The case for small menus
by Priya Bala, Editorial Advisor, PoshVine
I am assisting a restaurateur and management pro who is writing a book on how to start and run your restaurant. He blogs on the subject and it’s widely read. I believe the book will be a success, too. He has some pet theories and they are based on sound research and analysis. One is that single product restaurants are probably more tuned to succeed than those offering an array of not entirely connected products. By single product one doesn’t, of course, mean one item, but a firmly focused range of choices that fall into one category. Obviously, many restaurants don’t buy into this, or we wouldn’t be seeing so many multi-cuisine eateries with 300-plus dishes on their menus.
Still, editing this chapter got me thinking. A small and focused menu achieves excellence more easily than an unwieldy one. For one thing, the inventories can be small and ingredients of a better quality. The kitchen can be smaller and more efficient, working on select specialities, rather than take a hit or miss approach to an unwieldy menu. I’m often aghast at restaurants that serve Chicken Kolhapuri, kadhai, Jaipuri, Afghani, masala, makhni, Chettinad and more. Do they really think we believe each of these is distinct? Often it’s a one-gravy-fits-all concept, with a garnish here and a swirl of cream there differentiating one from the other.
I would rather eat in a restaurant that does a few things and does them superbly. If it doesn’t have a small menu, then at least a restaurant that sticks to one signature style which it perfects. I like how the Biere Club has fine-tuned its finger food menu. And Aloro at Crowne Plaza sticks to a rustic-style Italian menu. This, by the way, is a restaurant you must visit, not complaining about the drive to Electronic City. Szechwan Court, the best Chinese restaurant in town, also has a lean menu, but serves up memorable meals.
I have been travelling recently. And in Oslo, there is Statholdergaarden with a Michelin star to its credit. Here, the chef draws up a daily menu determined by the fresh produce of the season and the day and that is what the diners experience. I do wish Bangalore diners wouldn’t keep making the jaded complaint ‘Not enough choice’ and give restaurants the chance to excel in a chosen specialty.