It's no secret that people love something special and it's no different when eating out. In fact, regardless of whether it's a quick bowl of takeaway quinoa or a formal dining event, there's been a huge growth in menu customisation. Let's take a closer look at the five biggest areas where menu hacking is really taking off...
1. Off-Menu OrderingA huge area of growth, 28% of diners now say that they have previously requested a dish which wasn't on the menu. Also, 38% of those surveyed stated that if they wanted a specific dish, they'd prefer to order it off-menu at a restaurant they loved, rather than trying out somewhere new. A great way for you to take advantage of this is to incorporate the most commonly requested off-menu items onto your main menu. Alternatively, some restaurants have a "secret" menu, which can help to get people talking about your extra special food on social media.
2. Add-OnsOne of the most common menu hacks is ordering extras and sides. 22% of customers now regularly order extras or sides when eating out. These are a great way to add value to a dish and improve margins. Oddly, research suggests that customers are more likely to be satisfied with a dish which includes paid-for extras, even if the same meal was available for a flat price.
3. Build Your OwnThe natural successor to the buffet, Build Your Own menus allow the customer to add whatever ingredients they want to their meal. Whether it's bringing all the component parts of the meal directly to the table, or simply allowing the customer to mix and match various ingredients from a touch-screen menu or on a smartphone app, this type of dining is here to stay, especially as many customers have very specific dietary requirements or preferences.
4. Add Your Own ToppingsCustomisation of toppings isn't really anything new, as customers have long requested unusual flavour combinations on their pizzas and burgers. However, the recent trend for "as you like it" dinners and desserts has meant that if the customer really wants strawberries or sprouts on their pizza, they can have it. Desserts are particularly indulgent and customers often want topping that they can't necessarily have (or get away with) at home. Allowing your customers the creativity to have whatever they want on their desserts can lead to some pretty odd combinations though.
5. Pay By WeightPopular in South America, the Pay By Weight Concept is quickly taking hold. Possibly the most unusual type of menu hack, Pay By Weight is an increasingly fashionable concept in the UK as the customer can load their plate or bowl with as much or as little as they want. In some casual fast food outlets, the customer can fully personalise their meal before they've even arrived by tweaking exactly what they want via a smartphone app.
Do you often get menu hack requests from your customers? What's the weirdest change a customer has asked for?
For more reading on catering trends, check out the following blogs and articles:
What is Menu Hacking?
Why are Families Loving Eating Out at Restaurants?
6 Ways to Increase Your Restaurant Footfall in 2017
The Top 5 Food Trends You Need To Know