Crafting your restaurant/cafe's menu isn't an easy task. Not only do you have to think about what you want on it, how you want it to be designed, the descriptions, pricing, etc. With the everchanging consumer dining preferences, you've got a lot more to ponder about. We've selected the 4 main consumer dining trends that have surfaced over recent years that you should refer to when menu engineering.
#1 Allergen menus are increasingly common
It’s one to please your diners but another to be socially responsible for informing them of what they’re potentially eating. Allergen menus denoting everything from vegan options to gluten- and/or dairy-free options are no longer the exception but the norm. While it was a delight in the past that establishments flagged out the use of certain ingredients in their menus, it is now expected of them to do so. Likely questioned if they don’t.
Take a look at the especially-crafted menus from At The Heads, instead of only indicating the allergens or special dietary menus they’ve completely crafted a whole new section on their menu just for those:
#2 Menus reflecting healthier choices and alternatives
We’ve seen a huge shift in consumer preferences in the last decade or so. Known as the health-conscious bunch, not so much focused on dieting alone but also having a healthier lifestyle and food intake. The “healthier choice” is here to stay for long and rather than just as a fad or trend, it’s likely to be the new norm. This is also why restaurants/cafes need to know what healthier choices mean for their diners.
Providing healthy options means having a balanced and healthy mixture of lighter food options alongside menu items such as fried chicken or cream-based sauces. As such, introducing plant-based dishes, using lesser oil and spices for the same dish, and trying to maintain the health quotient in all of their dishes has to be the primary goal for any restaurant. Regardless of what type of establishment you run, to attract diners, you are now required to have interesting, delicious, and a variety of healthy options.
#3 Menus using ingredient transparency to highlight community involvement
Making it clearly known where your ingredients are sourced from and why you chose to use those ingredients in your dishes on your menu is a common and highly effective way to spotlight your restaurant’s role in the local community. Consumers these days demand more than just good food, they want to see how them making the decision to support your restaurant affects their environment.
Supporting local industries is a big thing for many people these days and if you’re a part of that community, it shows. For example, if you’re purchasing tomatoes from local farmers then they have an increased likelihood to develop a sense of pride while dining at your establishment and this encourages them to speak well of your restaurant to family and friends and even frequent your place as a regular.
#4 Menus including more functional ingredients
We’ve mentioned previously that consumers these days are very health conscious. Besides eating clean, eating healthy, having plant-based substitutes, and organic food, this group of diners actively searches for food items that provide functionality. Diners look for menu items that include attributes, for example, omega-3 fatty acids/DHA for heart health, brain health, and bone/joint health. Green tea for weight management, honey for immune support, and probiotics for digestive health.
Many restaurants and cafes are also currently offering alternatives for consumers to lower their carbohydrates while keeping the level of protein in their meal, using cauliflower as the base instead of grains, high protein seeds, etc. Even collagen can be found in hotpots for consumers looking for beauty boosters.
While you may not want to clutter your menu with too many descriptions, it’s also good to equip your staff with the knowledge on which menu items serve which purpose. Simply mentioning these benefits while recommending a certain dish to your consumers can in turn become a plus point for creating a personalized service for your diners.