Menus that lose weight

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 a.m.

Nathaelle Morissette

Nathaelle Morissette
The Press

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 The Press many of them.

“We have fewer people in the kitchen with the shortage of manpower,” recalls Pierre Moreau, president and CEO of Restos Plaisirs (Crazy pig, Sautéed rabbit, Café du monde). “Having fewer items on the menu allows us to limit mise en place before meals, to limit the learning curve of dishes in the kitchen, to improve the freshness of food because you have more turnover and to adjust the menus according to the cost of the food. »

In several of its establishments, all located in the Quebec region, the group has reduced its menus by 25% to 40%. In some cases, says Mr. Moreau, half of the card has gone up in smoke.


PHOTO ERICK LABBÉ, LE SOLEIL ARCHIVES

Pierre Moreau, President and CEO of Restos Plaisirs

If we had 10 starters, we might just have 5. If we had 12 or 14 main courses, we might just have 6 or 7.

Pierre Moreau, President and CEO of Restos Plaisirs

Another change, to ensure tighter management, customers who sit down at dinner time must stick strictly 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 public and governmental affairs, points out that even family restaurants, renowned for offering menus of several pages, had to do the exercise. After verification, major chains such as Pacini, St-Hubert, La Cage –Brasserie sportive and Normandin have all been forced since the pandemic to remove items from their menus.

“There is a lot of work being done to arrive at a cost of the plate that is consistent with the prices, without increasing the bill for customers too much,” explains Mr. Vézina, who adds in the process that a more restricted does not make the experience any less interesting.

On the Plaza Saint-Hubert, Jean-François Girard, owner of the Beaufort Bistro, also has to do many juggling acts 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 around.

Jean-François Girard, owner of the Beaufort Bistro

Since Thursday, the restaurant has also been serving lunches. However, he had to revise his offer. “I had planned about fifteen dishes, finally, I have five. Otherwise, it costs too much. »

“Living Cards”

So the menus are combed through like never before. And the technology of downloading a QR code with your phone to consult the offer of dishes allows many restaurateurs to make quick changes without having to reprint a cardboard menu.


PHOTO LUISA GONZALEZ, REUTERS ARCHIVES

Everywhere, menus accessible by QR code make the offer of dishes more flexible for restaurateurs.

“There was a time when menus were more automatic. We adjusted the menu twice a year, says Pierre Moreau. We put on summer dishes. They were removed at some point. Now it’s a living card. If, at some point, the chef tells us that there is a shortage of Matane shrimp, we remove the shrimp roll. »

According to him, reduced menus that adjust according to supplies 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 we also ensure consistency in the quality of the product. When your cook always makes the same five, six, seven dishes, at some point, 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 of directors, does not see it the same way. By his own admission, it was not with a light heart that he made the decision to cut 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 is back in the kitchen, he will have to resign himself to leaving it that way, but insists that it will not be reduced further.

Mr. Tremblay sees no added value in presenting shorter menus in chains like Pacini. When things return to normal, the cards of the establishments of the group will regain the lost weight, he assures.

“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 on the pretext of productivity. You can help yourself a little by removing items that are similar. But as soon as you go further, it’s your soul that you lose. »

“The client wants something new, he wants to see that we continue to develop, he wants to feel that we continue to take care of him, he adds. If we don’t do that, we’re in danger. »

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