It’s not uncommon to see restaurant staff chatting as they work on a kitchen menu.
But it’s rarer to see a group of them chatting in the middle of the dining room, where the diners can be seated as they enter.
And the dining area is usually empty at night.
So when a restaurant manager or chef approaches you with an invitation to join in on a dinner menu, you might think, “Wow, that’s nice,” but that would be wrong.
The menu is not an invitation for you to join the party, but rather a invitation to share the experience of a meal with others.
“A lot of times we don’t want to be the person sitting in the restaurant who sits there and is like, ‘What’s the best menu?'” says Kelly Kiely, founder and CEO of the online restaurant service, Eater.
“We want to feel like we’re part of the experience.”
A great way to experience a menu with other diners in the dining hall, she adds, is by sharing the experience with the entire group.
“When we’re in the kitchen, we’re not sharing the entire experience,” Kielicys says.
“But when you’re in your home, you’re sharing the whole experience.”
To achieve this, she launched a company called Inverse, which helps restaurants and other businesses find more than one way to share menus.
The company uses a crowdsourcing model that allows users to submit suggestions to improve the quality of a restaurant’s menu.
This allows restaurants to share recipes, prices, and other information that could be useful for customers.
But when the recipe comes from Inverse and the restaurant uses it, the results will be shared with all the other dinters.
“It gives you a feeling of being part of a large group,” Kriely says.
She says the company also uses social proof to promote the idea of sharing.
“If you want to go out and get a hamburger and someone else does, we’ll say, ‘You know, you can’t just go and get your burger from McDonald’s, can you?’
And that’s a really powerful thing,” Kiesly says, adding that restaurants can then share that link and people will feel compelled to come.
For restaurants, sharing is the key to attracting customers, but sharing in a restaurant can also be the key that makes the experience better.
In the restaurant industry, in particular, the social proof that comes with sharing can be the difference between customers who come to a restaurant and those who leave.
“What we see in the industry is that when people want to get a discount or a free meal or a special treat, they’ll pay for it,” says Kielys.
“They’ll go to the restaurant, and they’ll get a coupon for it, or they’ll see an advertisement.
But if they just come in and they’re like, I can’t afford it, they’re going to walk out.”
In the end, the goal of a menu isn’t to make a quick buck, but to provide an enjoyable dining experience for all the people who walk through the door.
Kieles says that when restaurants create menus that are fun and interesting to the average diner, they will likely find a buyer.
“And then, the next thing we know, the customer is going to go, ‘Wow, I was looking forward to going to that restaurant,'” she says.
The first menu, which is currently available on Inverse’s site, features a variety of menu items including shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and chicken salad.
But as restaurants try new things to increase their menus, the company is also working to increase the number of items that can be shared.
The restaurant is now planning to add an oyster menu and more than 50 new items, which will be unveiled at the company’s next conference, in February, Kieley says.
And Kielyn says that it’s important for restaurants to create their own menus.
“I think we should really look at the idea that menus shouldn’t just be created by people who want to create menus,” she says, “because we’re really, really going to miss out on the opportunity to share that experience.”
Kieleys says that in the coming years, in addition to sharing menus with other customers, she is also planning to open an Inverse restaurant in New York.