Palate Pleasures – A few of our favourite things

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There is no such thing as a formula for success. All we can do is to strive to get things right by putting in as much effort as we can, choosing the right people to help us – and not spend way too much money in the process.

Beyond this, what works and what doesn’t is usually trial and error. Human beings are fickle creatures, and what you think may please them, may very well not – and vice versa.

Sometimes we are shocked by what hits the right note and other times, just when we think we’ve nailed it, we find that our seemingly bright idea turned out to be a dismal flop …

The above words are exceedingly accurate when it comes to restaurant menus. A chef is always striving to create dishes that dazzle. And even more importantly – dishes that fly out the door, and don’t cost an arm and a leg to make.

A menu is a constantly evolving entity – a work in progress. A great menu is one that is happy to embrace change, but also honours tradition.

It would certainly seem that it might be almost blasphemous to do away with certain dishes. The phenomenon of the ‘signature dish’ has come to mean that a restaurant is often known by its winning menu items, more than anything else. To be seated in such a place, breathlessly waiting for the very meal that you have been fantasising about all day, only to be informed that it has sold out, results in much angst.

Often, regular customers keep returning solely for their favourite foodstuff. It is certainly not unusual to realise that the disappearance of certain patrons can be accurately linked to the removal of their favourite meal from the menu.

Indeed, customers can often become much more loyal to a certain coveted meal, than they are, in fact, to the actual restaurant itself. Remove the item, and you effectively remove the customer.

It is often an agonising process, the evolution of a menu. What to cull … what to keep. Which new creation cuts the mustard. Some of the decision is based on external factors such as the seasonal availability of certain ingredients, cost rises or supplier issues. But the majority of the process rests on attaining balance, variation and most importantly YUM and WOW factor.

You won’t equally please those customers who like things to stay the same … and those who like a change.

Me personally, I like balance. Old favourites are just that – favourites! But there is such a fine line between removing those magical, awe-inspiring drawcard dishes and inciting mayhem within your business …

At the end of the day, you simply just don’t want to cause a mass exodus of loyal regulars by taking away their heart’s desire.

So, the question is, how do you keep a menu looking fresh and enticing, while retaining the big sellers and pleasing the masses?

The answer is – well, I wish it was that simple. Unfortunately, there is no formula for menu perfection. Human beings are fickle creatures at the best of times, and the age old maxim that you can’t please everyone applies here.

But for those humans who stick to their routines and habits, sticking closely to the familiar and being slightly horrified at the idea of change – I say to you, don’t get rattled by the disappearance of your favourite dish. Chances are if you absolutely, passionately loved something that was made for you once, you may very well enjoy something else as much – if not more.

Life is an adventure …

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