Since the start of the pandemic, many restaurateurs have decided to impose a “slimming diet” on their menu. The general increase in the cost of food and the lack of employees in the kitchen are forcing establishments to reduce their menus, so much so that some have even lost half of the dishes that appeared on them.
Posted at 5:00 am
Reduction in the number of items, price changes, substitution of one protein for another: the menus have never been so much under the magnifying glass of the owners, confirmed to Press many of them.
“We have fewer people in the kitchen with labor shortages,” recalls Pierre Moreau, president and CEO of Restos Plaisirs (Crazy Pork, Sautéed Rabbit, Café du monde). “Having fewer items on the menu allows us to limit mise en place before meals, limit the learning curve of dishes in the kitchen, improve food freshness because you have more rotation, and adjust menus according to cost. of the food”. food. »
In several of its establishments, all of them located in the Quebec region, the group has reduced its menus between 25% and 40%. In some cases, Mr. Moreau says, half the card has gone up in smoke.
If we had 10 starters, we could only have 5. If we had 12 or 14 mains, we could only have 6 or 7.
Pierre Moreau, President and CEO of Restos Plaisirs
Another change, to ensure stricter management, customers seated at dinner must strictly adhere to the lunch menu. Previously, they could go out and choose a dish from the general menu.
At the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), Martin Vézina, vice president of Government and Public Affairs, points out that even family restaurants, known for offering multi-page menus, should do the exercise. Following verification, major chains such as Pacini, St-Hubert, La Cage –Brasserie sportive and Normandin have been forced since the pandemic to remove items from their menus.
“A lot of work is being done to arrive at a cost of the dish that is consistent with the prices, without increasing the bill too much for customers,” explains Mr. Vézina, who adds in the process that a more restricted does not make the experience as less interesting.
In Place Saint-Hubert, Jean-François Girard, owner of the Beaufort Bistro, also has to juggle his menu a lot because 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 around.
Jean-François Girard, owner of the Beaufort Bistro
From Thursday, the restaurant also serves lunch. However, he had to review his offer. “I had about fifteen dishes planned, finally I have five. Otherwise it costs too much. »
So menus are revised like never before. And it is that the technology of downloading a QR code with the mobile to consult the offer of dishes allows many restaurateurs to make quick changes without having to reprint a cardboard menu.
“There was a time when menus were more automatic. We adjust the menu twice a year, says Pierre Moreau. We put summer dishes. They were removed at some point. It is now a living letter. If at any time the chef tells us that there is a shortage of Matane prawns, we withdraw the prawn roll. »
According to him, the reduced menus that are adjusted according to the offer can be advantageous for customers who have a guarantee of freshness and who serve dishes with great mastery in the kitchen. “We ensure product freshness and we also ensure consistency in product quality. When your cook always makes the same five, six, seven dishes, at some point he is like an athlete, he becomes very good, he masters it. »
A necessary evil
At Pacini, Pierre-Marc Tremblay, owner and chairman of the board, doesn’t see it the same way. By his own admission, it was not with joy that he made the decision to remove 20% of his dishes from his menu at the start of the pandemic. “I did it to get out of it,” he says.
And until the workforce returns to the kitchen, he will have to resign himself to leaving it that way, but he insists that it will not shrink any further.
Mr. Tremblay sees no added value in presenting shorter menus at chains like Pacini. When things return to normal, the cards of the group’s establishments will recover the lost weight, he assures him.
“Compared to people who frequent small independent restaurants, the chain customer expects a more complete menu,” he says. The role of the restaurateur is to please the customer so that he can have a great experience. You can’t shrink the menu under the guise of productivity. You can help yourself a bit by removing items that are similar. But as soon as you go further, it is your soul that you lose. »
“The client wants something new, they want to see that we continue to develop, they want to feel that we continue to take care of them,” he adds. If we don’t do that, we are in danger. »