Monday, November 16, 2009

Rant: How Big is Too Big?

Can a restaurant menu be too big? Can there be so many options on a menu that it overwhelms the diner? What is the optimal size for a menu?

Most of us have probably been to a restaurant that has a very lengthy menu, with dozens upon dozens of choices. As you flip through page after page, it can be difficult to decide on what to eat. There is a sensory overload, a flood of options which can paralyze your decision. I don't think all of those selections are necessary, and may even hurt the restaurant.

I prefer a smaller menu, with lesser choices. But then I would also have the expectation that the restaurant, with less menu choices, would be better able to produce quality food. The kitchen would be able to specialize more, hopefully leading to better quality. They would not have to produce such a wide variety of items, with a greater chance for mistakes.

I can't believe that a restaurant with a lengthy menu actually sells lots of each listed dish. There are probably items that don't get ordered for weeks on end, if at all. So why keep those dishes on the menu? If the restaurant stocks the ingredients for those neglected dishes, do the ingredients go bad before the dish is ordered? It would seem more economical to have a smaller menu, and thus a smaller amount of ingredients, and less chance the ingredients get stale or something.

So what is your opinion on big menus?


The Wine Whore said...

I'm with you on this one... I'd rather a restaurant had one dish on their menu that always rocked than having 400 choices that utterly suck!

I'm curious to hear the other side...


Benjamin Serven, Foodie said...

I would totally agree with you.

One of my favorite resteraunts is called In'n Out Burger. They only have locations on the left coast, and they have the best food.

Their menu:


But, there is an insider menu, of some special options you can get for just a few cents extra... Keep up the posting!

adele said...

It depends on the restaurant. I expect a long menu at a 24-hour diner, but not at an upscale restaurant.

Rob Bralow said...

I definitely feel that the larger the menu, the more mediocre the food is likely to be. And if there are only 4 things on the menu, the one I choose had better be absolutely delicious or I will never come back.

And I agree with Adele, a diner should be able to serve anything at a passable level. An upper echelon establishment should be more focused.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks everyone for your comments, and glad to see I am not the only one who does not care for lengthy menus at upscale restaurants. No one stepped forward though to defend the practice of big menus.