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Why separate dessert menus?


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

Along this line I've always wondered why menus don't have pictures of the food next to the descriptions. I'd be much more willing to try something 'new' if I could see what it looks like first.

Dan

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

Along this line I've always wondered why menus don't have pictures of the food next to the descriptions. I'd be much more willing to try something 'new' if I could see what it looks like first.

Dan

I will suggest 4 reasons why pictures next to the descriptions is a bad idea:

1. Unless you are talking about TGI Friday's, Applebees's, Chili's, and all the other casual chain places, it is , for lack of a better word, "cheesy " to have pictures on your menu.

Also, most places with pictures on their menus are chain restaurants, which leads me to #2

2. Pictures on menus are very expensive to do, hence they are usually only done by chains that have the money to do it. A few years back a restaurant I was working for was able to put pictures of it's desserts on the menu along with the descriptions because we had been approached by a new printer in town and he offered to do it for free to get his name out. When we found out that it would cost $600 to do just 10 menus that way, the owners said thank you but no thanks.

3. Most importantly, to me at least as a pastry chef, I want the diner to be amazed at the look of the dessert as it comes out to the table, which is lost if they see what it looks like before they get it.( The "wow" factor still has it's place in desserts.) Seeing the look of a dessert before it comes out could sway the diner to ordering it, but if you have good waitstaff who are excited about your desserts, and realize that the restaurant as a whole wins when dessert is sold, you should be able to sell your desserts just as easily as if they were shown in their entirety on the menu.

4. SEE #1 AGAIN.

Jason

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I think this gets confusing because were not all talking about the same level dining. What's the best approach in fine dinning like at Trotters, is much different then your average higher end restaurant, not to mention several other levels of dining.

Don't we need to break this topic down or be very clear about which level/type of restaurant your speaking of? Theres not one fit that would even work for all.

As to the 'not lady like point' I made earilier-again it depends upon what group of people your talking about. In the real money circles-most of the women don't even eat, they push their food around on the plate to look like their eating. Us foodies aren't typical.

As I understood it, the reason Dennys uses pictures is because they have alot of people that don't speak english and this lets the point to the photo of what they want.

No way photos work across the board.

Personally I really like a inclusively coursed meal. I think it works well in most restaurants. AND I want my chef to consider the size of each course so I'll have room for all. I'm not a light weight eater and I never order an app. or dessert, the main course is always too much........and perhaps I'm cheap because I don't want to leave 3/4 of a plate of food behind- I don't take home left overs and never will.

Chinesse restaurants give you a size choice as do some steak houses-that appeals to me alot. I'd rather do tapas portions if given a choice!!!

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It would seem logical that desserts aren't printed on the menus because many restaurants change desserts often, if not daily. Consider that "Pie of the Day" doesn't sound as appetizing as "Mile High Lemon Chiffon Pie" or "Spring Rhubarb Tart with Orange Scented Whipped Cream."

And in defense of pie--my mother used to bake pies for a small restaurant, and let me assure you that her homemade "Pie of the Day" was the best thing on the menu. They sold out every day.

As to viewing the desserts ahead, the most overwhelming response I ever had to a catered dinner was when I made five different kinds of pie and presented them on a pass-thru where guests could see them as they entered the dining room for buffet service. They had great fun (or was it torture?) deciding which one they would sample later, and got very excited when I told them we would cut the pies in small pieces so they could sample as many as they liked. I later duplicated this idea with five cakes for a party for the head of the local Sysco.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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We need a food historian to help solve the why-separate-dessert-menu dilemma.

For no legitimate reason, I suspect that this is a French menu convention that was adopted by American haute-cuisineries. Can any well-traveled souls out there dispute or confirm how dessert vs. dinner menus are handled in France, and for how long the two menus have been divided?

As for why a separate wine menu...I'm guessing that it's because some restaurants have such substantial wine offerings that it merits a book of its own.

Can anyone offer facts? I'm speculating here.

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I am certainly not a fan of fixed price dinners that include a dessert - as 95% of the time I have absolutely no desire to eat a dessert of any kind and have no desire to pay for one.

