How to Develop and Serve an Epic Tasting Menu in Your Restaurant
If you’re looking to elevate your restaurant’s dining experience, attract more customers, and showcase your best signature dishes, then a tasting menu might be the right move for you.
So, let’s start with the basics: what is a tasting menu?
A tasting menu, otherwise known as a degustation menu, comprises several small-sized dishes served as separate courses. Some restaurants offer up to 20 courses, usually spread out over several hours.
Tasting menus are an exercise in creativity, offering chefs a chance to shine and tap into their expertise and imagination. A lot of focus and effort needs to go into every dish — and it’s not enough to just highlight your finest culinary art. You also need to pay attention to the presentation, service, pace, and ambiance.
Why should your restaurant have a tasting menu?
Adding a tasting menu to your restaurant’s business plans is a worthy investment that can really pay off if executed properly. The main benefits of having a tasting menu include:
- Having a testing ground for new menu items
Tasting menus can be a great opportunity to test new dishes before officially adding them to the menu. Based on the feedback you receive from your guests, you can decide whether you should introduce a specific item or keep improving on it until it’s worthy of a spot on your menu.
- Getting creative with smaller portions
There’s something about smaller portion sizes that really sparks a chef’s talent and creativity. Innovative flavor and color combinations, plating styles, and other aspects may get lost in a normal-sized dish, but no talent is wasted with bite-sized food.
- Promoting your best signature dishes
A tasting menu is excellent for highlighting the best your restaurant has to offer. Normally, your guests only get to experience one or two items off your menu during their visit, but with a tasting menu, you can show them the best you’ve got, all in one sitting.
- Attracting new customers and gaining recognition
Tasting menus are powerful tools for drawing in new customers looking for a unique dining experience. Many customers actually book tasting menus for special occasions, like birthdays or anniversaries.
Creating a tasting menu can be a great way to gain recognition, as some people travel long distances to sample menus and experience the best a restaurant has to offer. If any of these guests are social media enthusiasts, you might end up with tons of followers – online and in your restaurant – overnight.
- Creating a feeling of exclusivity
People enjoy good food, friendly service, and reasonable prices. But perhaps more than that, they love exclusivity. A tasting menu has the potential to create this feeling of exclusivity, where customers feel like they are getting a special experience that is not accessible to everyone.
- Reducing food waste and saving money
With smaller portions comes the added benefit of reducing food waste. Tasting menus allow you to estimate and control the exact amount of ingredients you need and adjust your orders accordingly. You can save money and say goodbye to the risk of over-ordering and being forced to throw food out.
How to create & serve the perfect tasting menu
Designing a successful tasting menu is a team effort that requires focus, dedication, and knowledge. Here are some of the best practices you should keep in mind as you build your next tasting menu:
- Showcase your chefs’ culinary skills
Tasting menus are meant to be creative and different. They are an opportunity to highlight your chefs’ expertise in the kitchen and allow them to experiment with flavor, form, and presentation. Therefore, it’s best to let their creativity shine as they craft unique dishes for your guests.
- Add a theme or story to your tasting menu
People like a good story — and tasting menus are no exception. Whether you focus on a particular cuisine or seasonal flavors, it’s best to let each course in your tasting menu tell a story. This will create a cohesive experience for your guests, sparking their curiosity and interest in the food being served.
- Choose a centerpiece
Just like in art, your tasting menu should have a centerpiece – the main item that represents the primary focus of the dining experience. Choose a signature dish that best reflects your restaurant’s identity and fits in with the story you’re trying to tell through your tasting menu.
- Create a complete, cohesive experience
A successful tasting menu is not all about the food. The courses you serve should blend in with the ambiance of your restaurant, including special music and décor. All of these contribute to the feeling of exclusivity we mentioned earlier.
- Mind the plating
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but the truth is appearances and first impressions matter. So, don’t forget about the presentation of your tasting menu courses! To showcase their special appearance, food should be placed on plain, white plates, so all the focus is on the culinary art.
- Find the right pace for your courses
To create a seamless dining experience, the courses should be served at an appropriate pace that leaves just enough time for guests to enjoy the food but not get too bored or impatient while waiting for the next course to come out.
- Include palate cleansers
Your tasting menu may include a lot of courses. For your guests, that translates to a lot of different flavors. To that end, include palate cleaners, such as sparkling water, tea, celery sticks, or champagne, to help your customers get rid of any aftertastes that might prevent them from properly enjoying each dish.
Tasting menus offer an excellent chance to engage your existing customers and attract new ones by creating a sense of exclusivity and highlighting the best food and experience your restaurant has to offer. They’re also a great way to break the routine, experiment with new flavors and presentation styles, and find inspiration for new menu items.
If you’re looking for a reliable food supplier in NYC, Connecticut, or New Jersey to power your next tasting menu, Riviera Produce can definitely help! Browse our growing selection of farm-fresh produce, groceries, and kitchen essentials, and place your wholesale orders today for a quick delivery.