Educating the public

Joined Oct 28, 1999
At a recent interview, one of the questions posed was "How do you get your customers to try new things? How do you educate them?" This stumped me. After some stewing, I explained that I menu new items or standards with a 'twist'. I went away from the discussion wondering what could have been a better response. More importantly, I left wondering what really is the best way to get customers to try new things?
Given the vast experiences of the crew on ChefTalk, I was wondering you think.
Good interview question....
Joined Jul 31, 2000
First you have to have your service staff on the same page as the kitchen. They after all are the ones who can sell your product. Detailed five minute taste panels with the staff is a good way to let the service staff in on your new dish and how you wish them to sell it. Make the dish into amuse bouche (sp?) for a week to follow your customers response, and check the plates as they come back into the kitchen. A "Twist" as you put it is more about educating your clients on the seasons, If you prepare your duck breast with an orange gastric, but oranges are out of season and the quince or persimmons are at the peak of flavor you would want to use these items. large baskets of seasonal items at the entry way or using the theme as a chefs menu may attract customers to try something new
Joined Mar 4, 2000
I hadn't thought of the amuse buche as a way of intoducing something new. Great idea. You can use the same concept with desserts, but at the end of the meal.

I agree that the waitstaff is your key to selling new items. Really leave your lines of communication open with them all the time.

Learn what kinds of descriptions inspire customers to order. Do they prefer simpler sounding meals, or do they like every aspect of their dish explained on the menu. Do they tend to go for the familiar? If that's the case, try to include (like you said), a twist to a familiar dish. If they are more adventurous, you can make it even more exotic. But in the end, it still comes down to waitstaff.

Some restaurants leave cards for customers to fill out at the end of the meal. I wonder how effective they really are.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Samples sell at the garlic tops (scapes) were not moving until I cooked some up and passed them out. they sold out relatively quickly...I could say the same for black radishes.
Comment cards can be extremely effective, any feedback you get is valuable. It all involves the questions asked....personaly I like to have conversations with customers it leads to more specific much do you normally spend? How are you going to prepare those? Is this your first visit? Is there a question I can answer? get the jist....There is a bunch of info you can derive from customers without being obnoxious...
Joined Mar 6, 2001
This doesn't apply so much to ala carte dining: but in a country club setting, I would put new items onto my buffets where the pricing is all inclusive. This was more about building trust in me that what ever I made they'd like, and in time that worked.

When we catered and we wanted people to try new items we'd tell them how good it was and how it was 'in'. It's about a verbal sale and getting them excited and interested in it (just like a server would). If they were nervous they'd order their known favorite and get the new items as an addition.
Joined Nov 29, 2001
* Offer a small sample as an appetizer or when the bread is put on the table.

* Get waitstaff to enthusiastically back the dish, assuming of course, you've had a waitstaff tasting. (There is nothing like this to get the staff on board.)

* Place a one page insert into your menu featuring the dish.

* Don't price it exhorbitantly unless ingredient prices dictate it.
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