The most common type of menu, a static menu, changes or is updated infrequently. These menus usually are laminated for easy cleaning and reuse or printed on a wall. Fast-food restaurants, chains, diners and delis typically have static menus.
These menus usually are divided into categories of appetizers, salads and soups, entrees, and desserts. Some of the benefits of a static menu include increased familiarity among guests, dish stability across different locations and speedy production. Disadvantages include difficulty finding seasonal ingredients, stale menu items and the risk that customers will get bored.
À la carte Menu
- More of a pricing system than a menu style, an à la carte menu is not defined by how long it remains the same but by how the customer orders. Main dishes are not grouped with side items under one price; rather, a guest orders a meat, a starch and a vegetable separately and pays for them separately. This is a way restaurants earn higher profits on inexpensive side items, such as potatoes. Truly versatile, an à la carte pricing scheme can be similar to a static menu if its items rarely change and can be found in many restaurants, from fast food to fine dining.
- A prix-fixe menu offers several courses (usually with choices) for one fixed price. These menus sometimes include amuse bouche, appetizer, salad, soup, intermezzo, seafood, meat and dessert courses. A prix-fixe menu can be expensive, but it also offers a lot of food. Found mostly at chef-driven, fine-dining restaurants, a prix-fixe menu changes frequently and usually focuses on seasonal ingredients. Sometimes listed as the "chef's tasting menu" or the "degustation menu," this type of menu is described as "showcasing the chef's flair for combining flavors and textures" by John R. Walker in his book "The Restaurant: From Conception to Operation."
Du Jour Menu
- "Du jour" translates to "of the day," as in "soup du jour." These menus change daily and are focused on seasonal ingredients, preparing the freshest food possible. While some restaurants offer only daily specials, every item on a du jour menu is a special. Often called chalkboard menus (because they're sometimes written on one), du jour menus highlight fresh fish and seasonal vegetables and center on preparations in sync with the time of year. One of the drawbacks to chalkboard menus is that there is a limited supply window for certain ingredients and guests can't come back for the same dish all year.
- A cycle menu is a set of dishes or menu items that is different for each day during a cycle and repeats. These menus are found in school cafeterias, hospitals and other institutional facilities. The goal is to avoid boredom while keeping the dishes easy to prepare. Cycles can run from one week to one month and beyond.