How to Build a Successful Prix Fixe Menu

How to Build a Successful Prix Fixe Menu
Streamlined menus can help restaurants navigate supply chain issues and manage inventory. Offering a prix fixe or set menu might help you forecast business costs and better control your restaurant's cash flow.
by Deborah Findling Jan 19, 2023 — 4 min read
How to Build a Successful Prix Fixe Menu

This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Valentine’s Day spending reached $23.9 billion in 2022, the second-highest year on record. Taking advantage of this upcoming holiday — as well as other special occasions — can be an opportunity for restauranteurs to offer a special menu with set prices and courses, driving up business while keeping an eye on its bottom line. Bay Area restaurants surveyed by the San Francisco Chronicle cite raised prices on prix fixe menus as part of fighting rising costs. Although the cost of meals at restaurants has risen 8% from 2021 to 2022, tasting menus have, on average, risen about 45%.

If you are a restaurateur considering ways to drive business while managing costs this year, consider building a prix fixe menu.

What is a prix fixe menu?

A prix fixe menu, pronounced (pree-feeks), is when a restaurant offers a multi-course meal for a set price. The term prix fixe is the French term for “fixed price.” Less common but also used terms for a prix fixe menu include a table d’hôte which also comes from a french term meaning “the host’s table” and features a multi-course menu featuring a few choices charged at a set price or a tasting menu. The menu itself can vary in number of courses, types of offerings, and more. This experience is typically not a discounted bundle but rather a high-end experience. The opposite of a prix fixe menu would be an à la carte menu where everything is chosen individually and priced individually as well.

Occasions you may consider using a prix fixe menu:

Building the menu

Whether you’re offering a prix fixe menu in addition to your standard menu or you’re offering it as the only option for an occasion, here are a few things to think about when building your menu.

How many courses are you offering?

While a typical prix fixe menu will offer three courses — an appetizer course, an entree course, and a dessert course— you can customize your menu to include more or less. In addition to the number of courses, consider what type of tasting menu you might offer. For example, restaurants like Les Elements and Per Se have explored dessertonly prix fixe menus while Hilda and Jesse offers a brunch-only prix fixe menu on the weekends. San Francisco-based Dogue even offers a prix fixe menu exclusive to four legged diners.

How many options are you offering for each course?

Some prix fixe options offer one option per course while others offer two or more. You can choose to offer two options per course or offer one option for each with premium add-ons. Below are some examples:

 

Prix Fixe Menu Example #1: One choice per course

Appetizer: Little Gem Salad 

Entree: Miso Black Cod

Dessert: Yuzu Cheesecake

 

Prix Fixe Menu Example #2: Two choices per course

Appetizer: Little Gem Salad or Summer Gazpacho

Entree: Miso Black Cod or Risotto

Dessert: Yuzu Cheesecake or Affogato

 

Prix Fixe Menu Example #2: Mixed choices per course with add-on options

Appetizer: Little Gem Salad 

Entree: Miso Black Cod or Risotto

Add-on truffle fries for +$5

Dessert: Yuzu Cheesecake 

How you customize your menu can help you plan for your inventory needs as well as opportunities for potential upsells. If a premium add-on isn’t an option for your restaurant, you can also offer a wine or cocktail pairing to complement your set menu. Consider socializing the menu in advance of the occasion if the prix fixe menu is tied to a holiday or event so that diners know what to expect before dining with you.  

How will you plate the courses?

Once you’ve decided on the food you’ll be featuring on your menu and the number of courses, think about how you might plate it. You can offer each course as an individual serving or shared plates. Perhaps you’d like to offer dessert individually but the entree as a shared option on a platter, adding more portions to the plating depending on how many diners have opted for the prix fixe menu option.

Business benefits of a prix fixe menu

 

According to the National Restaurant Association, streamlined menus can help restaurants navigate supply chain issues, optimize inventory, and hone menus to customer favorites. Whether or not a set-price menu is the right choice for your restaurant, there are a range of menu efficiency opportunities you can choose from to better manage your cash flow.

Deborah Findling
Deborah Findling is an editor at Square, where she writes about investment, finance, accounting and other existing and emerging payment methods and technologies.

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