Mastering the Art of Menu Recommendations

Jun 17 2014

Staff Training Restaurant Management Server Performance

Make menu recommendations like talking with a friend

There is a right and a wrong way to do just about anything, including the art of menu recommendations. Make recommendations the right way and they can become excellent chances to build trust and credibility; do them poorly and you waste valuable opportunities.

What Do Menus and Movies Have In Common?

The next time you or your staff get asked about a recommendation for some food or drink item, don’t just volunteer an offhand remark. Think about a favorite movie. If a friend asked your opinion of the latest blockbuster, would you say, “It was good. Go see it”? No. You’d add more information – who starred in it, what it looked like, what it was about, where it was set, how awesome the special effects were, etc.

That’s a good way to describe a menu item: tell the story. Give a little preview. Get people interested, and they are more likely to try your item.

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Good and Bad Ways to Make a Menu Recommendation (the art of menu recommendations)

Imagine yourself as a server. Your customer asks, What do you like? What is the best thing I could order today?

Here is what not to say:

  • “Everything is good here!” Sure, you’re enthusiastic, but you’re also lazy. They haven’t been helped at all.
  • “I don’t know.” But you do care, right? Unless you’re a very new hire, this isn’t an acceptable response.
  • “I like the steak.” It’s an improvement, but your reply is a wasted chance. Why?
Here are some better options:
  • “I really like the steak. It’s dry-aged premium Kobe-style beef seasoned with…” Tell them what makes the recipe great – the special ingredients, the chef’s magic touch with red meat. Make them want it.
  • “The steak is awesome! It comes plated on a cobalt-blue square platter with red and blue potatoes, purple asparagus…” Describe it visually, which tells them what to expect and builds anticipation for a delicious meal.
  • “Do you prefer red meat or seafood? Right now we have seasonally-fresh salmon…” First, you’re engaging the customer, which is important. You’re also letting them know about the origins and limited availability of a special dish.

Paying attention to the art of the menu recommendations lets you interact with the customer in a whole new way. You get the chance to present yourself as an expert, and if your recommendation is successful, your guest may decide to order other things – like dessert – that they might have skipped. It’s a way to boost everything that the restaurant business thrives on:  sales, positive experiences, and strong relationships. And you can track average check, credit card tips and other metrics with software like Ctuit's RADAR. Monitor your progress and track your success with business intelligence software.

Rob D'Ambrosia

Rob D'Ambrosia

After recognizing that restaurant operators needed to leverage technology to serve their Business Intelligence requirements, Rob founded Ctuit Software in January 2000. From casual to fine dining concepts, Rob has experienced the full spectrum of front and back of house positions. He has installed POS systems and consulted for small and medium restaurant chains. Rob’s technology background is equally extensive having worked hands-on with computer systems and authoring both hospitality and IP telephony business applications.