As you ring in the New Year, make a resolution to give your restaurant menu a makeover. Even if the dishes you offer haven’t changed, the language used to describe them could be negatively affecting your business. In my experience editing hundreds of restaurant menus per month, there are 10 terms I’ve often spotted on menus that can be misleading, off putting or confusing. By substituting these words with the bolded improvements below, your menu can be more alluring to diners and may increase restaurant sales for a profitable 2014.
Gordon Ramsay isn’t the only one who can taste the difference between a dish made from scratch and frozen kitchen nightmare. It’s better to say a dish is “made to order” or “prepared daily.”
This word is only accurate if you live in your restaurant or you brought the food in from your house. Diners generally assume the food on your menu was made in your restaurant’s kitchen. Draw attention to items not always made in restaurants, like sauces or infused liquors, by using the phrase “made in house.”
With this term being tossed around so much lately to please nature lovers, we’re wary of its use. Establish credibility by using the terms “certified organic” and “pesticide-free,” when appropriate and accurate. Also be aware of the difference between “organic,” which must meet USDA requirements, and “grass-fed” or “free-range,” which are less regulated labels. Be sure you talk to your suppliers to really understand the origin of the food before labeling it to ensure accuracy.
The word “local” doesn’t give a clear definition of where something is from—it could mean nearby or just from the same country! Name the specific farm or producer if it’s well known, or at least pinpoint the area of origin.
A “Chef’s Specials” menu section implies that everything else on the menu is boring and not worthy of purchase. Instead, use terms like “featured” or “signature” in the dish description and put these items into a more suitable entree category. The only exceptions are for temporary menu items (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal specials).
Most of us know nachos and stuffed-crust pizza aren’t authentic regional fare. If your cuisine is focused on a specific regional style, describe your kitchen’s inspiration in a blurb on your menu cover. To prove your dishes are rooted in years of family traditions, share your history with your diners. Family photos make great menu eye candy and build trust in your culinary authority.
Unless you’ve received awards from a variety of acclaimed foodie authorities, it’s best to leave out the boasting and not set outrageous expectations. It’s your “signature” menu item—let the diners make it famous by spreading the word about your food.
8. STEAMING PILE, HEAP, OOZE, MOIST
These terms can also serve to describe unappetizing images and can put a major damper on your business by sending diners straight for the door rather than for their wallets. Swap these less savory words in favor of more appealing “hearty” portions and “juicy” flavors.
9. COOKED TO PERFECTION, SINFULLY DELICIOUS
Clichés bring on groans rather than stomach growls. Instead, give more effective descriptions of flavors and ingredients. Say what makes your cheeseburger better than your competition’s. Detailed descriptions also won’t leave diners disappointingly picking at their plate to remove unexpected bits of cilantro or mushrooms.
10. ENTREE’S, ENTRIES, ENTRES
Spell check won’t catch every typo, so proof reading is essential before putting the final stamp of approval on your new menu. Take a red pen over it several times, and have your staff review it since different eyes might spot an error previously missed. It seems like an obvious no-no, but you’d be surprised how many menu misspellings I see every week!
Contact Rewards Network today to learn all the ways we can help to increase restaurant sales.