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.

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:

  • Holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day, and other holidays could be a special occassion to build a prix fixe menu for your customers.
  • Special occasions: Small group dinners, corporate events, and weddings are a few types of evergreen occasions to offer a prix fixe menu.
  • Seasonal: If you source in-season or local ingredients, offering a seasonal menu might be an opportunity to offer fruit, vegetables, or fish that is in season and easy to source.
  • Restaurant week: Restaurant week is an opportunity for restaurants to offer a set menu. This could attract new customers that may not have tried your restaurant before. Participating restaurants in the city the restaurant week is held may offer a set menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner or all three.
  • No event: You can offer a prix fixe option in addition to your standard menu without a special event. Some restaurants offer a tasting menu which can feature anywhere from three to over a dozen courses made of smaller plates. This menu might change in offerings featured but still be available year-round. This type of menu is often used to showcase a chef’s talents.

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 #3 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 or Affogato

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.

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Business benefits of a prix fixe menu

  • Managing cost of goods sold: Having a set menu means you know what raw materials you need to order and you can help navigate supply chain issues and shortages that may come with a more extensive menu. Bringing down the number of menu items and ingredients needed for those respective dishes can also be sustainable and cut down on food waste. It can also reinforce the same margins of profit as the offerings are the same for all diners.
  • Reduce staff burden: A prix fixe menu with fewer items can reduce tasks for employees and, in turn, labor hours. Servers in the front of house may have less to manage with a limited menu while the back of house staff may also have a smaller number of tasks to keep an eye on and create opportunities for faster prep times.
  • Make ordering easier for customers: According to a study by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, offering too many options can decrease customer satisfaction. With too many options to choose from, some customers experience “choice paralysis,” adding a level of stress to their dining experience.
  • Increase sales and on-premise dining: Having a special prix fixe menu might drive customers to dine in person. You can offer these menus at times where you might see a lull in traffic, such as a late night or for early bird dinners. Some restaurants require a prix fixe menu for larger groups or inversely can only offer the menu to groups of a certain size.

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.