British ‘menu hackers’ keep kitchens on their toes

Restaurant service

New research by restaurant booking service OpenTablehas uncovered an interesting change in the ordering habits of British foodies. Inspired by our American counterparts, almost a third (28%) of the UK now reveal they like to order completely off-menu at a restaurant.

Known as ‘menu hacking’, a growing demand for a bespoke experience has seen a rise in menu customisation, with over half (56%) the UK adapting a dish on a restaurant menu to suit their taste. The majority (38%) of diners also admit that when craving a specific dish, they would rather visit a restaurant they love and order off-menu than try out somewhere new.

With over half (57%) of diners believing it is their right to order food off-menu, UK restaurants are going out of their way to oblige diners. A recent survey of UK restaurateurs revealed that an impressive 94% of restaurants would accommodate a guest’s requirements and requests, in order to encourage loyalty to their restaurant.

A further 80% of restaurants backed this growing trend by admitted to seeing an increase in diners ordering dishes that are not on the restaurant menu, or changing a dish that is on the menu.2

Executive chef at The Savoy, Holger Jackisch, commented: “We will do anything we can to meet a guest’s request and to ensure they have the best experience they can at Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill (The Savoy). We always say “If we have the ingredients in house we will move mountains to make it happen”. We mostly have guests omitting butter, gluten and dairy for health/allergy reasons. Our menu is fairly extensive, but guests also ask us to create classic dishes from our premium A La Carte items such as Dover Sole Meunière, Lobster Thermidor and an array of risottos. Being able to accommodate these requirements helps create a higher level of loyalty as a lot of these requests come from our regulars.”

The most frequently removed items on restaurant menus include sauce (11%), mushrooms (10%) and meat (8%) while the principle motivation is a dislike for certain ingredients (56%), followed by enjoying adding extras (22%) and a lack of menu choice (15%).

The research also showed that women are less abashed when making requests to change their order, with 59% of women proud to do so in comparison to 52% of men. As many as 4.8m (15%) women admit to altering menu dishes in order to make them healthier while 30% of men adapt their dish as they enjoy adding extras.

Mike Xenakis, managing director at OpenTable, commented: “It is refreshing to see British restaurants accommodating the expansive tastes of diners in the UK. At OpenTable we celebrate the growing trend of menu hacking and encourage diners to experiment and try new ways of eating their favourite foods, at the restaurants they love.”

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