That being said, I have always liked the approach by which the dessert menu is seperate, but simply left present on the table, maybe combined with the wine list or a list of fine spirits/coffees availible.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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You know, I never thought of this before, but as a consumer who considers herself an informed consumer and who believes in businesses providing as much information as possible, I love the idea of incorporating dessert into the regular menu. What reason is there to hide it from me? I go a number of restaurants with seasonal menus who do have the dessert on the menu. Oliveto in Oakland is the most recent one I can recall. Last time I was there I could peruse the dessert selections and decide whether or not they warranted saving room for. They way they handled the menu was that they just took it away after we ordered, and then just returned the same menu when we indicated an interest in ordering dessert. Perfect solution, IMO.

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I guess now I can see that putting desserts separate, like wine, highlights them and can make them special, not excluded. But they must all be on the table.

In my opinion if there are photos or a dessert cart, I assume the desserts won't be much good as pretty doesn't usually/always mean good and yes, it feels cheap. As is my opinion that if a restaurant has a great view (like on the water) the food won't be very good.

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:raz:

Hmmmm.....maybe this leads to another thread!

There IS a strange co-incidence between great views and bad food.....

but there are exceptions too.

Locally, a famous great view/mediocre food venue is....

THE SPACE NEEDLE

In fact, there's a joke that locals only go there to take their out of town relatives.

It's true. We know what Seattle looks like, and we can get the same food at Denny's.

But, an exception is.....

PALISADE

EXCEPTIONAL FOOD and EXCEPTIONAL view!

But I'm way off topic.....sorry. :wacko:

Annie

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I prefer to know the dessert options before I order. That way, I can structure my meal to accommodate it, or not. Like last night, I knew I was going to have the oozy gooey chocolate cake, so I had a light dinner. The worst thing, however, is a boring dessert menu. A local steak house I've been to a couple of times has terrific meals, but they're heavy (well, it is a steak house, right?). And their desserts are cheesecakes and chocolate cake. Bad choices.

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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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?

The fact that desserts can be changed and rotated in and out with a bit more ease than restructuring an entire menu is certainly a possible justification. It's also conceivable that if the dessert menu is being offered only when people ask about desserts, it means not as many regular menus have to be printed. menu printing is yet another fixed cost that can't be easily reduced, but having the full menu include desserts means that some copies of the full menu will be tied up with folks choosing dessert while others are being seated and need to make dinenr choices.

As for dessert menus already on the table all the time? I see that as okay for your basic neighborhood place but for "nice" restaurants it seems inappropriate. I'm not talking destination restaurant, just a more upscale local place (where I live that means entrees from $16 - $27 and you won't see anyone wearing t-shirts and jeans).

What I like.... and I wish more places did it.... is an "after dinner" menu. It includes:

* liqueurs, cognacs, dessert wines and other after dinner drinks

* alcoholic coffee drinks

* capuccino, espresso, coffee and coffee drinks

* tea selection

* desserts

This approach fills a number of useful requirements:

* Provides ordering possibilities for those who want "something" after dinner but hadn't thought of trying something other than dessert. If someone else is ordering after dinner drinks or liquers I'll feel more comfortable being the only one ordering dessert (I don't drink alcohol).

* Exposes people to the concept of dessert wines - wait staff need to be educated and motivated but this is a great potential source of revenue - outside of some upscale restaurants in certain markets and a select group of folks who know and consume dessert wines, most people are unfamiliar with the concept and would try it if properly encouraged (I'm not talking about the average eGulleteer - just the average dining patron).

* Creates new revenue opportunites for the restaurant - let's face it folks - although superb desserts can be labor intensive to create, good quality coffee drinks have a huge markup.

* Allows the restaurant, if it has a bar or bistro area, to develop business as a destination for coffee and dessert or coffee and after dinner drinks. I may go out for Vietnames or Thai fod or even eat at home but want to go somewhere for a really good dessert. Don't know what it's like where you live but in my area we have only one really good coffeehouse and they're not even open at night.

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menu printing is yet another fixed cost that can't be easily reduced, but having the full menu include desserts means that some copies of the full menu will be tied up with folks choosing dessert while others are being seated and need to make dinenr choices.

Hey, that's a good point. Which leads me to this next quote....

As for dessert menus already on the table all the time? I see that as okay for your basic neighborhood place but for "nice" restaurants it seems inappropriate. I'm not talking destination restaurant, just a more upscale local place (where I live that means entrees from $16 - $27 and you won't see anyone wearing t-shirts and jeans).

