You want your menu descriptions to pique diners’ interest, to inspire them and set expectations for their experience in your restaurant. But is that what your menu is actually achieving? In fact, nearly one in three diners think some restaurants menus are more confusing than they need to be.
We at OpenTable led a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. diners to find out how they feel about today’s restaurant menus, and plenty are confounded. Over half (56%) of respondents worry than ordering a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient will ruin their whole dining experience, and almost three-quarters (74%) feel they’ll be wasting their money if they don’t enjoy their meal.
Variety is a plus; complexity is not
Diners love having plenty of options to choose from on a menu, but sometimes what they find can be intimidating. Over half (51%) of diners have reviewed a menu before visiting a restaurant, some (47%) to familiarize themselves with the dishes and fewer (17%) to research unknown terms and ingredients. Nearly two in five diners choose a restaurant based on how familiar they are with the items on the menu.
When servers save the day
The vast majority of diners (88%) have come across a menu item they couldn’t pronounce at some point. Most of them rely on their server or fellow diners to help when ordering, either taking a stab at pronunciation (53%), asking the waiter (52%), or pointing at the item on the menu (47%). However, nearly one in five guests have decided not to order the dish at all — meaning they could be missing out on a great experience. TIP: All the more reason to train your staff to describe ingredients and preparation in detail.
Painting a picture
Visual menus could be the future. An overwhelming majority of diners (91%) say they are more likely to order a dish they’re not familiar with if it has additional menu features to add explanation and context to the dish. More than half said that photos (53%), detailed descriptions of dish components (43%), options for portion size (37%), or a glossary of menu terminology (30%) would make them more likely to order an unfamiliar dish.
So which terms are the worst offenders? Our research revealed the 25 terms that stump diners the most, listed below and in our interactive Menu Jargon Decoder.
- Okonomiyaki (o-konomi-yaki) 69%
- Gochujang (go-choo-jang) 67%
- Piri piri (pir-ree-pir-ree) 64%
- Yuzu (yoo-zoo) 64%
- Bibimbap (bi-bim-bop) 64%
- Gougere (ɡo͞oˈZHer) 63%
- Guanciale (gwan-cha-lay) 62%
- Shiso (SHēsō) 62%
- En brodo (en BROH/doh) 61%
- Ballotine (bal- -teen) 61%
- Harissa (hah-ree-suh) 60%
- Patatas bravas (pəˌtɑːtəs ˈbrɑːvəs) 58%
- Meuniere (muh n-yair) 58%
- En papillote (ahn pa-pee-yawt) 57%
- A la plancha (ä lə ˈplän(t)SHə) 55%
- Lardo (lar-do) 55%
- Romesco (ruˈmesku) 55%
- Amuse bouche (ah-mooz-boosh) 55%
- Primi (pri-mi) 54%
- Pavlova (pav-luh-vuh) 54%
- Crudo (kruːdo) 54%
- Croustade (kroo-stahd) 52%
- Semifreddo (semi – freddo) 51%
- Terrine (tuh-reen) 51%
- Cremeux (kʀemø, øz) 50%