Why a menu with seafood is your ticket to success

17 January, 2018 by
Ken Burgin

Don’t be deterred by the price — putting seafood on your menu sets you apart from competitors.

Quality seafood sets you apart from other venues that are too timid or lack the skills to prepare and serve it properly. Whether it’s fish and chips or snapper fillets with a fine sauce, people know good fish and prawns are high-value, quality items, and they expect to pay a little more.

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For many customers, fish is too hard to cook. In spite of this notion, consumers are also becoming more knowledgeable and will ask about origins, flavour and texture of their food. Is it local, was it frozen, do you have something that ‘doesn’t taste too fishy?’

An educated waiter who speaks with authority about a dish and its preparation can make all the difference. Staff need to be conversant with a whole range of terms to describe the taste of seafood. Here are a few: the rich flavour of salmon and tuna; the sweetness of ling, boneless fillets of john dory, moist snapper, full-flavoured kingfish and flathead that tastes especially good when it’s fried. Make sure staff are ready with a recommendation such as ‘you will love our whiting’ or ‘the barramundi is the most popular seafood we sell’. Staff who don’t eat seafood should also be able to recommend convincingly.

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It’s also good to talk about the ‘crisp skin’ or ‘delicate batter’. Crunchiness is a highly desired mouth sensation well known to the makers of potato chips that now consume the majority of potatoes sold in most countries. Be ready to describe your wonderful seafood platter available for friends who want to share an occasion. How much will it be at your place, $65, $75 or $125? Not bad, considering the ease of preparation.

Mussels deserve to be more popular, considering the flavour, price and ease of preparation, helped by the popularity of beer cafes with pots of steamed mussels. Atlantic salmon remains consistent, available and easy to cook. Its pink flesh gives it a meat-like colour that helps with acceptability and it’s a catering favourite, but there are many consumers who are hungry for an alternative.

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Steve Sidd, director of Indulge Restaurant at Sydney’s Moorebank Sports Club says it’s hard to sell varieties that aren’t commonly known, even if the flavour is excellent. He ensures prices for key menu varieties will be stable for at least three months before putting them on the menu, and won’t compromise on the quality of fish used in fish and chips. For him, it is usually flathead fillets or New Zealand hoki, and never the el-cheapo standby of basa or Nile perch. Seafood prices keep rising, but people will still indulge in quality as a weekend treat. Smart chefs know that anything with prawns will sell well — even if they’re expensive.

You will also be asked if a fish is oily, and some people are really put off by the sight of a head and eyes. Interstate customers may be mystified by the names on your menu — is trevally the same as trevalla or dhufish the same as jewfish? The confusion of names in different regions can be a talking point to show your knowledge and add weight to recommendations. Gathering information on local names and descriptions can be a great project for a keen apprentice or waiter to prepare for some staff training.

Good seafood gives you a higher price point, a nutritional offering and customer expectations that it will be ‘better than they can make at home’. Enjoy the advantage it brings to your reputation and bottom line.