Why do you think having a dessert menu on the table of a more upscale restaurant is inappropriate? If it's displayed in one of those nice heavy coverlets like some wine lists

are, I think it's a very elegant addition to the table. Also, it's easy to slide in newly printed

lists when the desserts, wines, coffees, liqueurs, or prices change. I think there are more

benefits to a menu permanently on the table than detractors. With a menu permanently

on the table:

*Customers are able to see what is offered for dessert so they can choose a meal

that will suit them.....save room for something sweet!

*they can leisurely peruse and dicuss it with their compatriots while they are waiting for the meal to be served (dessert menus are a great source of dinner conversation, and a great ice breaker topic-especially for those nervous guys on prom dates....)

*the server doesn't have to worry about bringing a menu back

*you don't have to worry about main menus being "hogged" by the dessert ordering folks (as you pointed out)

*desserts are given "equal time" like they should be

I do agree with you regarding the point you made about the main menu and that printing costs

are big. If the fare changes frequently, having the desserts on the main menu probably isn't the best idea.

But I really am solid in my opinion that the dessert and after dinner fare be displayed on the

table (elegantly), because if nothing else, it puts the concept of dessert on the diner's mind.

Subliminally at least!

Ok, so I have a major interest in creating job security for in-house pastry chefs.....

is that so bad? :unsure:

Cheers..... :laugh: Annie

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*desserts are given "equal time" like they should be

should they be?

that's an interesting point.

personally, i rarely order dessert, not that this is normal. but i'm betting more people don't order dessert than don't order dinner.

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personally, i rarely order dessert, not that this is normal. but i'm betting more people don't order dessert than don't order dinner.

I'm sure you're quite right about that!

And THAT'S why I'm for doing everything possible to up the dessert sales!

Give them equal exposure....have the dessert menu....lurking.....tempting

people.......eat me......eat me.......!

:laugh: Annie

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*desserts are given "equal time" like they should be

should they be?

that's an interesting point.

personally, i rarely order dessert, not that this is normal. but i'm betting more people don't order dessert than don't order dinner.

I think Tommy is onto something here.

I am not saying that dessert is a lower form of the culinary arts than savory/dinner dishes, but it is a _different_ form. When I go out for dinner I am wanting dinner, not dessert. If I get an odd pang for something sweet I may have a dessert with dinner, but it will always be more of an afterthought than the main focus.

On the other hand, if I were truly craving something sweet, I would go to a place specializing in dessert items, a bakery, an ice cream parlor, or something along those lines, in which the dessert is given all of the attention as that is the entire focus of the place.

I see no problem with a restaurant wanting to have high quality dessert offerings, but on the same note if a restaurant had no dessert offerings, or just a token 'defrost and serve' set, it wouldn't make me any less likely to eat there, as the dessert is simply not a focus of mine when considering dinner.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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If I want to see a dessert menu at the beginning of my dining experience- I'll ask for it. I like "end of meal menus", one that has desserts, cheeses, coffee drinks, dessert wines, and liquors.

I don't like (as a Pastry Chef), verbal specials; they don't sell. We do a printed specials page every day. That gives me the opportunity to describe the dessert.

In my past I worked at restaurants that had "dessert trays". I really did not like making them (or seeing what they looked like an hour later).

I am opposed to dessert sales "contests"; how about servers just doing their jobs!

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I am opposed to dessert sales "contests"; how about servers just doing their jobs!

Well theres a huge amount of people in this world that just do 'a job'. They bring little to nothing to their work, it's just work-they do as little as possible waiting for the day to be over, waiting for there paycheck. In your average restaurant waitstaff are not interested in this being a 'career'. So you have to modivate people to do more, care more, etc.... You can preach all day, but that never gets good results from workers (god I've seen that approach just kill atitutes).

I think you have to know your waitstaff, those that are compatent get bored-you need to give them something positive to play with or they find the negative to dwell on.

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A local steak house I've been to a couple of times has terrific meals, but they're heavy (well, it is a steak house, right?). And their desserts are cheesecakes and chocolate cake. Bad choices.

Same problem with rodizio... if you even HAVE the stomach for dessert, it's a cloying, heavy and prefab affair, like cheesecake or cappuccino cakes. Hmm, too big a slice of something mediocre and way too heavy? Pass.

My local steakhouse had a terrific lemon-meringue souffle. Now that's a little more like it...

"Give me 8 hours, 3 people, wine, conversation and natural ingredients and I'll give you one of the best nights in your life. Outside of this forum - there would be no takers."- Wine_Dad, egullet.org

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It's also conceivable that if the dessert menu is being offered only when people ask about desserts, it means not as many regular menus have to be printed. menu printing is yet another fixed cost that can't be easily reduced, but having the full menu include desserts means that some copies of the full menu will be tied up with folks choosing dessert while others are being seated and need to make dinenr choices.

