Restaurant Briefing: Prix-Fixe and Tasting Menus
Perhaps the most exciting meals consumers can order in full-service restaurants are so-called prix-fixe or fixed-price meals offering a variety of complementary courses, sometimes including seasonal and exclusive items and often accompanied by wines (or beers or spirits) selected by the chef. A step beyond prix-fixe menus are tasting menus, which offer small servings of as many as nine or 10 courses, allowing diners to sample a wide variety of menu items over the course of a leisurely evening. These types of menus are traditionally associated with fine-dining establishments, but in recent years, annual “Restaurant Week” promotions in many cities have prompted a range of full-service eateries to offer prix-fixe or tasting-menu specials.
More than half of respondents say they have ordered a prix-fixe or tasting meal at least once. And among those who haven’t yet tried this sort of meal, six out of 10 say they’d be interested in doing so.
These meals are expensive, but not outrageously so. Consumers report that they paid (or typically pay) an average price of $43.40 per person for the meal. However, the median price (the level at which half paid more, half paid less) was only $25, indicating that the average or mean was distorted by the few who ordered very posh meals. (The average price paid by those under 45 was close to $50, suggesting that younger consumers are typically ordering more expensive versions of these special meals.)
THE APPEAL OF SPECIAL MENUS
Meals from the prix-fixe or tasting menu may not be cheap, but consumers who have ordered them feel that they are a good value for the many courses offered. Some say they like the idea that the price is set in advance, so diners don’t have to calculate what they can afford and are never surprised when the bill comes. A big part of the value of a meal from the prix-fixe or tasting menu, according to many consumers, is the fact that this type of meal is a great way to celebrate a special occasion.
Beyond being attracted by the value of these special meals, many consumers find great interest in the food itself; a quarter say they choose from the prix-fixe or tasting menu in part because they enjoy learning about new menu items, and almost as many say they appreciate the chance to sample seasonal foods or those that may not be available as part of ordinary meals.
The educational aspect of prix-fixe and tasting menus is important to those who order them. In fact, 85% of those who have sampled these types of menus agree completely or somewhat that the experience taught them something new about food or menus.
EXPANDING THE APPEAL
One-sixth of consumers polled reported that they have never ordered from a prix-fixe or tasting menu and are not interested in doing so. We asked these consumers why these special menus are unappealing to them. Two-thirds said they believed such meals would be too expensive. Many said they prefer to put together their meal and beverage pairings from the regular menu, or that they would opt for more familiar foods. About a third believe that prix-fixe and tasting menus simply involve too much food.
It appears that many of these non-users, however, could be tempted to try a prix-fixe or tasting menu if meals were offered featuring lower prices, smaller meals and a wider variety of options. Others said that having more information about the items on the prix-fixe or tasting menu might persuade them to try it.
Bottom line: Most diners either have experimented with ordering from a prix-fixe or tasting menu, or are interested in doing so. Many of those who have little interest in these types of specials could be won over by options that featured lower price points, less food, or a wider variety of options.
Source: Technomic, Inc.