Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
May 4, 2011 10:11 PM

Why aren't dessert menus presented simultaneously with the regular menu?

Assuming it's separate, why isn't a dessert menu presented to the diners the same time the regular menu is?

Even the wine menu usually, if not always, is.

If there is something on the dessert menu that I want, then I want to know about it before I order the rest of my meal.

Because if there is a particular dessert that catches my eye -- say, a really decadent cheesecake or custard -- then I might either opt to skip on an appetizer or order a lighter or different entree course.

In other words, I want the full panoply of information before I make my selections for the meal, which should of course include dessert.

And just because I may not want to order dessert, doesn't mean I shouldn't at least be informed of my options before I order my savory courses.

Even wine selections certainly are not so relegated to such 2nd Class Citizen status -- the wine list is usually presented or offered to the table with the menu. If the diners are not going to be ordering wine, then the list is retrieved.

Why can't the same dynamics work for the dessert menu?

Why make us wait, after we've ate our meal, to make the dessert decision?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "Because if there is a particular dessert that catches my eye -- say, a really decadent cheesecake or custard -- then I might either opt to skip on an appetizer or order a lighter or different entree course".

    They want you to order multi-courses AND dessert! LOL! Pro or con I'm not tempted by a "meh" kind of dessert. It's got to be something I REALLY want otherwise I just pass.

    1 Reply
    1. re: letsindulge

      Exactly because you might not order the more expensive entree (which is usually a heavier one) just to save room.

    2. Most good restaurants will save the dessert menu for last because the desserts stand out much more than putting them at the bottom of a menu. Most people don't think of dessert before they order dinner. But if you want to see it just ask your server when he brings your dinner and wine menu.

      1 Reply
      1. re: The Drama Queen

        And that is the answer I would have given, Drama Queen.

        Not all restaurants have separate menus; many diners list them on the menu together along with the one hundred other dining options, and my feeling is this is just to streamline service. Desserts listed at the bottom of a menu tend to get overlooked when ordering the entree, which necessitates bringing the menu back to the diner if dessert is desired. That's not a bad thing, just a bit clumsy. A separate dessert menu is a little classier, delineates and showcases the pastry chef's skills; the server will suggest dessert after the entree is finished, which adds to the check's bottom line and a larger tip, hopefully. Besides, it's nice to have a leisurely meal, finish your wine, then think about the possibility of dessert, peruse the menu; no rush to make a decision.

        I'm sure any restaurant would be very happy to have a diner check out the dessert menu up front for complete dinner continuity. It's less uncommon for people to ask to see the dessert menu when ordering the mains than one would think.

      2. If I saw what's for dessert, I know I'd gage my eating accordingly and save room. But usually, dessert is the least $$ item, so maybe they hold the dessert menu until the end because of that.
        Usually, I don't even ask to see the dessert menu because I'm too full. Their loss!

        35 Replies
        1. re: monavano

          Because desserts in a restaurant are seldom made on the premises, the cost to the restaurant is higher. If you're ordering a larger meal instead of cutting down to save room for dessert, they are making a larger profit. And that's as it should be.

          1. re: The Drama Queen

            I don't think this holds true as much anymore. I'm seeing more and more restaurants that have a pastry chef. Admittedly, they often take short shrift in the kitchen, having to work around the chef and even the sous chefs, but in this tight economy, owners are seeing the light on doing it all in house.

            1. re: amyzan

              I agree with you. I can't think of any decent place that doesn't make their own desserts. Not necessarily their bread but, yes, their desserts.

              1. re: c oliver

                Then you need to come to Vegas. Most "decent" restuarants in this town don't have pastry chefs and don't make their dessert in house. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but those yummy cheesecakes, carrot cakes, creme brulees and all the other mouth watering dessert are made elsewhere and purchased by the restaurant. Not all places do this of course, but it is very common.

                1. re: The Drama Queen

                  I'm very surprised to hear that. With so many top chefs opening places in Las Vegas I would have assumed that desserts are made in-house. I'm thinking Robuchon, e', Twist, Guy Savoy, etc. Ah well, such is life.

            2. re: The Drama Queen

              That's not always the case.

              Most restaurants that list their desserts on a separate menu do so because they want to highlight the creations of their own in-house pastry chef.

