Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Truths

Restaurant owners listen up!

I have a complaint and I bet I am not the only one. This is something that has bothered me for years and when it struck again recently at lunch, it was the proverbial final straw. I just can't take it any more and I want answers and action.

I want to see truth on restaurant menus. Is that too much to ask? No, it is not. So why can't I always find such truth?

The other day I was at P.F. Chang's China Bistro for lunch. I ordered the P.F. Chang's Fried Rice which states it is mixed with egg, soy sauce and sliced scallions. You also have a choice of beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. I chose the pork and assumed the rice would not have any other ingredients besides what was listed. Yet when the rice came, it had other ingredients, including bean sprouts and carrot slivers. And that upset me.

So why didn't the menu mention those other ingredients? Why did the menu only mention a few of the ingredients? Why did it mention those specific items? It seems almost deceptive to me, to provide only a partial list without mentioning that fact. It is not like all fried rice has carrots and bean sprout. But all fried rice uses soy sauce so why mention that fact?

If I order something, and there are ingredients listed, I want those ingredients to be complete and accurate. I don't want an unpleasant surprise when my food arrives. I don' t think that is too much to ask from a menu. I don't like bean sprouts in my fried rice and I was not pleased to see them when the menu description did not mention them.

This has happened plenty of times before, not just at this restaurant. For example, you might see a sandwich listed, with a partial listing of the fillings and condiments, yet they omit to mention a certain mayonnaise or mustard that is also on the sandwich. And you don't realize that until you bite into it. If you dislike mayo or mustard, that is going to displease you. Unfortunately, this happens too often.

You shouldn't have to ask the restaurant for a list of ingredients for every dish you order. If a menu chooses to list ingredients for a dish, they should mention them all and not just some of them. Let us see truth on menus.

Addendum 1/23/09: I did email the corporate office concerning my issue. It took about a week to receive a response. They apologized and stated that the descriptions on the menu were not intended to be ingredient list but more of a flavor profile. They also mentioned that they have recently introduced brand new menus, which were designed to "get the server involved in your dining experience." They also mentioned that you can always speak to your server about any allergens and they will do their best to accomodate.

To me, the menu does not clearly identify that the listed ingredients are only a "flavor profile." They give the appearance that they are a list of what is in the dish. I will check out the new menus and report back on what I think of them.

Addendum 3/7/09: I have now seen their new menu. Much of the menu is the same though it appears they have added some new dishes, including some grill entrees. Most of the changes seem more subtle. But I am happy to report that they did remove their partial list of ingredients on their fried rice. Now, that change certainly had nothing to do with my inquiry on the matter. The menu changes had already been completed. But I am glad to see them.


Jocelyn:McAuliflower said...

truth in menu descriptions is a huuuge peeve of mine too.

If a menu doesn't accurately reflect an item coming from the kitchen, customers expectations won't be met. And that's a bad thing.

Gotta add though- P.F. Chang's?? :)

Richard Auffrey said...


I like much of the food at PF Changs, despite it being a chain.

Lenn Thompson | said...

Richard: Did you say anything to your server or a manager about this?

It's easy to complain about something on a blog (lord knows I do it all the time) but to talk to someone who can do something about it or at least enlighten you is another thing altogether.

It IS odd to list some things but not others, but it seems a little picky to make such a big deal about it.

then again, if you were ALLERGIC to carrots, then it'd be a big issue, so perhaps you have a point here.

Richard Auffrey said...

I did not say anything at the time, though I have been considering emailing the company. As it is a chain, with similar menus across the country, it is likely out of the hands of each individual restaurant.

It might be picky if they were the only restaurant to do so, but I see the same thing over and over at numerous restaurants. And it is something that has bugged me for quite awhile. My recent experience just kind of sent me into rant mode.

And it could have been more serious if a person had an allergy. Though in this case they would have clearly seen the carrots.

Richard Auffrey said...

As an update: I did email the PF Changs corporate office and will await their response.