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Menu jargon confounds American diners

Jun 07, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OpenTable today announced the findings of its menu jargon research survey conducted online by Harris Poll, which revealed many diners* believe some restaurant menus are more confusing than they need to be (29%), are concerned that ordering a menu item made with an unfamiliar ingredient will ruin their dining experience (56%), or feel they will be wasting their money if they don't enjoy their meal (74%).

The survey findings also revealed several menu terms that more than half of diners do not know the meaning of, and inspired the OpenTable design team to work with a select group of illustrators to create a visual Menu Jargon Decoder to demystify the visualization, meaning, and pronunciation of confusing menu terms.

"With chefs continuing to scour the globe for unique dish ingredients and cookbooks to revive forgotten techniques, it is understandable that many diners may be confounded by certain terms on a menu," said OpenTable Chief Dining Officer, Caroline Potter. "While two-thirds of diners aren't embarrassed by their confusion and are typically happy to ask their server for a little guidance, with all the passion and energy that chefs and restaurateurs put into the creation of their menus, they should be aware that one in five diners simply won't order a menu item with a description they don't understand."

The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll in March 2016 on behalf of OpenTable, found that an overwhelming majority of diners (91%) say they are more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with if it has additional menu features. Diners also indicated that the future for digital menus may be bright with more than half saying photos of the menu items (53%) or a glossary of menu terminology (30%) would make them more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with.

According to the survey, at least half of diners say they do not understand the following menu terms, in ranking order:

1. Okonomiyaki (o-konomi-yaki) -69%
2. Gochujang (go-choo-jang) -67%
3. Piri piri (pir-ree-pir-ree) -64%
4. Yuzu (yoo-zoo) -64%
5. Bibimbap (bi-bim-bop) -64%
6. Gougere (ɡo͞oˈZHer) -63%
7. Guanciale (gwan-cha-lay) -62%
8. Shiso (SHēsō) -62%
9. En brodo (en BROH/doh) -61%
10. Ballotine (bal- -teen) -61%
11. Harissa (hah-ree-suh) -60%
12. Patatas bravas (pəˌtɑːtəs ˈbrɑːvəs) -58%
13. Meuniere (muh n-yair) -58%
14. En papillote (ahn pa-pee-yawt) -57%
15. A la plancha (ä lə ˈplän(t)SHə) -55%
16. Lardo (lar-do) -55%
17. Romesco (ruˈmesku) -55%
18. Amuse bouche (ah-mooz-boosh) -55%
19. Primi (pri-mi) -54%
20. Pavlova (pav-luh-vuh) -54%
21. Crudo (kruːdo) -54%
22. Croustade (kroo-stahd) -52%
23. Semifreddo (semi – freddo) -51%
24. Terrine (tuh-reen) -51%
25. Cremeux (kʀemø, øz) -50%

*Diners in this survey are defined as diners who dine out at least once per month.

Menu jargon confounds American diners

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