You Might Start Seeing More Prix-Fixe Menus Soon. Here's Why

Back in 1992, many New York City restaurants, including many high-end establishments, came together to put on the world's first-ever "Restaurant Week," during which each participating spot offered a multi-course tasting menu for a fixed price of $19.92 (the equivalent of about $39 today, per the CPI Inflation Calculator). The goal was to introduce new diners to the then newly-burgeoning restaurant foodie experience by making it eminently more affordable than it would have been to eat at the same restaurants on an a la carte basis (via NYC GO). 

The notion of this "prix-fixe" menu (which is French for "fixed price") goes back much further, and came from the sharp mind of French chef and innovator Auguste Escoffier who ran the kitchens at the luxe Savoy Hotel just before the turn of the 20th century (via Britannica). Escoffier's vision was not just about nurturing restaurant culture among diners, but also about making things easier for the kitchen and the serving staff by streamlining various restaurant processes, including the ordering of food and supplies and communicating with and serving customers (via Restaurant Clicks). 

When you think about it, it becomes clear that a prix-fixe menu can streamline fine dining in a way that only fast food chains had previously been able to accomplish. That being said, prix-fixe menus are now seen in all kinds of restaurants, as opposed to primarily high-end brands. And, according to various restaurant industry experts, we should expect to see a lot more menus going prix-fixe in 2022.

Prix-fixe menus are a great solution for supply chain snafus

Thanks to the great cultural catalyst that has been the COVID-19 pandemic, much has changed for the restaurant industry since 2019 — and a great deal of it is still in flux. That makes it great fun to play the game of "guess what's going to happen next" within the dining world. In discussing this topic with Food & Wine, Nashville restaurateur RJ Cooper shared his prediction for 2022, which is that we're going to be seeing a lot more prix-fixe menus thrown into the mix. Cooper suggests this is because a well-executed prix-fixe menu that emphasizes locally available ingredients will help minimize costs for restaurants at a time when the supply chain crisis, a labor shortage, and spiking inflation stand to accomplish just the opposite.

Going prix-fixe can address supply chain issues in particular by reducing "the number and combination of available items" on the menu to that which is readily available (via Restaurant Clicks). It can address the ongoing labor shortage as well by specifically selecting menu items that maximize taste and visual aesthetics while minimizing the number of hands required for execution, per Thrillist. For the chefs, prix-fixe also offers an opportunity to "build comprehensive meals that reflect their unique strengths," which, in turn, builds a more "intimate and rewarding relationship between the preparer and the eater," says Restaurant Clicks. And that, of course, is of paramount importance during times like these when rising inflation makes restaurant dining a more financially daunting option than it may have been previously.