How to Create a Prix Fixe Menu
The appreciation that people have for a delicious dinner is one thing that will never change.
In fact, Forbes reports that by the end of 2022, “the food service industry is expected to hit $898 billion in sales, a $99 billion increase over 2021 and a $220 billion increase over that unprecedented 2020.”
If you’re a restaurant owner looking to reassess your menu offerings in order to give customers their next extraordinary culinary experience, a prix fixe menu is one of the simplest and most successful strategies.
Let’s guide you through the ins and out of the prix fixe menu, how to build one, and what makes it profitable.
What We’ll Cover in This Piece:
What Is a Prix Fixe Menu?
A prix fixe menu is a multi-course meal with a set price per person (literally translates to "fixed price" in French). Prix fixe meals are typically offered in addition to or in place of the restaurant's normal menu.
In contrast, an a la carte menu allows guests to select dishes that are each individually priced.
There are a few methods for developing prix fixe menus. One approach is to create a course with a predetermined menu and pricing, while others might provide customers a few varied options for appetizers, entrées, and desserts.
Although prix fixe meals are frequently associated with premium or fine dining establishments, any style of full-service restaurant can have some sort of prix fixe menu. Moreover, regardless of size or type of cuisine, any restaurant can make a prix fixe menu profitable and valuable.
How Is a Prix Fixe Menu Profitable?
Here are a few of the top reasons why a prix fixe menu benefits your business.
Controls Your Food Cost
A prix fixe option might be available every day at some restaurants or just for a set amount of time. Either way, because you use a set menu price, running with a prix fixe means that you know the exact food cost per diner.
Which in turn helps you keep your food cost under control. With just a set menu, you can order only the ingredients you need for each dish instead of a wide range that may not be used everyday.
Another way prix fixe menus can help control your food costs is by utilizing them based on the seasons or on busy restaurant holidays. For example, on a night like Valentine's Day or New Years, when customers tend to be willing to spend more on a high-quality meal. By building a prix fixe menu of smaller plates, anywhere from three to twelve, you can control your food cost.
Drives More Traffic
A prix fixe menu is a great way to generate more business, especially on a slow day like Monday or Tuesday.
Even better, switch things up seasonally to keep the menu interesting and draw in customers. A seasonal prix fixe menu, which is only available for a brief period of time, is a great way to boost business. Creating a promotion that only lasts as long as the ingredients do engenders FOMO, meaning your customers will be more likely to come in and take advantage of the menu while they can.
This exclusive, limited-time menu will help generate more foot traffic while simultaneously offering customers the freshest produce on their plates.
Makes Life Easier on Your Staff
One significant advantage of providing a prix fixe menu is that the kitchen can focus on just a few dishes rather than having to prepare the entire menu. This makes it possible to pay better attention to details like temperature and plating.
There will be more time to focus on honing the quality of each plate by concentrating on a limited number of meals. It's quality over quantity, as they say.
The back-of-house and front-of-house staff, from the chefs and cooks all the way down to the servers, are relieved of some of the workload when there are fewer selections on the menu. This improves the efficiency of the meal and gives visitors a better experience.
Gives You an Opportunity to Upsell
Offering a beer or wine pairing alongside your prix fixe menu gives you an easy opportunity to raise the average of your customer’s bill while at the same time providing extra value and dining experience for your guests.
Gives You An Opportunity to Experiment With New Dishes
Want to introduce a new dish to the menu but not sure how it will perform? A prix fixe menu is a perfect opportunity to test it out. Add the new plate to your prix fixe menu for a set amount of time and track how well it does. If folks order it a lot, then you can probably add it to the regular menu.
Plus, this is a great marketing opportunity. If you tell your customers that you’re dropping a new dish only for a limited amount of time, they’ll visit just to give it a try. Announce that your clientele might even have a hand in choosing the next regular for your menu and you create even more buy-in with your community.
How to Build a Prix Fixe Menu
Building a prix fixe menu can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few easy suggestions to get you started.
Select a Theme
Whatever theme you choose, the goal should be to establish certain limitations so the menu can be unified and imaginative and showcase flavors that pair well. Themes can be geographical or seasonal.
Depending on the cuisine that your restaurant and chefs specialize in, you can choose a few different paths. Is your prix fixe menu intended to be a weekly option or just for a certain occasion?
Consider holding an event with a theme for a holiday, like "An Evening in Italy." Create an appetizer, entrée, and dessert on the menu that feature Italian foods. Consider a meal of freshly baked bread, a caprese salad, spaghetti carbonara, and a dessert of creamy panna cotta or gelato.
If you're looking for more of a prix fixe menu that showcases your restaurant's specialization—let's say it's Japanese—then take into account dishes like an edamame appetizer or salad with ginger dressing, katsu main, and a mochi assortment to round out the night.
Keep In Mind: One or two of your best-selling items should be included when creating a prix fixe menu. In this approach, your devoted consumers can try something new without giving up their favorites!
Prix fixe menus are more about perceived value than anything else.
When it comes to a dining experience, customers want to get the most for their money. Offering three or more things for just a little bit more than one best-selling entrée is an excellent method to persuade people to order the prix fixe menu.
Give your customers options for a meal with a few different price points.
Consider a two-course meal for a lower price. Start with an appetizer (salad, soup), followed by a main course—typically a protein-based dish. Or start with the main course and follow it up with a sweet dish. Think a club sandwich with berry crumble or a greek salad with a falafel.
Go a step further by offering a traditional three-course meal for a higher price that includes an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.
Include Large Profit-Margin Items
This not only ensures the profitability of your prix fixe meals, but it also helps establish that essential perceived value. You want a couple of your best-selling items on your prix fixe menu. Consider making items like salmon filets, fresh lobster tails, or strip steaks the star of your menu.
Offering your most popular low-cost goods, such as pastas or vegetarian options, will help you strike the appropriate balance between impressing consumers and keeping high profit margins. Incorporating fresh, inexpensive in-season ingredients into your menu is an effective way to attract customers to opt for the prix fixe menu too.
Set the Expectations and Pace of the Prix Fixe Experience
Customers view a prix fixe menu as a specially planned meal, therefore you should think about the whole dining experience. Each dish's weight, flavor, and quantity must be considered.
Think about the meal's natural transition from light to heavy as well.
For instance, you shouldn't begin with a substantial appetizer if you are serving a rich main meal because it would be too filling.
To awaken and prepare the diner’s palate for the rich dishes that will be served with their meal, it would be preferable to provide a more acidic starter like veggie crudites with an assortment of spreads and dips or a house salad with homemade vinaigrette.
Speaking of creating a unique experience, presentation is everything. This is also a great opportunity to show off your restaurant's plating techniques. Remember, the prettier the presentation, the more likely it is that patrons will share their experience on social media, effectively driving more traffic to your business—while also demonstrating your restaurant’s culinary skills and style. Win win!
Examples of Two Prix Fixe Menus
In restaurants, prix fixe meals are frequently omitted from the main menu. They are typically printed on a separate sheet or may even be scrawled on a blackboard inside or outside the building.
The menu has a complete list of all the food items, along with options for each one if you provide those.
Despite the fact that fixed-price menus are frequently priced per person, some events (typically Valentine's Day) are priced per pair. Some parts of the meals, such as the appetizer or salad, may be served in sharing amounts in this instance.
Here are a few of our examples of potential prix fixe menus.