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Lreda

NJ Restaurant Menu Question

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I'm re-doing the menu and had a question on preferences. This question doesn't apply to a typical Steak House menu where you order a steak and order ala carte your potato & vegetable. At The Grill, every menu item comes with either rice or potato & vegetable. Specials have starches and vegetable intergrated in the dish

When dining would you:

A: Prefer a dinner of let's say a Chicken & Scallops with wild mushrooms in a lemon & rosemary demi-glace served with rice and the vegetable of the evening which can be ratatouille or sauteed broccoli for example. Note the vegetable will be the same for all menu items. Cost, $17.00

or

B: The same dish without rice & vegetable for $15.00

The reason: I'm getting sick of people not finishing their accompinments(sic). It seems like a waste of food. The sides are good. They don't sit on the steam table, we take care to serve it correctly but it seems customers want something EXTRA to come with a meal. I also serve a Amuse.

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It depends on the quality of the sides. If they're as good as you claim and really can stand alone then I'd say option A. If, however, the sides are not up to the quality of the main focus of the dish (like most mid-level steak houses) then I'd certainly prefer option B and spend some more money on good sides I can choose from or perhaps an appetizer.

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I prefer to choose my sides at times, but if a dish calls for a certain accompaniment according to the chef, then I'd prefer to have it included. And, I think that this should be at the restaurant's discretion, not the client's. Thanks for asking!


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Hi Lreda,

If your sides are indeed quality and are often left unfinished, perhaps your portion sizes could be trimmed. I sometimes volunteer at charity event where food is served, and I too hate to see food thrown away.

One place I volunteer has a serving line where the patron indicates whether and how much of each item she or he desires. Alas, the waste is just as prevalent in this instance as in others! Not sure why.

I like to see that you care about this. Wish there was a way to whisk that leftover food, newly fresh and sterile, to someone who could use it.

To answer your question, I prefer to have a starch and a vegetable with my entree, but a small scoop is guaranteed to disappear where a large clump will probably come back to you. And I loathe lemon anywhere near chicken, but that's my problem.

Catherine


Edited by Peachpie9 (log)

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Nice to be asked. Thank you.

The whole dish, main and sides, should make sense as a complete unit as the chef envisions it.

If the client doesn't like part of it, they should be free to leave it. If something is always coming back uneaten, that should tell you volumes.

In the particular example you mentioned, you're combining scallops, chicken, lemon, wild mushrooms, rosemary and demiglace on one plate. I can't imagine how all this would go with ratatouille, although rice would be OK. I'm a light eater and usually find the typical sides boring, so I'd probably leave it anyway. I'd prefer a salad or pay less for less food. (I'd also pay more for higher quality food.)

With the popularity of low-carb diets today, more people are likely to leave the starch. That said, I believe mentioning buttermilk mashed potatoes is still a sure way to make a plate sell in America. It all depends on the quality of the sides.

Portion sizes in American restaurants have gotten out of control. The faster we get rid of the knee-jerk formula that a main course must be accompanied by a random starch and side veg, the better. That kind of service makes me feel like I'm eating in a school cafeteria.

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Lou,

Would the Option B sides be served on a separate dish? I have a tendency to forget about my sides, even if I have ordered them, if they are not plated along with my entree. I also don't like the extra dishes smooshed on the table if the sides are separate.

I don't know that I would be insulted or annoyed if the sides weren't finished, but I would be if the main was left behind.

I'd say, after all this rambling, that I would probably prefer option A.

It's also great of you to think to ask; shows that you care about your customers! Too bad I live in Southern NJ, and don't venture too far up north all that often to visit your place!

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Hi Lou -

I would definiately vote for option a. You don't want to devolve into Buddy Hackett's Chinese restaurant where the guests are choosing 1 from Column A and 2 from Column B. You have a vision of what your dish should be and I think you should stick to it.

Let us know what you decide


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Why not give the customer the choice. Let them choose between an entree at $15 or with side dishes at $17. It would be nice to have the choice. That way, if you are hungry that day - you can choose to order with the sides. If you are not hungry- then don't order them. Also, if you don't like the side dishes that day - dont' order them. If you do like them - then order them. It would make me feel that I have more to say about what I'm getting and what I'm paying for.


