Mainstream menus need to embrace diversity

by the Lynx Team

by the Lynx Team

Saving your business time and money today - and every day

catering and hospitality procurement

Mainstream menus need to embrace diversity

by the Lynx Team

by the Lynx Team

Saving your business time and money today - and every day

catering and hospitality procurement

The unexpected is probably the only thing you should always expect from the UK’s thriving eating out scene. News that the first ‘naked restaurant’ will open in London as a pop-up this summer hit the headlines recently.

The Bunyadi, named for the Hundi world meaning natural, will have no electric lights and mobile phones will be banned. The simply-cooked food will contain no chemicals or artificial colours, and diners will have the option to leave their clothes in the cloakroom to complete the back-to-basics feel.

While most mainstream operators will prefer their customers keep their clothes on, there’s no doubt that adding a touch of the ‘wow’ factor is increasingly important for restaurants and pubs, and an overhaul of the menu is often the most effective way to deliver this. Consumers have more choice than ever, including the choice to stay in and watch Netflix with a supermarket dining-in deal. Menus which offer more diversity in terms of the style of food on offer are one way to persuade customers to venture off the sofa and out for a meal.

Menu analysis by industry researcher Horizons shows how diverse the eating-out market has become. Horizons’ regular ‘Menurama’ survey, which looks at the type of dishes being served on branded menus right across the hotel, restaurant, pub and casual dining market, reports that “whilst British, Italian and American food are likely to remain the top three, consumer flavour demands are seeing more abstract and exciting flavours surging up the cuisine charts.”

Among the international food styles in the top 10 reported by the survey are Mexican, Spanish, Portugese and Mediterranean, which are moving up the rankings. These appear in the list alongside styles which are more established favourites with British diners, such as French, Chinese and Indian menus.

It’s understandable if some chefs feel intimidated at the prospect of expanding the range of menu styles, but it’s worth remembering that British diners have always enthusiastically taken to international influences. The hamburger, which came to us from Germany via America, is the number one most widely offered dish across the whole foodservice sector, while at number two is Italy’s culinary gift to the world, the pizza.

A strong part of the appeal of both burgers and pizzas is that they are infinitely adaptable by using different toppings and accompaniments. This means that they can be used to boost the diversity appeal of the menu to customers by allowing them to tailor their meal to their own preferences, while allowing operators to help manage both margins and stock control by using a relatively small number of core ingredients.

Extending this approach to broaden menu choice across a wide range of dishes needn’t be any more complicated than it is to offer a gourmet pizza or burger menu. For example:

  • Healthier options: As customers get beach ready for the summer, they’ll be looking for lighter and healthier choices on the menu. Alongside salads and fresh veg, consider offering choices such as cous-cous or spicy rice as an alternative to chips. This won’t hurt your profits, either, as a bag of rice can go an awfully long way.
  • Spice it up: British consumers’ palates continue to get hotter every year, with Horizons expecting this trend to continue on menus during 2016. South American-style grilled and barbecue meats with spicy sauces and marinades will be given a further boost by this summer’s Olympics in Rio, so don’t be afraid to break out the fresh chillies and piri-piri sauce in order to offer your bolder customers some more fiery options. Try serving a spicy dip with chips, adding chopped chilli as an option in a burger, and experiment with hotter dishes such as a chorizo and chilli pie on your specials board. Spicy food also has the advantage of encouraging customers to order chilled drinks to help quench the flames.

There are other advantages to keeping the menu diverse. Our most recent Market Forecast – which can be found here Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast Spring 2016  – highlights the challenges that can arise when a popular dish such as sea bass is being used so widely across menus that it affects supply.

To counter this, your butcher, fishmonger and fruit and veg supplier should all have an ear close to their markets, so talk to them at least weekly and ask where the best deals are to be found. If suppliers know that you’re willing to take their slower-selling lines and overstocked produce, you’ll find you get offered better deals and better value.

Varying the menu makes it more important than ever to keep tight control of costs. The newly redesigned Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, which is endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, enables chefs, caterers and restaurant managers to monitor margins in busy kitchens or when negotiating with suppliers, using a smartphone or tablet. To download the FREE App, go to:

For iPhones: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App for Apple iPhone and iPad

For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play

Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2200 businesses including hotels, pubs, restaurants, healthcare and education providers. Lynx offers access to the best prices in the market, with no fees or contracts. Lynx customers also benefit from detailed market insight, enabling them to plan menus more effectively.

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