Menu jargon leaves British diners puzzled

  • Almost 8 out of 10 Brits feel restaurant menus can be more confusing than they need to be
  • Over half the UK have had to ask a waiter/waitress to explain an item on a restaurant menu
  • Salmagundi has been named as the most confusing word on British menus
  • Commentary from Fred Sirieix, First Dates star, General Manager at Galvin at Windows and creator of The Art of Service

London, November 3rd 2015… As the cuisines offered up by UK restaurants becomes increasingly intricate, so does the language on their menus. Confronted with words such as mirepoixgyro and fricassee, some diners are left feeling slightly baffled when it comes to ordering their meal.

New research by OpenTable, the world’s leading restaurant booking service, reveals that almost 8 out of 10 (79%) diners feel restaurant menus can be overly confusing, and over half (51%) the UK have had to ask a waiter/waitress to explain an item on a restaurant menu.1

As a nation it appears Brits aren’t embarrassed by their confusion with three quarters (76%) of the UK admitting they’ll happily ask a waiter/waitress to explain an item on the menu. Additionally, it seems women are more inquisitive than men, with 54% of female diners admitting they have asked for an item to be explained, compared to 49% of men.

Though, when analysing the data by age, it was revealed that the younger generation are more reluctant to ask for assistance, with 40% of 18-24 year olds admitting they have felt too embarrassed to enquire about a confusing dish, compared to just 13% of over 55’s.

The folk of Wolverhampton are the most discerning when it comes to understanding dishes on UK menus, with just 32% having asked their server for an item’s description. Coventry folk are the least knowledgeable, with almost two thirds (63%) admitting they need some assistance on occasion.

The study also discovered the top ten most confusing words on British menus and Salmagundi; a salad dish with 17th century origin which has come back in to popularity on gourmet menus, came out on top as the most confusing word on UK menus.

Fred Sirieix, General Manager at Galvin at Windows and creator of The Art of Service, comments, “The Art of Service is about putting yourself in the guests’ shoes to ensure they always receive an amazing experience. As a professional, I am there to look after guests, make them feel special and provide delicious food smoothly and effortlessly. OpenTable’s research shows that people in the UK can get frustrated with over complicated food terms. Restaurants need to be more conscious of the way their menus are written as the recent research shows people like them to be clear, concise and without confusing jargon.”

Mike Xenakis, Managing Director at OpenTable, comments, “With UK restaurants becoming more and more experimental when it comes to the ingredients in their dishes and cooking techniques, it is understandable that British consumers may be left feeling a little baffled by certain terms on the menu. Luckily, it seems most diners are an inquisitive bunch, happy to ask for a little guidance from restaurant staff and they, of course, are always happy to give it.”

In response to this confusion, OpenTable has launched a helpful menu jargon buster, which deconstructs some of the trickiest foodie terms.

The top 10 most confusing words on British restaurant menus, in ranking order, are:

  1. Salmagundi – a salad dish, originating in the early 17th century in England, comprising cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices
  2. Buccan cooked meat – meat which is slow-roasted or smoked over a fire on a wooden framework or hurdle
  3. Beignet – a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry
  4. Mirepoix – a roughly chopped vegetable cut, usually a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery. Mirepoix, raw, roasted or sautéed with butter or olive oil, is the flavour base for a wide variety of dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces
  5. Brunoise – a mixture of finely diced vegetables fried in butter and used to flavour soups and sauces
  6. Chiffonade – a chopping technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and basil, are cut into long, thin strips
  7. Gyro – a Greek dish made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, normally beef, veal, mutton, pork or chicken, or other alternatives such as feta or haloumi cheese, and usually served in a pita or sandwich, with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce
  8. Veal Hongroise – Veal served with a paprika-flavoured Sauce Velouté. It is one of the classic sauces from French cuisine
  9. Ceviche – a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of Latin America. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers
  10. Lardo – a unique cured pork product produced in Italy. It is made from the thick layer of fat directly below the skin of a pig; the fat is carefully removed and cured in salt and spices so that it can be stored for extended periods of time