People Think Restaurant Menus Are Getting More and More Confusing

By Mike Pomranz |

© Vasko Miokovic Photography / Getty Images

Sometimes reading through a restaurant menu can feel like a puzzle, as if the chef is trying to test your foodie credentials. Yes, it can be fun to feel like you’re getting a refined experience, but many culinary terms aren’t particularly colloquial and others can be downright confusing. That’s what a massive number of diners said in a new OpenTable survey conducted in the UK.

79 percent of respondents said they found menus overly confusing, leading to a surprisingly smaller percentage of people—51 percent—to admit that they’ve asked servers to explain items. Based on those numbers, it’s safe to say that when confronted with a “salmagundi” – named as the most confusing word on British menus – plenty of people simply kept reading until they found the bangers and mash. Just so none of you must suffer the indignity of asking a server, a salmagundi is a mixed plate of food that often includes meat, seafood, vegetables and eggs.

Less surprising, however, was that the study also revealed that younger people are more reluctant to ask for help: 40 percent of those aged 18 to 24 said they felt too embarrassed to ask questions about items with their server compared to a mere 13 percent of people over 55 having any shame. (Ah, to be old and not give a damn.)

“OpenTable's research shows that people in the UK can get frustrated with over complicated food terms,” Fred Sirieix, a restaurant general manager, told the Daily Mail. “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.”

Though the survey only dealt with British menus, it’s not unreasonable to believe many Americans are confronted with similar frustrations. Though if OpenTable really wanted to see some confused people, try sending Americans over to England and have them read the same menus. Even getting some French fries might be a challenge.

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