A La Carte Menu

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When dining out, one of the most popular menus you may encounter is an a la carte menu. But what exactly does “a la carte” mean, and what makes this menu unique? In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of a la carte menus and their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages, types, and examples.

A La Carte Meaning

“A la carte” is a French term that translates to “on the card.” In the context of dining out, each dish on the menu is priced and ordered separately rather than being part of a set meal or package. It allows the customer to have more control over their dining experience and order only what they want to eat, rather than being limited to a fixed menu. Ala carte menu pricing can vary depending on the ingredients, preparation, and presentation of each dish, and it is typically higher than the price of a set menu or package. A la carte menus are commonly found in high-end restaurants with table service; and offer a wider variety of dishes to cater to different tastes and preferences.

Characteristics of an A La Carte Menu

  • An alacarte menu allows customers to order each dish individually rather than selecting from pre-set menus or meal packages.
  • The prices of dishes are listed separately, and customers even choose how many dishes they want to order.
  • A la carte menus typically offer numerous options, including either appetizers, entrees, or desserts.
  • Customers can even customize their orders by choosing different side dishes or substitutions for ingredients.
  • A la carte menus are common in restaurants specializing in high-end cuisine or offering a range of international dishes.
  • The dishes on an a la carte menu may be more expensive than those on a set menu because customers pay for each item rather than a package deal.

Advantages of an A La Carte Menu

  • More flexibility for customers: With an a la carte menu, customers can choose exactly what they want to eat and how much they want to spend. They can customize their meal to their liking and choose dishes that fit their dietary restrictions or preferences.
  • Greater variety of options: A la carte menus typically offer a wide range of options, from appetizers and entrees to sides and desserts. This can be especially appealing to customers wanting to try different dishes or looking for a specific type of cuisine.
  • Higher quality ingredients: Restaurants offering a la carte menus use fresh ingredients to prepare each dish. Since customers pay for each item individually, restaurants are motivated to use the best possible ingredients to ensure customer satisfaction.
  • More control over spending: Customers on a budget may find that a la carte menus are more cost-effective because they can choose which items to order and how much they want to spend. It can be helpful for groups with varying appetites or dietary requirements.
  • Opportunity for upselling: A la carte menus can be an excellent way for restaurants to increase revenue by upselling customers on additional items or upgrades. For example, a server might recommend a unique appetizer or dessert to complement a customer’s meal.

Disadvantages of an A La Carte Menu

  • Higher costs: Because customers pay for each dish individually, one of the main disadvantages of an a la carte menu is that it can be more expensive than other types of menu. It may put off customers on a tight budget or looking for a more affordable dining experience.
  • Longer wait times: Since each dish on an a la carte menu is prepared separately, it can take longer for customers to receive their food. It can be a drawback for customers in a hurry or dining with large groups.
  • Complexity: A la carte menus can be more complex and challenging to navigate than other menus. Customers may feel overwhelmed by the full options or need help deciding what to order.
  • Inconsistent portion sizes: Inconsistent portion sizes: Because each dish on an a la carte menu is priced separately, restaurants may vary the portion sizes to maximize profits. Customers who believe they are not getting a fair deal or who are accustomed to consistent portion sizes may find this frustrating.
  • Difficulty coordinating dishes: When customers order from an a la carte menu, it can be challenging to coordinate dishes so that everyone at the table receives their food simultaneously. This can be a challenge for larger groups or when ordering multiple courses.

What are the common A La Carte Dishes?

Check out this list of individual dishes that you might see on A la carte menus. This will give you a good sense of the different category of dishes that are usually served in this format.

Common Breakfast A La Carte Dishes

  • Pancake
  • Pastries and Breads
  • Omelettes. 
  • Waffles

Common Lunch A La Carte Dishes

  • Rice dishes
  • Salads
  • Pastas
  • Pizza

Dinner A La Carte Dishes

  • Burgers
  • Steaks
  • Short ribs
  • Lasagne

Differences between A La Carte and other types of menu

The level of choice and flexibility offered to customers distinguishes an a la carte menu from other types of menus. Customers can order individual dishes from an a la carte menu based on their preferences and dietary restrictions, whereas other types of menus may offer a more limited selection or a fixed progression of dishes.

