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Food and Beverages 2018-03-26

The Art of Innovation in Menu Designing

Restaurants must design a menu that is enhanced with selections of scrumptious food items while being diverse on a plate.

By Sunaeyaa & ShwetaShweta's Table

When you go out to have dinner at a new restaurant with your family, the first impression about the place is derived by the ambience. But the first notion about the food one gets from the menu.  Are you going to be served the same plethora of dishes every highway ‘dhaba’ offers or are you in for some delectable dishes which will stimulate your taste buds? Menu designing is a professional service which is being regularly sought by hoteliers and restaurant owners, especially in the urban markets.

People today have diverse tastes. Exposure to global cuisines has lead to the urban populations having enriched palates. So, when such people decide to have a meal out at a restaurant, they do so in search of seeking a thrill of something exquisite. Menu designing thus is an essential service which can be the difference between the success and failure of an eatery. Because this kind of innovation is not just limited to money minting food places, but even at roadside stalls, where food items with names like – Maggi dosa, Chinese Idli, can stop you in your path and nudge you to explore the eccentricity.

Restaurants must design a menu that is enhanced with selections of scrumptious food items while being diverse on a plate, which means that numerous varieties of culinary practices need to be condensed into a single offering. Even if a restaurant offers food from a single cuisine, like a Punjabi Dhaba, if there is not a unique zing to your food, then people might as well eat at home.

To do so is not a herculean task, but requires creativity on the part of the menu designer. For example, a popular dish named Vada Pao, which is a deep-fried potato patty placed in between a bun has gone healthy! Now you can enjoy the same dish with baked potato patty between Vietnamese steamed bread called bao- Vada Bao! It is a minor readjustment but one which includes the health conscious people into the loop instead of keeping them at an arm’s rest. This type of innovation is necessary to keep customers hooked onto your brand.

But it is essential to note that such ideas don’t appear out of thin air. A menu designer needs to be well educated in different types of cuisines, their preparation methods, what goes well with what, the preferences of the target customer and lastly, a sound skill to think outside the box. So in  a stroke, one can not only reduce the guilt burden of a customer for indulging in Vada Pao but also introduce them to a foreign cuisine. 

Traditionalists who like to stay true to the authentic flavours do not appreciate much deviation. But it is a trend which is being observed  lesser in people who like to eat out. If nothing else, then urbanisation has given people with disposable income a huge glimpse  of international cuisines . But while people get excited to see a variety of cuisines on the menu, if it is not Indian enough, then what’s  the point?

Such demands have propelled the ‘fusion cuisine’ trend towards fame. The desi heart jumps when a foreign dish is offered on the menu with an Indian alteration. Who has not indulged in the notable McAloo Tikki burger of McDonald’s India? It is their highest selling burger and has even been introduced in McDonald restaurants outside India due to its immense popularity. The franchise decided to come up with a burger which can be afforded by a common man and must be Indian enough to suit the taste of our diverse population. So when India tasted McAloo Tikki burger, it fell in love.

At the same time, it is not enough to just create a huge list of fusion dishes and present it to the customer as some sort of desperate offering. It needs to be done intelligently to do justice to two or more distinctive flavors and come up with a crowd- puller.

It is also not just the palate which needs to be kept in mind while designing the menu, but the plate as well! The amount of portion which will be served is another essential decision which can add or deduct brownie points in your Zomato reviews. Many restaurants today offer medium-sized proportions which can be finished in one go by the customer. Another popular trend these days is to have small plates or tapas-style portions of different cuisines. So instead of sticking to just one particular dish, the customers can delight in exploring small food offerings from all around the world and different regions of India on a single platform.

It is a relatively unknown profession which raises many an eyebrow when explained, but its importance cannot be undermined. There is no shortage of eateries in the country today, particularly in an urban setting. This has set high expectations from the consumers, especially the food aficionados that boast of an educated palate and settle for nothing less than perfection. Menu designers are even sought after to create specialised menus for events such a theme parties, elite gatherings, wedding occasions, etc.

So in this highly competitive setting, if you are planning to try your luck in the food and hospitality business, menu designers can give you the edge to help you stand apart from the herd.

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