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Published 11.09.2016

The Tasting Menu Takeover – Here’s What You Need to Know

These days, many restaurants are doing away with traditional a la carte menus or offering limited versions of traditional menus—all to make way for tasting menus.1 Tasting menus—which offer a set number of plates and order of courses for a fixed price, have become quite popular for an array of reasons. Not only do they allow chefs to creatively express themselves, but they also provide customers with a unique dining experience.1

Tasting menus can also be financially beneficial. Often large a la carte menus can result in food waste, whereas tasting menus allow chefs to better plan on what to spend on ingredients, since they will have a better idea of the quantity they will need for each service.2

Interested in creating your own tasting menu? Here are some of the key factors you need to consider if you want to launch a successful tasting menu.

The Planning

Developing a tasting menu takes research and a lot of preparation. First, you need to understand your customers and how adventurous they are. Next, think about the theme of the menu, what will tie each course together? It needs to have a harmonious flow. This can be anything from a technique such as fermentation or something more abstract like dishes that evoke your favorite summer vacations. Use high-quality ingredients like seasonal produce or organic proteins and remember to adjust seasoning based on the smaller portion sizes.

The Menu

Next it’s time to think about what you want to serve and how many courses you’ll want to feature. This will determine portion size and flow of the menu. By the time your guests finish the meal, they should feel full, not force-fed and certainly not still hungry. When it comes to the flow of the meal, think about the story you are trying to tell and how each course works with the following one. As a rule, serve light, bright dishes near the beginning and end of the experience, heavier and richer things toward the middle.3

Once you’ve identified the food you are serving, you’ll want to establish what beverages pair best with each course. While wine is traditional, many restaurants are also offering beer4 and even cocktail5 pairings to compliment their menu. Beverage pairings offer great ways to boost check averages.

The Service

Now that the menu is set, it’s time to talk service. When it comes to a tasting experience, the service is just as important as the food. Your staff should know all the details of the menu – the ingredients, the preparation and even the inspiration behind each course. And it is essential for your staff to ask about any dietary restrictions or allergies as soon as the guests are seated. If possible, ask this question during the reservation process to avoid last minute menu edits.

Full table participation is ideal–benefitting everyone from the chef to the patron. This helps the kitchen operate more efficiently, and helps create a more consistent top-quality product and allows the diners to eat in sequence.4 Plus, it adds to the experience. Often customers don’t know what the next course will be. When it arrives, the server provides a detailed description of the dish and everyone at the table can enjoy it together.

Using these steps as a guideline, you can create an immersive one-of-a-kind dining experience for your guests. While a successful tasting menu takes a lot of preparation, it can be well worth it. Many guests often share their experience in real time on social media and tell friends about it. With some careful planning, you can elevate your guests experience and help increase your bottom line. 

1 MarketPlace, “Tasting Tables are Taking Over at Restaurants,” 4/19/16

2 Foodable, “Chefs Chime in on: Tasting Menus,” 4/23/16

3 ChefSteps, “Tasting Menu: Spring,” 2016

4 Toast, “How to Launch Perfect Food & Wine Pairings at Your Restaurant,” 8/6/16

5 BevSpot, “2016 Beverage Industry Trends you Need to Know,” 1/5/16


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