There are two types of diners at a restaurant. The first one walks in, knows exactly what they want to order and within minutes has ordered and is patiently waiting to be served. The second pores over the menu for a long time, weighing each and every option. This diner seeks a unique culinary experience and is eager to try new foods.
The Prix Fixe menu is a menu format that offers benefits to both ordering styles. It’s a great option for other reasons as well. It can be used to control costs, promote or test new dishes or streamline holiday / special event dining into quicker and more efficient service.
What is Prix Fixe?
So what is a prix fixe menu? The phrase means “fixed price” in French and is pronounced pree-fix. In contrast to a traditional menu, a prix fixe menu offers a full-course meal, often including an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, for a fixed price. Diners can choose from a limited selection of dishes for each course. For example, a prix fixe menu featuring cafe foods, may feature a starter with a choice of tomato basil soup, mixed green salad, or focaccia, allow guests to choose one entree from a choice of chicken breast, salmon, or risotto, and offer dessert options like cheesecake, mousse, or fruit tart. Diners can choose one starter, one entree, and one dessert, limiting their options, but allowing them to mix and match as they want.
In some cases, more notably in fine restaurants, the entire meal is planned and selected ahead of time by the chef. This is known by diners beforehand who have come to dine specifically for this experience.
Prix fixe menus are most common at fine dining establishments, but even venues that offer casual dining may find them popular among their clientele. Some restaurants offer both a traditional menu and a prix fixe option. Others may have special prix fixe menus for holidays and special events. A cafe that caters to brunch and lunch diners may choose to offer prix fixe specials during dinner hours to draw in evening customers as well.
An interesting fact about prix fixe dining is that it is very much in line with a new trend in the restaurant industry which is offering menus with fewer options, and more customizability. At the beginning of 2023, the National Restaurant Association was one of several food-related groups to predict minimalist menus becoming the next trend. This trend relies on modern consumers being interested in less waste and more “simplicity,” while still wanting the option to customize their dish of choice to their liking (for example asking for it to be vegan or gluten-free or being able to choose the specific toppings for a dish).
A prix fixe menu, whether offered in lieu of, or alongside, a traditional menu or niche menu, and whether always available or available only during the holidays, is a great way for restaurants to capitalize on this emerging trend. Prix fixe dining gives customers the options to pick and choose to create their own full-course meal, without offering an overwhelming number of options. And, of course, restaurants can still allow customers freedom within the prix fixe menu to make small adjustments (for example choosing the dressing for their salad) and to order gluten-free and other diet-specific options.
When it comes to the two types of diners – the one who chooses the same dish every time, and the one who peruses through the options, prix fixe menus can satisfy both palates. The conventional diner gets to try new foods, but without being overwhelmed by a menu that is several pages long. The adventurous diner gets to have a new culinary experience with access to a fair amount of choice and customization.
Benefits of a Prix Fixe Menu
Pleasing a wide variety of customers is only one of the many benefits that a restaurant can hope to tap into by offering prix fixe dining.
Other benefits include:
- Streamline staff tasks: With a prix fixe menu, kitchen staff only need to focus on producing a limited number of types of dishes, enabling them to streamline their food preparation processes. Front-of-the-house staff and waiters will also find it easier to manage a smaller menu, especially during times when large groups are dining in, like family get-togethers for the holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
- Create unique dishes: With a prix fixe menu, chefs have the opportunity to create unique and higher-quality dishes in a limited format. This gives them an opportunity to create innovative dishes to wow their guests or demonstrate new cooking techniques and genres.
- Showcase classics: If the prix fixe menu accompanies a traditional menu or is offered on limited occasions, it can be used to encourage customers to try new dishes, or for restaurants to promote seasonal foods.
- Saves money for customers: By bundling together appetizers, entrees and desserts, diners can experience a full meal for less than it would cost to order each course separately on a traditional menu.
- Saves money for restaurateurs: Prix fixe menus can simplify ordering and inventory, allowing owners and managers to order more in bulk. They can also price meals based on the most expensive entree. For example, if a restaurant offers a choice of chicken, salmon, or risotto, they can price the meal according to the most expensive dish, the salmon. That way, if diners end up choosing the less expensive option, chicken or risotto, the restaurant makes a larger profit.
