Pros & Cons: Separate menus for inside your restaurant and outdoors?
More business or a waste of time and effort? Many restaurants offer different dishes and drinks for their indoor and outdoor guests. Is this good business sense and does it increase revenue? Or do two different menus ultimately lead to confusion and anger on the part of guests, the kitchen, and service staff? We say: it all depends! We have prepared the following list of pros and cons to help you make the right decision in your particular case and guarantee you another successful summer season.
PRO! Two menus: twice the choice?
Outdoor atmosphere and target groups
Is your restaurant in the fresh air, under the shade of ancient trees, a surprisingly romantic haven in the heart of the city, or maybe a postcard idyll with palm trees and sand? Depending on the location and decor, gastronomic concepts far removed from those in closed rooms can be realised under the open skies as, for example, a beer garden, a candlelight oasis, or even a beach club far from the sea. If you work with different concepts inside and outside your restaurant, it also makes very good sense to offer the delights of your kitchen and bar on two separate menus (each with a different choice of dishes and drinks). In this case, a special menu for your outdoor area – in addition to your standard ‘in-house’ menu – is an attractive alternative for your guests.
Image boost from contrasting indoor and outdoor concepts
An attractive alternative for (regular) guests
Increased revenue by catering to new target groups
Special offers like BBQs or specialities from the charcoal grill
Out in the open, the delicious aroma of succulent steaks on the grill, fresh fish, or delectable seafood is a magical attraction for guests. Outdoors, you can make your grill the centrepiece of a wonderful evening. Okay, it probably wouldn’t work every day. But if you could host one or two themed events or (gala-) buffets on the weekends, they’ll soon be coming back for more. You could even offer weather-dependent, seasonal outdoor menus like a BBQ in warm and sunny weather, or a warm and cosy evening with exotic hot punch and rich mulled wine with blankets around your knees and the gentle whisper of warming heaters. Special menus can be seasonal, daily, or just for the weekend.
(Seasonal) experience for all your guests
Special occasions can be celebrated outdoors
Culinary prestige: show the diversity of cuisines you can offer
Some dishes that are particular favourites inside your restaurant may be unsuitable for serving outdoors. Always remember, hardly anything annoys guests more than hot food that arrives lukewarm at the table or coffee that has gone cold. With a view to maintaining your establishment’s professional quality standards and reputation, it makes sense to have a separate menu for the outdoor area with dishes and drinks that arrive fresh and appetising at the table despite being carried long distances from the kitchen or bar. Particularly suitable are, for example, dishes prepared in the oven (the plates or dishes are also hot), or dishes that are served lukewarm by design. Thin soups that slop around are unsuitable for serving outdoors.
Customer satisfaction inside your restaurant and outdoors
Quality awareness pays dividends
CON! The risks and problems of having two separate menus
Guests are annoyed
Two separate menus for indoor and outdoor tables must be perfectly planned and coordinated. Kitchen and service must work hand-in-hand and define a set of common directives. Guests can become confused or annoyed if, for example, table and menu planning is ambiguous (Why can’t I have the char-grilled steak inside?) and may even feel patronised. Guests are particularly annoyed when indoor and outdoor prices differ!
Dissatisfied guests when they can’t choose to sit where they like
Different pricing: something that makes guests really angry
Service and kitchen can’t cope
If both menus are extensive or completely different, this could lead to service and kitchen staff being unable to cope. The decision for or against separate menus therefore also depends on how well staffed you are in the two different areas and whether you will be working with an experienced team or employing temporary staff for the job. The less experienced the members of your team are, the more important it is to ensure that the two menus are clearly differentiated. This enables hassle-free communication between service and kitchen staff and guarantees correct filling of orders from the respective menus.
A minimally staffed kitchen might be overwhelmed by the diversity of dishes offered on two separate menus (especially when both menus offer a wide range of items)
A team with lots of temporary staff can be defeated by communication problems arising from an enormous range of dishes and drinks
The returns on twice the effort are by no means doubled
The content and form must be right! A well-made and attractive menu isn’t something you can whip up in a few minutes! Keeping two different menus attractive and up to date involves twice the effort. Costs of goods are also higher when you work with two menus. Although this could be an opportunity for increased revenue, there’s still a risk of overstocking certain items or products. It is therefore always advisable to initiate additional marketing measures when planning the expansion of menu content for your outdoor area. Plus: in contrast to standard, in-house menus, outdoor menus have to withstand the influences of wind and weather and thus require extra care and attention to keep them looking attractive and inviting for your guests.
Too little time to set up two professional menus
No/insufficiently funded, marketing budget
No resources available for the extra care and attention required for outdoor menus
Are separate menus for inside & outside a guarantee for increased revenue or a waste of time and effort? There is no firm answer to this – yes or no is entirely up to your situation. The bottom line is your location and the image with which you wish to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Maybe a small and attractive menu of outdoor ‘specials’ could be an interesting idea. But, whichever way you look at it, you must always also take two essential factors into consideration: your quality standards and your human resources.