As for dessert menus already on the table all the time?  I see that as okay for your basic neighborhood place but for "nice" restaurants it seems inappropriate. I'm not talking destination restaurant, just a more upscale local place (where I live that means entrees from $16 - $27 and you won't see anyone wearing t-shirts and jeans).

I am so tired of restaurant stinginess with menus. They always seem to be trying to snatch them away. I think it's foolish to be so concerned with the costs of printing menus not to have plenty around when we're talking about possible extra sales. I've never stolen a menu in my life so I'm certainly not going to walk out with the precious thing. And why should the cost be so prohibitive for some printed pieces of paper over anything else in the restaurant - I don't hear anyone complaining about the cost of fresh flowers on the table or how about the things people really do like to steal like silverware or salt and pepper shakers. Also, for me, my dinner choice includes wine and dessert. I have to think about it all together and I dislike having to ask for what I need. I just want to sit down and then enjoy the experience without having to look around for a server or somebody to get what I need.

I also disagree that it's inappropriate for the menu to be out all the time at a good restaurant. If the cover is attractive, then it looks fine. I like to see the menus there for me when I get seated.

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Wendy, I would not hire a server that did not think that they were expected to do a good job everyday. I f you aren't motivated to do your job- well then you should get a different one.

It is a very rare occurance that a cook will get a bottle of wine or money for making 100 orders. I believe that the treatment of the front and back of the house should be consistant. Remember, most servers make far more money then most cooks.

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I also disagree that it's inappropriate for the menu to be out all the time at a good restaurant. If the cover is attractive, then it looks fine.

i can do without any unnecessary clutter on the table. i can't imagine having to navigate around a menu during my meal.

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I've been reading the posts with interest, because it brings a very delicate situation: customers may want the dessert menu with the main menu. The problem is that for a restaurant, it might be better not to. It's all stuff you learn in marketing and psychology. You don't want to give the customer a chance to mentally add up how much the whole dinner experience will cost before they even start eating. That would possibly make them order all the cheaper items on the menu, no what you want to sell them. A little dirty move, then? yes, a little. But also a valid one.

Also, it helps the whole experience. A careful chef plans the meal so that the customer will never be too full to have dessert. That way, with creative and atractive desserts, the servers bring a new menu just after the table is cleared, and smiling he tells the customers to sample some of the most creative work of the restaurant. The menu has the name of the pastry chef printed in it, and all the desserts look great when they are read. If the customer is not full, he will likelly feel attracted to taste something sweet (I know my meal doesn't feel complete without something sweet to finish it). It's all building drama to make the experience enjoyable. But it has to be done with subtlety

Also, if the customer wants to see the dessert menu after the meal, you don't want to bring him the whole menu (too big) it always looks better to have something smaller, easiert to handle. So, you might need to print one anyway, and that's extra cost (not easy to justify printing the same menu in two different places)

As for ordering desserts before the meal, it's only for time consuming desserts (like souffles) because when the meal is done, the customer is less likelly to want to wait 20 minutes for the sweets. If they order it beforehand. It can be in the table within five minutes of the table being cleared. So they only do it to make the customer's experience more enjoyable. Not all desserts should be encouraged to be ordered before the meal, but if a souffle is to be ordered after the entrees, the customer has to be willing to wait. Unfortunately, a lot of customeres seem to be always in a hurry. And they complaint (or feel dissatisfied) if they have to wait more than 10 minutes to get any dish.

Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

My Blog, en Español

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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.

Although I would rather order the souffle at the beginning of the meal than wait the extra 30 minutes at the end.

Bruce

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My wife and I are fond of the French practice, not so common as it once was, of a dessert trolley. But that's because we don't demand that each course be a self-contained, stand-alone work of art. D'Chez Eux in Paris brings you at the beginning of the meal a trolley of salamis, later of salads, and at the end a trolley of cheeses, finally of desserts. (One of the waiters operates the traffic lights.) They also leave the soup terrines and casseroles on your table. Please don't bother to tell me all the reasons why an American Board of Health would immediately close them down. :raz:

As for ordering dessert at the beginning of the meal, Schneier has made the point about omelettes that I would have made.

Edited by John Whiting (log)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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