              It's these restaurants that I am curious about. They go through the effort to hire a dedicated pastry chef (or chefs), then sort of relegate their creations to 2nd Class status.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Restaurants that have a dedicated dessert chef want to know your choices early so they can create the perfect dessert--tart, galette or ice cream--created to match your palette. That's why I love places that ask you to order dessert when you order your dinner, so they can create the best,.

                1. re: escondido123

                  If that's what you want to believe, go ahead.

                  Pastry chefs frequently work days and the plating is done by an assistant or a line cook. The components of the desserts are prepared in the morning and put together at the last minute. Nobody is making your ice cream to order to suit your taste, sorry.

                  1. re: babette feasts

                    Gotta agree with you babette feasts. Creating a galette, baking it (about an hour) then cooling it down you can eat it just isn't possible. Neither is ice cream which takes about 4 hours just to cure. No pastry chef makes one dessert at a time so that theory isn't valid. Frankly in the 50 years I've been dining out I've never had anyone ask me to order dessert when I order dinner. Dessert isn't even mentioned til after dinner is done. Most often: "Would you like to see a dessert menu?" "Uhh, no thanks, buuuurrrp!!"

                    1. re: The Drama Queen

                      I recently ate (for the first time) at mid-range Chain restaurant. For some reason I did see a part of the menu that said if you wanted the breadpudding to order it before your regular order so that it would be done by the time you finish.
                      Usually I don't look to see if there is a dessert menu as a part of the regular menu, so it must've been obvious. Good marketing, because I did order it. I don't often order desert. I can't recall if my regular order was trimmed down because of my upcoming dessert. I don't think it would've made a difference in cost, but in size.

                    2. re: babette feasts

                      I believe it because I've been to restaurants that actually do it--make dessert to order. I can see I implied that actually made one that was yours alone, with flavors unique to your palate, and I apologize for that. But I have been to restaurants where they actually put together the tart or make the ice cream when they get the order. Sorry that's never been your experience.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        Well, of course, you're right escondido. Restaurants make some dessert to order but not most (just as they make some dishes for other courses to order, and others are pre-prepped and just blast heated - noone thinks that the resto has a secret way of doing a long-braised lamb shank from scratch when the order comes in).

                        You'll usually spot the made to order dishes, like the souffle - the menu's going to say there''ll be a 20 minute delay on that one.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Interesting. I'm curious how they make ice cream to order. Liquid nitrogen? Or just processed in the Pacojet to order? Great for them if they really do that, but I think you know it is the exception rather than the rule.

                          1. re: babette feasts

                            If I remember properly, they use small individual metal containers that are kept in the freezer until needed. Then the ingredients are added and they're put into an electric base of some sort.. You can see them doing it. Of course I know it is unusual, but that's what makes it exceptional. Other posters seemed to question the idea that any restaurant would actually make desserts to order so I just wanted to say there are some that do.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              I'd venture to say that it's not necessarily a superior product to, say, the menu c oliver posted below from Babbo. There are many desserts that do need to be made in advance and making your selection only to those that can be made to order is limiting. I wonder how they make panna cotta to order. That takes time in the refrigerator. What about chocolate cake? Do you have to wait for them to make the batter, cook, cool and frost, just to get one piece? I'd love to see how it works backstage there.


                              1. re: chowser

                                I do not think I said they made all their desserts to order. So your complaint is made-to-order limits selection and not-made-to-order may not be up to snuff. Makes it kind of tough.

                                1. re: escondido123

                                  I went to their web site and that's what it said about made to order. No need to get so defensive, I was just wondering, out loud so to speak, how they managed to do it with some of their selections. And, I was commenting that there are desserts that are time consuming to make and still worth having on the menu, as with Babbo's and it does seem like they do limit themselves if they only do made to order desserts. I never said any of what you've accused me of, as quality goes, nor was I complaining about anything. I'm only commenting that "made to order" may not be necessarily superior.


                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Fair enough. Didn't mean to get defensive. Guess I was still a little annoyed by other posters who dubbed me naive or stupid if I thought desserts were really "made to order."

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          That's hysterical, hillj. :) Big :)

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              +1. It's contagious--I've never used one before either!

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Y'all too silly. But, yeah, ignore them.

