As customers demand more complex menus, healthier options, and increased convenience, brands have to work harder to eliminate possible veto votes. It’s a common scenario nowadays to find groups of diners that vary in tastes; a vegan may dine with a meat-lover, or a family may look for a kid-friendly choice that gives mom or dad the option of an alcoholic beverage. It’s key for today’s operators to find the balance between making room at the table for customers of all stripes and staying true to their brand. Here’s what three industry professionals say about walking that line.

Ian Jones

Owner, Victory Sandwich

We are certainly the definition of a streamlined menu, but within that menu we try to be as broad-reaching as possible. We offer items to cover mostly vegan/vegetarian concerns, but as people tend to think very subjectively about their tastes, there is always the desire for more options.

While we do try to be as inclusive as possible, the small scope of our menu doesn’t always allow us to accommodate every wish. We have at least one option for most diets, but cannot account for taste if that option is something an individual personally doesn’t desire. We aim to create a menu that is as wide-ranging and “open” as we feel that we can comfortably produce while still staying true to our concept. We are aware that veto votes exist; however, we are very confident that our broad offerings accommodate the majority of our guests. You can’t be everything to everyone, but you should try to appeal to as many folks as you can within your scope. It’s certainly a fine line.

We work at a very low/reasonable price point. We’ve never seen any reason to stretch it higher. We want people to want to visit us regularly—not just on paydays. I want customers to think of us as a place to be. Whether they’re coming for food, drinks, atmosphere, whatever, it’s important to us because it allows us to explore another side to our business.

Alex Atwell

Director of Marketing, Salata

We actually don’t have a menu. Instead, Salata guests create their salad or wrap exactly how they want with no restrictions. We don’t place a limit on the number of toppings that a guest can order, nor do we weigh bowls.

We realize we won’t make the consideration list for certain types of restaurants, like pizza or fried chicken restaurants. However, we do consider different preferences and flavor profiles and are regularly introducing options that fit different demands. For instance, if a guest is craving chicken, they can find four different chicken options at Salata—and those don’t have to go on top of a traditional leafy salad.

We find consumers still can have a hard time considering salad to be a full meal versus the side to a meal. In addition to our heartier toppings, like four different cheeses, pasta, and 12 different proteins, we focus heavily on product innovation so we can introduce even more satisfying options, both light and indulgent. The effort to accommodate all kinds of diets is absolutely worth it. We believe guests want the freedom to create their own meals to satisfy their own needs and preferences, and they want plenty of options to choose from so they can get it just right.

David Nagel

Senior Director of Consumer Engagement, Dunkin’ Brands

At Baskin-Robbins, we are fortunate to have a very large and diverse customer base. When developing our menu, we try to come up with flavors that will appeal to the broadest possible cross-section of our customers, but we also are considerate of customers who may have dietary restrictions or preferences. In fact, sometimes we spend the most time on these flavors—when we know we’ll be limited to a small variety of flavors that meet a specific consumer need, those flavors really need to be as delicious as possible.

We want customers to know that we really do have something for almost everyone. At Baskin-Robbins, we just introduced two non-dairy (and vegan) ice cream flavors to our menus, which provide a dairy-free take on classic fan favorites. Non-Dairy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Non-Dairy Chocolate Extreme are made with a base blend of coconut oil and almond butter, and the result is a dessert so rich and indulgent, you won’t be able to tell that it’s not the full-dairy version.

In the growing non-dairy landscape, Baskin-Robbins saw the opportunity for a dairy-free option that prioritizes flavor and taste. This category also gives us an opportunity to remain true to our brand ethos of continuously adapting to the needs of our guests and remaining at the forefront of innovation. We have also made a commitment to expand our vegetarian and vegan offerings on both the Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ menus by 2020.

Business Advice, Customer Experience, Menu Innovations, Restaurant Operations, Story, Baskin-Robbins, Salata