Susan

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I'm not too picky and I'd probably like my entree with the sides. In fact, sometimes I will order an entree based on what sides it comes with. However, my husband (for better or worse) is somewhat picky and would not eat ratatouille if his life depended on it.

So while I'm sure your side dishes are delicious, there are people in this world like my husband.


Edited by Cleo (log)

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I'd describe an "Atkins" or similar alternative and allow the customer to delete the carbo sides altogether.

Some restos have a heart symbol which offers a different treatment (broiled instead of deep fried) and other sides (shredded greens instead of onion rings).


Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Why not give the customer the choice.  Let them choose between an entree at $15 or with side dishes at $17. 

This was my initial thought, as well. The only thing I wondered was if Lou was asking so he could properly buy ingredients for and prepare the right amount of sides (if they are included in the dish, he can estimate quanties better than if left optional.)


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Add my vote to those in favor of option B, though I of course have no problem with dishes that are created to integrate protein and vegetable. The standard "comes with rice and vegetable" though always seems like a tack-on to me, and rarely something I'm interested in.


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-- Albert Ellis

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Lou

seared foi gras would be a wonderful addition on the new menu (hint hint)....oh yeah the question one thing you could try is noting the option to guests that they could have the ?? and ?? from the seared bass with their chicken instead...

Gazelle in Ridgewood does this, they also offer an option to have just sides from a list to build your own vegetarian plate. Because I will sometimes forego what I really wanted for an entree if it comes with something yucky :raz:, but it is a way to get me to try new things also ....as I found out last time we visited you....

tracey


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At my restaurant, two sides are included with every entree from a list that includes baked potato, French fries, rice pilaf, cole slaw, potato salad, Pepper hash, pickled beets, stewed tomatoes and veg du jour. If a patron doesn't want the sides we have a "- two veg" button that deducts (I think) $1.50 from the check.

It isn't printed on the menu (and I'm not one for encouraging patrons to make an end run around the kitchen or the restaurant's menu, or God forbid, find new ways to be cheap), but for those that ask, we're happy to do it.

Perhaps this is an alternative you could offer and have the servers tell those customers that seem concerned about portion sizes. You can always tell when the skinny little old blue hairs with the hummingbird metabolisms start by asking "How many shrimp come with this entree..." :rolleyes:


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I would prefer Option A, assuming that portions are moderately sized. I like a balanced meal. If there's a sauce, I like a bit of rice, or something complementary, to sop it up.

I sometimes fall victim to the eyes-bigger-than-stomach syndrome, & if I order an appetizer, often cannot finish the entree + sides if they prove to be oversized, & therefore tend to leave some of the sides.

This makes me wonder if a high % of your guests who leave the sides have ordered appetizers.


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In fact, sometimes I will order an entree based on what sides it comes with.  However, my husband (for better or worse) is somewhat picky and would not eat ratatouille if his life depended on it.

So while I'm sure your side dishes are delicious, there are people in this world like my husband.

You are not alone on this. I've often picked a dish because I was intrigued by the sides.

Lou, I think what you may have prioritize. Are you more profitable including the sides with the entrees at the higher fee? Is the artistry of the dish more important? Some people will enjoy the sides, others will not, and it may not even matter what the side dishes are. Some people never eat the sides or just peck at them, and no disrespect to the chef is intended.

With that in mind, I think you have to consider the bottom line.


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Lou

How about letting the patron pick from a selection of sides.

ie(steamed veggies, mash potatoes,french fries, garlic string beans, coleslaw,white rice,brown rice)

i know that some sides might not go with the dish you are preparing but it might

make the customer happier. this way they can choose the side they like.

tom

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Lou, has it occured to you that your customers may actually enjoy wasting food? I think, for some people (not me) waste is a sign of status. It could also be people trying to be restrained or even just trying to look restrained in order to impress someone else (a first date, for example).