                              2. re: escondido123

                                Sounds like probably a paco jet. Paco jet canisters are pre-frozen with about 3 cups of ice cream or sorbet base, then frozen solid. When a serving is needed, the canister is attached to the machine with a blade magnetically put on a rotor shaft. The bade spins at very high rpm to shave a very thin layer of the frozen product off, a layer thin enough that particles or ice crystals cannot be detected by the tongue. The product needs to be frozen solid for the machine to work well. I suppose you could add a syrup or fruit to a canister, but I believe the machine has limitations with certain textures or nonuniform textures.

                                1. re: babette feasts

                                  No this was a small container that made basically one large serving at a time. It was a few years ago so can't remember more details. Sorry.

                        2. re: escondido123

                          Ms Escondido

                          Oh if that were only true. Another wonderful scam is the "You have to order the souffle before the appetizer." Total BS. The restaurant just wants the order while you're hungry.

                          I would love the name of any restaurant that creates the perfect tart to match my palatte on order.

                          1. re: nobadfoodplz

                            As I said above, I didn't mean custom as in you get to pick the flavors. But if you want the perfect tart, go to Al Forno in Providence. The fruit changes throughout the season and they are made one by one. No BS.

                        3. re: ipsedixit

                          Ms Ipse

                          I would disagree and state that if they include on the main menu shuffled to the bottom of the bottom right or on the last page of the menu book (I shuddeer even writing what kind of restaurant that might be, disgusting) is more of a second class designation than a separate menu and service.

                          I always viewed it as the second act in a play.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              No, worries. I've been called worse ...


                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                ha! well, i felt the need to make the correction because *i* erroneously assumed you were female for a long time, and someone else finally set me straight a couple of years ago :)

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Awww, the question is, have you been called better?;-)

                          1. re: The Drama Queen

                            Most places I eat make their own desserts. Or I probably wouldn't go to them.

                        4. ipsedixit>>>>
                          it's apparent you don't dine in chain restaurants often, they have the dessert menus on the table waiting for your eyes to feast upon them, of course the desserts are usually far better than the food served as mains and appetizers.

                          By not giving both menus at once, a diner might not calculate the total cost of the meal. Afgter the main, the diner nmight forget whether the steak was 24.95 or 27.95 and that the dessert will push the meal over the next dollar benchmark.

                          In some restaurants the dessert menu coming later replaced the dessert cart which was wheeled about after the mains, there was no printed dessert menu.

                          I've sometime seen restaurants skip the dessert menu if they are in a rush to turn the table for the next seating.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bagelman01

                            I have a major sweet tooth. I like having the dessert menu there on the table in front of me from the beginning of the meal... that way I can drool over the anticipated deliciousness of my dessert, and make sure that I have enough room left for it. If I don't see a menu, I won't know what I'm missing and I most likely won't have dessert at all.

                          2. In my limited fine dining experience, I'd say desserts on the same menu are becoming more common. (At least, this is my thought here in the KC area, which I think is sort of a B market for fine dining, admittedly.) I'm finding that the only items not somewhere on the menu are bottles of wine. Increasingly, I'm seeing desserts, mixed drinks, wines by the glass, all on the menu with the apps, salads, and entrees.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: amyzan

                              bagelman01 and amyzan,

                              My query is really directed at those places where the menus are separate.

                              I concur that lots of restaurants list everything on one menu, wine included, esp. chain restaurants or chain type restaurants.

                              1. re: ipsedixit


                                Actually the chain restaurants tend to have a dessert menu sitting on the table when the hostess seats you. The desserts are not part of the main menu.

                                My 22 year old likes to eat a large diner that has a desert showcase to peruse upon entry. She picks out her dessert before she is seated, and sometimes just orders several desserts as her meal.

                                My wife's mantra>>>Life is short, east dessert first.

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  Wouldn't eating a large diner spoil her appetite for dessert?

                                  1. re: bcarter3

                                    22 year old college students get severe cases of the munchies, if I can remember back far enough I think it comes with drink and wacky weed

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      i think bcarter was making a joke re: a missing preposition in your said your daughter likes to "eat a diner" not eat AT a diner ;)

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        I understood the comment on my typo, b ut felt the comment on the 20 somethings appetites appropriate...................

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  Are restaurants still pulling out a dessert cart in LA, too? The rest of the country has tightened its belt and its menus much more. Here in flyover country, separate dessert menus are largely not done, even by local or regional chains. You west coasters are so RETRO! <wink>