Since the beginning of the pandemic, many restaurateurs have decided to put a “slimming diet” on their menu. The general increase in food prices and the lack of staff in the kitchen are forcing establishments to reduce their menus so much that some have even lost half of the dishes that appeared on them.
Posted at 5:00 am
Reducing the number of items, changing prices, replacing one protein with another: the menus have never been under the scrutiny of the owners, confirmed The press many of them.
“Due to the lack of staff, we have fewer people in the kitchen,” recalls Pierre Moreau, President and CEO of Restos Plaisirs (Crazy Pig, Sautéed Rabbit, Café du Monde). “By having fewer items on the menu, we can limit pre-meal mise en place, limit the learning curve of dishes in the kitchen, improve food freshness because you have more sales, and align menus with cost foods. »
At several of its facilities, all located in the Quebec region, the group has reduced menus by 25% to 40%. In some cases, Mr Moreau says, half the map has gone up in smoke.
If we had 10 starters we might only have 5. If we had 12 or 14 main courses we might only have 6 or 7.
Pierre Moreau, President and CEO of Restos Plaisirs
Another change to ensure stricter management, customers who sit down for dinner must strictly adhere to the lunch menu. They used to be able to go out and choose a dish from the general menu.
At Association Restoration Québec (ARQ), vice president of public and government affairs Martin Vézina points out that even family restaurants known for offering multi-page menus have had to do the practice. Upon review, major chains such as Pacini, St-Hubert, La Cage – Brasserie sportive and Normandin have been forced to remove items from their menus since the pandemic.
“A lot of work is being done to get the plate priced in line with prices without increasing the bill for customers too much,” explains Mr. Vézina, adding in the process that a tighter restriction would not does make the experience less interesting.
On the Plaza Saint-Hubert, Jean-François Girard, owner of the Bistro Beaufort, has to do a lot of juggling with his menu because the losses “hurt even more than before”.
I look at what is less popular. I removed the beef burger. People have the opportunity to eat it in other restaurants in the area.
Jean-François Girard, owner of the Beaufort Bistro
The restaurateur has also been serving lunch since Thursday. However, he had to revise his offer. “I had about fifteen dishes planned, finally I have five. Otherwise it costs too much. »
So the menus are combed through like never before. And the technology of downloading a QR code with your phone to see what dishes are on offer allows many restaurateurs to make quick changes without having to reprint a cardboard card.
“There was a time when menus were more automated. We have adjusted the menu twice a year, says Pierre Moreau. We focus on summer dishes. They were eventually removed. Now it’s a living card. If at any point the chef tells us that matane shrimp are in short supply, we remove the shrimp roll. »
In his opinion, reduced menus that adapt to the offer can be advantageous for customers who have a guarantee of freshness and who are served dishes that are highly mastered in the kitchen. “We ensure the freshness of the product and also ensure the consistent quality of the product. If at some point your cook always makes the same five, six, seven dishes, it’s like an athlete, he becomes very good, he masters it. »
A necessary evil
At Pacini, Pierre-Marc Tremblay, owner and chairman of the board, sees things differently. According to his own statements, he did not take the decision to cut 20% of his dishes from his menu at the beginning of the pandemic lightly. “I did it to get out of there,” he says.
And until the workforce is back in the kitchen, he has to resign himself to keeping it that way, but insists it won’t be reduced any further.
Mr. Tremblay sees no value in presenting shorter menus at chains like Pacini. When things return to normal, the cards from the group’s facilities will regain the weight they lost, he assures.
“Compared to people who visit small independent restaurants, the chain customer expects a more complete menu,” he says. The restaurateur’s role is to satisfy the customer so that they have a great experience. You can’t reduce the menu under the pretense of productivity. You can help yourself a little by removing similar items. But once you move on, it’s your soul that you lose. »
“The customer wants something new, they want to see us evolving, they want to feel like we’re still taking care of them,” he adds. If we don’t, we are in danger. »