I think if you going to get insulted/bent out of shape by uneaten food, you're setting yourself up for dissappointment. Get over it ;) You can lead a horse to water...


Edited by scott123 (log)

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I don't like when its the generic" veg of the day", because it often doesn't go at all with the wine, or the rest of the meal. I prefer each entree to have protein, starch and veg, incorporated into the plate, and listed as a composed selection. the example given upthread was good: that chicken scallop dish would not compliment the ratatouille...it needs a simple sautee or steamed vegetable.

I'd switch the menu over to fully composed entrees, get rid of the list of "sides" choices, and just keep fries and baked potatoes in house for your old timers. I think American grill has the level of customer base that would apprecaite this. Your ratatouille might be great, but I am not eating it with a fish with a citrus sauce, for example. As for pricing these composed dishes , I'd make it commensurate with the markup you are using now.


Edited by Kim WB (log)

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I don't like when its the generic" veg of the day", because it often doesn't go at all with the wine, or the rest of the meal. I prefer each entree to have protein, starch and veg, incorporated into the plate, and listed as a composed selection.

This is what I was getting at in my post above when I mentioned that I sometimes order an entree based on the sides. Even if I don't necessarily want the chicken, I might order it because it comes with something like, I don't know, polenta and roasted brussels sprouts, which I love. But if the steak came with the polenta and brussels sprouts, I might order the steak.

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Lou--how timely! I'm just catching up on yesterday's food chat in the Washington Post, and read this:

Sides Lover, DC: I went to a (disclosed) fairly upscale restaurant in Northwest last weekend, and to my surprise, there were no side items listed with the entrees. Not even an "All items served with x, y and z" or a separate a la carte side menu. I ended up asking what my top entree choices came with, and it was something different for every meal!; By not posting the sides on the menu, is the restaurant trying to add an air of arrogance or fanciness? Is this a trend with more upscale restaurants? I felt sorry for the servers - it was a lot for them to remember. Very curious - thanks, Tom!;

Tom Sietsema: I'd love to know where you supped. Not listing sides is not good business. Often, I'm the kind of guy who picks his entree based on what its accessories are.


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Lreda, what a great way to spark convo - eG'ers love a forum....

Lately, we've been phasing out a main course. Do you offer half sized portions?With apps and small plates stealing the show lately, we're taking a break from entrees. After menus offering an app, a side, and then a main course, saving room for sweets, we opt to not stuff ourselves.

Am I alone here, does anyone else like to taste witout commiting to an entree?

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I love to taste different items, but it doesn't sound like The Grill is that type of restaurant.

To your question; I would prefer just the entree with the option of ordering sides. When a dish comes with "plain sides" as you described and I know I'm not going to eat them, I feel I am being overcharged. Sometimes I might ask if there is a deduction for leaving the side off, but I usually don't remember to do that.

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lou-

have been thinking about this quite seriously. your portions are more than generous and usually when we eat lunch we take something with us or - if johnnybird does his usual and orders clam chowder and crabcakes - he will eat the crabcakes and leave the salad/veg/starch.

option a is the one i would prefer. yes you offer some wiggle room but remember the sides are where you have the least loss. i was raised by parents/grandparents who did not believe in leaving any food on the plate but i have found that if the portions are appropriatly sized for people who are more conscious of how much they eat nothing is wasted. now you see why we never order desset - there is no room. course i would love to know how rosie and lowell manage 3 desserts between them and stay so thin. genetics i guess <sigh>

then you get people like my friend - your coffee server- michelle whose husband doesn't eat all day and then wants to know if the portions are "generous". remember someone like this will eat a 20 oz steak and baked potato - don't bother with anything green, thank you.


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LOL

"now you see why we never order desset - there is no room. course i would love to know how rosie and lowell manage 3 desserts between them and stay so thin. genetics i guess"

Rosie goes on the treadmill daily and to yoga class 3-4 times a week. Lowell goes to the gym when he is not working. We also go on hikes when time permits in addition to the other exercise. Breakfast is a half piece of dry toast. Lunch is yogurt and fruit. It is a constant struggle to maintain more exercise than the calories that we eat. : )


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