Play of the Week #6
By Lindsey Soon
Prix Fixe Menus: Short but Sweet
During the pandemic, challenges within supply chains impacted food retail offerings and menus. A manager of a popular Toronto flagship chain restaurant described:
“Our suppliers were out of so many products for a long time at the beginning of the pandemic. Just basic stuff, like green onions and tomatoes that we now have to go outsource. It’s one thing if you run out during normal times – you would just run to the grocery store and go buy it, but now when you go, you have to go line up for 45 minutes just to buy some tomatoes.”
With challenges in securing produce and other supply orders for various reasons, restaurants have been forced to adapt their menu and product offerings based on what they’re able to get their hands on. Supply chain issues along with reduced customer volumes cause additional challenges to restaurants offering a large menu. Because of this, some restaurants have reduced the number of product offerings, and in some cases created special limited menus for delivery and takeout. A London-based restaurant owner described how he had to change this menu:
“For the takeout, there’s one appetizer, and there’s a choice of two entrées, and then one dessert. It’s very, very limited. It’s not everything on our regular menu.”
Rather than offering a full menu, many restaurants have opted to cut down their menus and created what is often referred to as a prix fixe menu. Prix fixe, is French for “fixed price” and refers to a type of menu featuring a pre-selected list of dishes at a set price. These menus are most often found in upscale restaurants and presented at social occasions. These menus usually consist of 3-5 courses with 2-3 options per course for a set price. These new menu styles have been becoming increasingly popular and have become a more casual option when taking-out food. This practice allows flexibility in a restaurant’s menu as these prix fixe menus can change as needed. These menus are attractive to customers due to their reasonable prices (perhaps for a restaurant you wouldn’t normally try) and plays on a sense of urgency due to its limited time offer. Furthermore, this practice allows restaurants to adjust their menus based on product availability and avoid food waste, two important strategies in the times of COVID-19.
In past years, events such as Winterlicious and Summerlicious have been held in the City of Toronto and consist of a prix fixe program offered by 200 of Toronto’s dining establishments. Recently, Save Hospitality, an organization to connect with various levels of government to address the impacts COVID-19 has had on independent restaurants throughout the country, held an event called Localicious as a way to promote and garner support for local restaurant businesses. During this past year of COVID-19, communities have realized the importance of a strong and resilient local food scene and events like these may be of interest to Business Improvement Areas and other stakeholder organizations as a way to promote eating local while providing customers with the opportunity to try new restaurants.