Catering Menu Formats – Best Practice?

What’s happening in the world of hotel catering menu formats?

I’ve written about catering menus before. I’ve suggested that a catering menu is really not a menu, it’s a marketing tool. By that I mean that a catering menu’s most important function is to persuade a prospective client to book with the hotel. Describing food and beverage offerings is important, but secondary.Effandbee Grill Ventures Consulting

Not so at a restaurant, where the menu is first about the offerings themselves, and secondly about potential customers (e.g. posting a menu outside the restaurant or online).

Recently I examined online menus for five upscale hotels, each a different brand. I looked at several features.

DOWNLOADABLE PDF OPTION

This was possible 100% of the time, but it was easy only 60% of the time. It seems that the more features a hotel has for their online offerings, the more difficult it is to download a clean version of the menu. It may well be that the decision has been made that downloading a menu is no longer required as other means of sharing electronically are ubiquitous. I don’t know. Another approach would be a separately-configured matching PDF version for the online menu. A B&W optional version for the print-happy would be a nice touch, by the way.Effandbee Grill Ventures Consulting

FOOD & BEVERAGE PHOTOGRAPHS

100% are doing this. And why not. Thanks. To iStock.com and many others, affordable professional-quality food photography is available to all.

INTERACTIVE NAVIGATION

80% of the menus offered this. I can click “Receptions” and I’m taken there instantly. I think this is now an expectation. Especially since it doesn’t require much technical expertise – you can us hyperlink to add the feature to in a Word version of your menu, save it to PDF and it will carry over.

PLATED ENTRÉE FORMATS

60% are listing their plated entrees in bundled formats, an entrée is accompanied by side dishes, sometimes a dessert and appetizer, and there is a price attached to it. I recommend an À la carte format which gives the client more choices and gives you more options for upsell.Effandbee Grill Ventures Consulting

PRICES USING DOLLAR SIGNS AND CENTS

60% of the menus have prices with dollar signs, in spite of evidence that eliminating dollars signs increases sales. 60% of the menus show cents as in $0.00, although there is a school of thought that dropping cents gives a menu a more-upscale impression.

PAGES DEVOTED TO BEVERAGE

Beverage is generally more profitable than food and offers the catering director more opportunity to create excitement in the menu. The opportunity seems to be underutilized. One of the sample hotels uses 20% of its pages for beverage offerings – not bad. The others range from 9% to 15%. Total beverage pages ranged from 3 to 8.

MEANINGFUL FILE NAME

0% Take advantage of this, the easiest way to create a great first impression of your menu – give the file name an interesting marketing-based name that identifies you and sets you apart. I wrote about this in the aforementioned January 2010 post. “Banquet Menu.PDF” is not a good file name (“Banquet Menu 2010.PDF” is worse). Identify your hotel and add a phrase that distinguishes you, the Chef’s name or an adjective or two or a reference to your specialty.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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