restaurant is

offering for dessert before you order the main course. It doesn't mean you have to

order dessert while you're ordering your main course.....but I like having the desserts

on the main menu in plain sight, so I know what's there, and if I even WANT to consider

dessert. Usually I don't bother ordering desserts from restaurant that serve the usual

boring fare like chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream and pie 'o the day. BORING!

The bad part about having the desserts printed on the main menu, is when the server

takes the menu away after you've ordered your main course, you sort of forget what was

on there. You either have to ask the server to bring the menus back, or you awkwardly

say, "What do you offer for dessert?"

This is an easily solved problem however......I think the best solution, truly, is to have

the dessert menu permanently displayed on the table. The customer doesn't have to ask

for the menu back, and it keeps the idea of dessert on their mind. Not everyone is a

savvy gastronome who considers it an art to eat a fine meal. I'm talking about your

average schmoe here, and percentagewise, a lot of our customers are just average

schmoes.......average hungry schmoes.

This is not to say that the servers shouldn't be expected to sell. They should. It is an

excellent idea for the servers to mention dessert specials as well as the dessert menu

at the beginning of the meal. If the server gives dessert "equal time" in the mentioning

department, the more likely they are to sell a dessert. When you give desserts the

same emphasis as the meal, you are telling the customer that you have something special

and they really should try it. That is, if you DO have something special. If you don't, then,

well, a good server will make it seem like you have the best apple pie around.....even if it

IS bought in by Sara Lee......but I digress.

We all know that advertising works mostly, by repetition. When something is in your face

all the time, it's hard to iqnore. Advertisers consistently hammer away at people....you know

how it is.......when you find yourself absentmindedly humming, "My bologna has a first name...."

Don't get me wrong.....I'm not into "hard sell", but I DO believe in the concept of repetition.

Effective dessert marketing consists of:

A) Printing the desserts on the main menu;

B) Having a second dessert menu permanently displayed on the table OR having the server

automatically bring back a small dessert menu at the end of the meal to refresh customers

memories;

and C) effective mention by the server as they are presenting dinner specials at the beginning

of the meal.

Desserts can be profitable! And really, A,B, and C above don't cost that much to implement.

It's sort of a no-brainer to me. Why NOT do all you can to help the bottom line?

There are some places that sell their desserts by presentation of the "pastry tray" after dinner.

I call these the "stunt desserts". And I think it's mostly a bad idea. Even the most beautiful

dessert with the lovely plating doesn't look very appetizing after sitting out a while. Not only that,

the servers are manhandling the tray, sticking their fingers in desserts accidentally while pointing them out to the customers, or even having the customers sticking their fingers in them. Doesn't take long for that pastry tray to look downright icky. People don't like icky. Icky is unappetizing...Icky ruins potential sales.

A surprising number of restaurants that I visit (and I visit all kinds) really do nothing to promote

dessert sales, and that's why I made the initial statement in the first place. As a consumer, I find

it more of an "effort" to order dessert, because in a lot of instances the dessert menu isn't readily available, or there's no mention by the server. I am MUCH MORE LIKELY to order a dessert if there's no "effort" involved. A lot of people can be very hesitant to ask a server for anything extra, even though they want it. You can increase your sales by making sure your more passive customers feel comfortable. I think offering information upfront, during and after the meal (in a non pushy way) would help EVERYONE. The customer, the front of the house, the back of the house, and of course the restaurant owners.

It seems such a simple concept to me.....I don't understand why more restaurants don't do it.

Cheers! :laugh: Annie

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I agree with the point that dessert is treated as an afterthought and not an integral part of the meal. Not only as a menu issue but as dishes themselves. I hate it when they don't put the effort into desserts that is put into other dishes. They list drinks quite often, why not desserts? Why do we have to ask for it? And I always have to wait for the list of gelato of the day? Shouldn't they just give you a dessert menu automatically? I have to give credit to Mother's Bar and Bistro for listing the dessert specials along with the specials of the day on their board outside the restaurant. This whole afterthought attitude is a situation that I would like to see change.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I prefer to order every dessert.

Yep - line 'em up! :biggrin:

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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also ...consider this. I *LOVE* to have dessert in a good restaurant. But oftentimes I'm with other people who are always "just too full" (nonsense!) or just don't do dessert or whatever. So I'm probably not going to ASK about dessert.

HOWEVER! If some enterprising server brings that tray over ---well hell yes I'm gonna have some! And most often at least one or two of the others in the group will too.

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I can tell you it isn't exactly lady like to ask to see the dessert menu while your looking at the dinner menu.

When I have a serious craving, I sometimes order 2 desserts...one before my meal, and one after my meal. What drives me crazy is, most waiters will do a double take and ask me incredulously, "you want the first dessert now??" That single question always makes me cringe.

I like having a separate dessert menu because it makes ordering it seem much more special. If dessert is put at the bottom of the menu, it makes me feel that the restaurant puts less emphasis on dessert and it's most likely not going to be very good. I am much less inclined to order dessert if it is presented that way.

I am much more likely to order dessert if it is displayed than if it is simply on the menu.

As a suggestion, why don't dinner menus come with a suggested dessert to pair with the main course, similar to wine pairings?

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I like that idea of pairing dessert with the meal just like wine selections.

I know when I plan dinner parties I make a dessert(s) that I believe works with the meal I am serving my guest.

Of course I'm not a professional chef like the rest of the group. But in my mind I am!!!

Believe, Laugh, Love

Lydia (aka celenes)

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