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Bring on the sweet treats

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By Jane Auster

RhondaViani01

The pastry chef at Vancouver’s West is definitely a dessert champion, tickling the taste buds of the guests at the 3,000 sq. ft. West Restaurant with such confections as griottine cherry cream cheese ice cream, chocolate truffle cake, and mango panna cotta, citrus savarin and farmhouse yogurt.

“I think you should make a continuation of your meal – not overindulge, but have a little bit of room to fit in something sweet. Everyone should have a little dessert,” she declares. And, in an era of sharing plates, samplers and portion-controlled sweets, there is no reason diners shouldn’t end every meal with more than just an app, main and side.

The arguments to encourage the upselling of desserts and beverages are as much economic as culinary. “The end-of-meal experience is incredibly important to the success of a restaurant today,” emphasizes Kraft Foodservice Corporate Chef Kira Smith, a pastry chef by background.  “Although every aspect of a meal occasion is important, through greeting, seating and eating, the end-of-meal experience can leave a lasting impression on the entire experience, and as an operator you should want it to be a wonderful one that drives repeat visits. This is your opportunity to delight the customer, and increase your eater cheque, before departure.”

Many restaurants, though, are still trying to find the end-of-meal sweet spot and in the process losing sales to cafés where diners go to enjoy their after-meal beverage and dessert or make an occasion of the event.

It’s time for restaurants to close the gap and catch up to specialty cafés and tea shops.

How can operators cash in on the end-of-meal experience? Many ideas are simple to implement. West, for instance, offers prix-fixe tasting menus that include desserts and suggested wine pairings.

Chef Kira also encourages operators to become better dessert and beverage pairing experts. “Good coffee and tea pairing with desserts is increasingly important as people’s tastes are expanding and becoming more refined as they experience more cuisines,” she offers. “Although everyone has a personal preference for their favourite desserts and hot beverages, pairing dessert and coffee mindfully can enhance the flavour experience – just as one can do with wine and food.”

West’s Viani makes sure there is new news on her dessert menu to keep diners interested and coming back. She keeps close watch on what’s selling, what’s seasonal and more creatively what she wants to try. “There’s no rhyme or reason to when I tweak my menu. It’s whenever I feel like it, or I find I am tired of a dessert, or it isn’t selling.”

Offering dessert “specials” or limited time offers quarterly can help you capture more dessert sales and also keep your end-of-meal menu as fresh as the seasons – and your profits sweet.

6 sweet tips to end the meal

  • Make sure the quality of your tea and coffee matches that of your desserts.
  • Train servers to “know” your beverage and dessert menu so they can talk it up.
  • Try offering dessert options at the same time as taking orders for the main course.
  • Cater to diners with food allergies and aversions. Many today are looking for options such as gluten-free, lower fat and sodium.
  • Pair, pair, pair. Nothing goes better with dessert than a great coffee, tea or alcoholic beverage.
  • Bring in the new. Diners tire of the same-old, same-old. Study your end-of-meal menu and look for ways to shake it up with some strategic additions.
Chocolate Raspberry  Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Mini Lemon Meringue with Blueberries & Amaretto Kissed Sponge Cake
Roasted Rhubarb Custard Tart

Encourage diners to end their meals with a sweet sendoff to increase your profits.