Eating is a sensory activity, and that doesn’t mean just taste — the culinary experience engages all the senses. That means texture, taste, aroma and, in some cases, even sound (think: the sizzling of fajitas or sparklers atop a cake). When it comes to cuisine and the customer experience, how the food looks when it comes out of your kitchen is just as important as how it tastes.
Need some food presentation ideas to take your dishes to the next level? We’ve got the details on why you need to step up your plating game, as well as how you can do it with 13 creative food presentation ideas sure to impress.
We eat with our eyes first. You can put photos of beautifully arranged food on a restaurant menu and guests will point and say, “I’ll take one of those!” when without the photo, they wouldn’t have even considered it. Similarly, an artfully arranged pastry display in a cafe or bakery window will entice guests to come inside to see if the food tastes as good as it looks.
Whether you’re a fast-casual establishment with a laid back vibe or a high-end restaurant with elevated and sophisticated dishes, presentation turns a regular meal into a memorable customer experience. People are drawn to beautiful things and let’s be honest, first impressions are everything.
In today’s world of social media and influencer marketing, unique and beautiful food presentation increases the likelihood of a guest posting a photo to their social media and tagging your eatery. That’s powerful positive publicity and some serious word of mouth marketing – and it’s free! Plus, people are more likely to try out restaurants recommended by a friend, especially if the dishes look thoughtfully planned and carefully curated.
On the flip side, sloppy or unappetizing presentations can result in negative reviews online. Reviews are forever when written on the Internet and 94% of today's consumers check online reviews and photos before choosing a place to eat.
Incorporating interesting food presentation ideas is an opportunity to get creative, show off a chef’s skill, and provide that “wow” factor to the dining experience. Just make sure the substance matches style! Unique dishes mean guests can only get them at your restaurant, and this uniqueness inspires loyalty. Plus, guests will gladly pay more for an artfully designed meal.
A creative presentation of food is the final touch to a meal. Here are thirteen tips and tricks for presenting food, ranging from simple dishes to fine dining:
Nothing classes up a dish like dainty flowers. Flower petals add pops of color in salads, soups, desserts, and even entrees. Because flowers are a beautiful and unexpected thing to appear on a plate, they are memorable. Just make sure they’re edible!
There are many food presentation techniques related to sauces that a chef can experiment with. A guest’s name spelled out in chocolate drizzle on a dessert plate is a fun way to celebrate a birthday. Dots, smears, and swirls of bright sauces add visual interest for both sweet and savory dishes. Practice with piping bags or squeeze bottles to perfect the hand control required for these sauce techniques.The Whole Package
Food presentation isn’t just about what to add to the food or how to style it. The tablecloth, place setting, and cutlery play a part, too. For in-restaurant dining, make sure your tables are welcoming with candles or flowers. If a guest is ordering to-go, the packaging is part of the visual appeal. So often en route, the food’s presentation gets ruined. To prevent that, choose high quality, eco-friendly sectioned packaging that keeps the food in place.
As far as simple food presentation ideas go, deconstructing is a classic. Eating traditional meals in a deconstructed way makes humdrum food feel like a new experience entirely. For example, a deconstructed burger and fries encourages a bite of fries with onion and tomato — it’s a new way to enjoy an old classic. Having a focal point, like a red onion ring in the center, keeps it from looking sloppy.Garnish to Create Height and Layers
For a fine dining steak presentation, the best way to elevate it is through height and layers. Visually, steak is flat and typically darker in color. Adding a colorful garnish with some height to it makes it look more exciting. If you don’t want to go for height, create layers to the dish for a similar effect. Cut the steak horizontally and fan it out to create layers. Place the steak atop or under a side, like mashed potatoes or greens. Pre-cutting the steak not only saves the eater time and effort, it gives them a peek at the beautiful pink in between the brown sides.
Just because it’s a side dish doesn’t mean it’s less tasty or important! Don’t forget about sprucing them up, too. Unless someone requests separate bowls or has a food allergy, you don’t have to serve side dishes in separate bowls. The placement of sides next to other food can make for a colorful palette and encourages the eater to enjoy the meal as one experience. If you don’t have the space on the main plate for the sides, serve them on beautiful plates with a stand-out design or color.
The arrangement of an appetizer is everything: it must be enticing and easily shareable. A fried onion bloom is iconic for this reason. To make an engaging and interactive appetizer experience, consider plating it in a way that’s fun and interactive for your customers. For example, mozzarella sticks can be arranged around a focal point (marinara dipping sauce) or stacked on top of each other like Lincoln Logs. Top with a leaf of lettuce for a roof. Great for the kids’ menu!Sugar Work
Sugar is cheap and you already have it on hand: just learn some techniques to create garnishes to top your crème brûlées and cakes. Sugar can be twisted into some truly stunning and unique shapes when caramelized. Not only does this add sweetness to your dish, it also adds a unique flair that’s sure to end up on their Instagram.Platter it Up
The plate is your canvas, so make it a composition. While this may take some more time, it’s an opportunity for the chef to consider new flavors and designs. Think about the shape of the plate as well, not just the design or color. A square plate with round food in it provides an interesting contrast. Make the plates do the work for you.
Even if someone orders plain fish and chips, think of ways to pop color onto that plate. Yes, there is the standard lemon and parsley. But how can you go the extra mile? Another addition of color can make this basic dish be remembered above the rest. Go for purple cabbage in coleslaw instead of white or green. Plus, the more color, the more nutrition you are offering your guests. Certain colors can elicit certain feelings in customers. For example, red and yellow stimulate hunger.
Make sure you have the right tools in the kitchen for the delicate placement of food, garnishes, and sauces. Use squeeze bottles and piping bags for liquid-like foods, and precision tongs to place food just so on the plate. Don’t forget a small towel to wipe the plate clean in case of any accidental smudges.Don’t Overcrowd
You don’t want the dish to become overwhelming or unwieldy to dig into. To leave room for presentation, consider either providing a smaller portion, or using a larger plate. While adding color is best practice, you don’t need to include every color or food group on a plate.Be Authentic
The best food presentation is authentic. If your restaurant’s appeal is its hominess and folksiness, having an over-the-top presentation when guests love the simplicity isn’t catering to your audience. If you are known for your simple and effective presentations, play to your strengths. Above all, stay true to your restaurant’s personality and ambiance.
Cooking presentation is just one part of a successful restaurant. While show-stopping presentations are the hook to attract guests, efficient and reliable cloud-native software is the glue that keeps the whole enterprise functioning seamlessly. With a robust restaurant POS system, Revel Systems® keeps servers and kitchen staff updated in real-time to keep guests happy.
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