You might think it's easy to define what a menu is, but there are actually far more types of menu than you know. Even worse, most of them have French names, so they can easily be confusing.
Whether you're just starting a restaurant or are looking to expand your offerings and increase restaurant sales, there's a menu for you. There are many fixed price and variable types at your disposal, so understanding the differences is key.
Read on to learn what menu means, the history behind it, and a few other helpful tips and tricks.
A menu is a list of dishes or drinks available for sale at a restaurant. The term itself is French in origin, but ultimately comes from the Latin root word minutus. Minutus means "something made small", so it can be inferred that menus were viewed as a way to take a large list of dishes and offerings and distilling them down into a smaller list for patrons. In bars, they’re generally used to establish wine bottle price, wine by the glass, liquor prices, and more.
While the majority of the time the meaning of menu is applied to food and beverages, that’s not always the case. The word menu is also used frequently in the context of electronic devices and computer programs. There it usually refers to a navigable list of options a user can interact with.
And, of course, the meaning of menu can be applied in virtually any context where a list of services or options is presented to a customer or user. Think of a dog groomer with a menu of services.
History of Menu
Menus have a long and storied history going all the way back to the Chinese Song dynasty in the late 900s CE. Since there is so much variation between the dishes from different regions of China, menus became common among the upper classes. In the West, the earliest known European menus belonged to the court of King Louis XV of France. These menus offered a number of entrees and desserts for his esteemed guests.
From both of these examples, you should be able to see that menus were once reserved only for the most well-off in society. Normal restaurants in these eras did not have menus, but merely served a single set of dishes. However, the industrial revolution led to more low-cost restaurants opening and a much larger portion of society being able to eat out and more variation needed by the chefs. Today, you can even use a QR code menu for your restaurant so you can adjust the menu whenever you need without the worries of reprinting.
How Do You Spell Menu?
The correct spelling for menu is M-E-N-U.
In the English-speaking world, menu is pronounced like meh-nyu. This is the same for both American-English and British-English variations. However, in the native French, menu is pronounced more closely to moe-nu. Regardless, each pronunciation for the base word is similar enough that it shouldn't be hard to understand.
There are also a number of menu variations that many people find difficult to pronounce. Here are the four common ones:
- à La Carte Menu. Pronounced ah-la-cart in English, this type of menu is offered in many French and high-end restaurants. The a la carte meaning is "by the card", which really just means that each individual item is listed and sold separately, rather than only as dishes. While the prices tend to be higher, à la carte menus have more flexibility.
- Du Jour Menu. In America, du jour is pronounced doo-zhoor, while in the UK it's pronounced doo-zhaw. Du jour is a French phrase that means “of the day”, which implies the menu changes daily. Du jour menus are used by all types of restaurants and are often used to sell off excess inventory and help boost food sales during happy hour.
- Table d'hôte Menu. One of the most confusing terms for many restaurateurs and customers, table d'hote is pronounced both in English and French as tabluh-doht. A table d’hote menu is a menu that offers a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert all at a fixed total price. A common table d’hote setup has a diner choosing one appetizer from two options, one entree from two or three options, and one dessert from two options.
- Prix Fixe Menu. In America, prix fixe is pronounced pree-fiks, while in the UK it's pronounced pree-feeks. A prix fixe menu is a fixed menu with little to no variability for a fixed total price. It typically includes an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. Unlike the table d'hote menus, prix fixe menus offer no options for the customer. These menus are a great option when you want to make sure each sale is of a higher value and limits the number of dishes your chef needs to make. Prix fixe menus are also ideal for wine pairing menus, as it makes it clear that the alcohol is included (learn more about turkey wine pairing and wine pairing with salmon).
Frequently Asked Questions About What Is Menu
If you own a restaurant or just go out often, you've probably been confused by some of the conventions regarding menus. Different menus for different times of day, special pricing, and more.
To help demystify the world of menus we pulled together some of the most frequently asked questions about menus. Take a look at the questions with our answers below:
What is the Purpose of Menu?
Menus are used to help customers understand what a restaurant has on offer and how much it costs. More than that, though, menu engineering and psychological pricing can turn menus into major restaurant and bar profitability boosters
What does a menu consist of?
Generally, a menu consists of all the food and drinks a restaurant offers for sale. The menu may change daily, offer only a single set of dishes, or somewhere in between as there are different methods on how to price a menu. However, it is always used to help show the customer what they can order and limit people from ordering something your chef isn't prepared to make.
What is a 5 course dinner menu?
A 5 course dinner menu features an hors d'oeuvre, appetizer, salad, main course, and dessert. These menus limit the offerings in a restaurant and generally offer the full meal at a single cost with no options or adjustments.
Can't Spell Menu Without Me-N-U
A restaurant without a menu is going to have a very hard time selling more than a single type of product. You should take the time to learn about the different types and choose the one that best fits your business and the market you're in.
For even more help boosting your profit margin from these menus, think seriously about using a bar inventory system like BinWise and our accompanying barcode scanner app for your beverage program. It speeds the entire inventory process up and gives you all the data you need to make profitable decisions. Book a demo and let us show you exactly how BinWise will help.