Categorized | Featured, Menu Development

Three Quick Tips for Great Signature Dishes

Posted on 18 February 2010 by Agile Chef

In an age when diners have more choices than ever but fewer dollars to spend, restaurants aren’t just competing for new business; they’re doing all they can to retain customers and ensure return business, too. Odds are your restaurant is no different.

We’ve already suggested some creative ways for you to market your restaurant and get new diners in the door. Now it’s time to turn those first-timers into regulars by creating your own signature dishes.

Whether you run a corner café or an upscale bistro, few things help define your restaurant and encourage customer loyalty like a signature menu item. Unlike the temporary specials you introduce from time to time, a signature dish should be a permanent staple on your menu, so it needs to have real staying power. Your signature item might be a barbeque pork sandwich, a special salad or a distinctive chili, but above all else, it should be the one dish that really represents your restaurant, your chefs and your cuisine.

So how do you turn your winning recipes into distinctive signature dishes?

First, consider the following questions:

  • Which foods do you or your chefs enjoy preparing? Which are you best at?
  • What menu options are most popular with your customers? Do they ever request dishes you don’t include on the menu?
  • What kind of cuisine do you prepare that no one else does? Do you serve a dish that isn’t available from similar restaurant concepts?
  • Are there any foods your patrons would pay premium prices for?
  • Can you identify an underserved niche in the market that your restaurant could fill?

As you begin your culinary exploration, keep in mind three keys to creating a standout signature dish:

  1. Three words: Trial and error. Find a dish you know your guests will love and experiment with ingredients and preparation methods until it’s just right. Daily specials are a great way to test your creations.
  2. Become the expert on your new dish by making it over and over again. In this case, practice really does make perfect. Make sure to ask your guests for feedback. Just as marketers use focus groups to assess consumers’ opinions of their products and services, you can glean valuable information by asking your customers what they think of your dish and how they would improve it.
  3. Have your ingredients at the ready. Keep them on hand at all times – you’ll need them once your signature item takes off!

When it comes to creating a memorable dining experience that will keep customers coming back for more, you can’t go wrong with a signature dish. So what are you waiting for? Start developing yours today!

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