- Restaurant events: Business owners can promote special occasions, or create special events, with prix fixe menus. Restaurant events such as chef competitions, game nights, trivia contests and more are great ways to promote your venue. Offering prix fixe menus at these events, tailored to the event itself, can draw customers in, get them to taste your food, enjoy your unique ambiance and put your restaurant on their list of favorites.
There are many reasons to go prix fixe. So how do you set up a prix fixe menu and what are some considerations to think about when designing such a dining experience for your patrons?
When it comes to creating full-courses, following the rule of threes is a good idea. This means you should have at least three courses, and probably no more than six, and at least three options for each course. A useful way to allow customers to control how much they spend is to offer two prix fixe menu options, one with three courses, and one with four courses that is slightly more expensive.
The next step is to decide what to offer for each course. Centering the menu around a theme is a great way to tie the meal with the occasion and keep customers interested. The theme can be holiday-centric, for example turkey, ham, and pumpkin risotto as entree options for Thanksgiving. Or, it can be centered around an ingredient, a region, a season, or a flavor. It is also useful to keep the theme true to your restaurant’s general style, whether it’s fine dining or cafe foods. This way you can carry customers over from the prix fixe menu to your traditional menu.
Beverages are another great way to promote and tie a theme together while also offering a convenient means of boosting sales. You can offer curated beverages built-in to a slightly higher priced prix fixe menu. Along with curated offerings, guests will enjoy the thoughtful pairings and you’ll make extra on the higher-priced menu. Another option is to create a menu without beverages and make beverage suggestions with information as to why each pairing is appropriate inorder to encourage diners to buy drinks. Pairing suggestions are not just limited to drinks – you can also offer sides or other add-ons that customers will need to pay extra for.
When it comes to designing a menu, you will want a sleek, elegant one that lists all your menu options clearly and succinctly. Try to fit all the options on one page and make sure that they are written clearly. Writing descriptions next to each course adds a nice touch that will both inform guests of what to expect with their meal, and reduce questions to the wait staff. The goal is to simplify the ordering experience and let customers feel comfortable leaving the details of their meal in your hands, without the stress of making elaborate choices.
Prix fixe menus can also be utilized in other ways. Try incorporating it into your business lunch deals. Prix fixe menu options are perfect for employees who want to pop in, enjoy a filling meal, and make it back to the office before the lunch break is over.
As a business owner you will want to keep track of which items are the most popular on your traditional menu and try to incorporate those into your prix fixe menu. Find out which prix fixe items draw diners to your establishment and try to offer more dishes that are similar. This can be done through on-line surveys sent to frequent diners, or via other social media outlets that your restaurant utilizes for their marketing and sales promos.
Sample Holiday Prix Fixe Menu
Want to get started on your holiday prix fixe menu? Here’s a sample New Years Eve holiday prix fixe menu for a formal, vegetarian establishment.
Option #1 Glittering Gold Beet Salad
Shaved golden beets, mixed greens, goat cheese, and candied pecans with a champagne vinaigrette.
Option #2 Midnight Magic Mushroom Soup
Velvety wild mushroom soup garnished with truffle oil and chives.
Option #3 Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites
Baked phyllo cups filled with brie cheese, cranberry sauce, and a sprinkle of edible gold dust.
Option #1 Champagne Risotto
Creamy arborio rice cooked with shallots and finished with champagne and Parmesan cheese.
Option #2 Vegetarian New Year’s Lasagna
Layers of roasted vegetables, herbed ricotta, and marinara sauce between sheets of pasta, topped with melted mozzarella.
Option #3 Prosperity Lentil Soup
A warm and hearty lentil soup made with a blend of lentils, vegetables, and aromatic spices, symbolizing good fortune and prosperity for the upcoming year.
Option #1 Midnight Sky Chocolate Mousse
Rich dark chocolate mousse layered with edible silver stars and whipped cream.
Option #2 New Year’s Eve Confetti Cake
Colorful confetti cake layers with vanilla frosting and edible glitter.
Option #3 Champagne Poached Pear
Poached pears simmered in champagne and spices, served with mascarpone cream.
– Champagne: A selection of Brut or Rosé
– White Wine: Riesling or Chardonnay
– Red Wine: Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon
Optional Sides (Add-Ons):
1. Truffle Parmesan Fries
2. Twice-Baked Loaded Potatoes
3. Grilled Champagne Asparagus
4. Glazed Carrots with Honey and Thyme
5. Wild Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Nuts
Bon apetite and let us know how you enjoyed your meal!