  • A table d’hote menu provides a fixed-priced set menu that typically includes multiple courses. On the opposite, an a la carte menu allows customers to order individual dishes from various options.
  • The french classical menu is a set menu that usually consists of several courses, each with its preparation method. Compare with the a la carte menu, which allows customers to choose individual dishes from various options, often with greater flexibility in preparation and presentation.
  • A buffet menu features a variety of dishes laid out on a table or buffet station for customers to serve themselves. On the other hand, an a la carte menu requires customers to order dishes from a menu, which are then prepared and served by kitchen staff.
  • A cyclic menu has a fixed set of dishes that rotate over a specific period. In contrast, a la carte menu items are priced individually, and customers have the freedom to order what they like. 
  • Du Jour menus focus on a smaller, daily-changing selection of dishes based on the availability of fresh ingredients. While A La Carte menus offer more choice, Du Jour menus provide a unique, curated dining experience with an emphasis on seasonal flavors.
  • A tasting menu is a fixed menu of multiple small courses designed to highlight the chef’s culinary skills and creativity. On the other hand, an a la carte menu allows customers to order individual dishes from various options, along with less emphasis placed on the overall progression of the meal.

What Is the Standard A La Carte Table Cover?

Although an a la carte menu can be found in many restaurants, from fast-casual to high-end fine dining establishments. This section will concentrate on the latter.

The a la carte table setting refers to how each guest’s place at the table is arranged when an a la carte menu is served. This is typically done when the entire party orders from the a la carte menu, which is more common in Europe than in the United States.

Follow these five steps to make an a la carte table cover:

  • Put the base plate in the center of the cover.
  • Arrange the fork and fish knife around the base plate.
  • Place the side plate 5-6 inches to the left of the base plate and the side knife on top, facing left.
  • Place a napkin in the center of the plate.
  • Place a glass about 2-3 inches up and to the right of the tip of the fish fork.

The goal is to create an elegant and polished appearance that complements the food and improves the dining experience for the guests.

A La Carte Menu Example

Here’s an A La Carte Sample Menu


  • Garlic bread ($5)
  • Caesar salad ($8)
  • Shrimp cocktail ($12)


  • Grilled salmon ($24)
  • Ribeye steak ($30)
  • Linguine with clam sauce ($20)
  • Chicken parmesan ($18)


  • Roasted vegetables ($6)
  • Mashed potatoes ($5)

Desserts and Beverage

  • Chocolate cake ($8)
  • New York cheesecake ($10)
  • Tiramisu ($9)

As you can see, each meal is priced separately, and customers are free to choose any combination of foods. The menu includes a variety of meals such as appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts.

Menu A La Carte

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an A La Carte Menu?

By ordering from an a la carte menu, you pay for each item individually.

This differs from the fixed-price, predetermined-number-of-courses menus known as prix fixe menu or table d’ hote menu.

Diners may get exactly what they want without being constrained by a predetermined menu when ordering from an a la carte menu.

2. What is the Difference Between Buffet and A La Carte?

Buffet refer to a certain a type of eating experience in which you pay a predetermined amount and then serve yourself as much food as you like from a variety of dishes served on a table or counter. A range of items, including appetizers, main entrees, side dishes, and desserts, are usually included on the menu. Buffets are popular for big parties or special occasions because they provide a convenient and flexible meal choice. 

On the other hand, a la carte eating is a style in which each menu item has its own price, and diners can order individual meals from the menu. This means guests may order precisely what they want, and each item is produced fresh and given to the table. A la carte eating is more formal than buffet-style dining and is generally associated with fine dining places.

3. What is the Difference Between A La Carte and Set Menu?

A la carte dishes are priced individually. It means guests can order whatever they want and pay for each dish they purchase. A la carte menus provide a lot of freedom and allow consumers to personalize their dining experience, but the expense may rapidly pile up.

On the other hand, set menus provide a pre-selected selection of items at a set price. Set menus are often organized around a theme or event, and the meals are frequently presented in order. Set menus are a common choice for occasions when many people are anticipated to dine together, such as weddings, banquets, or business meetings. Set menus provide customers with ease and simplicity since they know precisely what they are receiving and how much it will cost.

Create Digital A La Carte Menus

In today’s digital age, many restaurants are creating digital a la carte menus. Digital menus have several advantages over traditional paper menus, including:

  • They are easy to update and modify
  • They are more environmentally friendly
  • They may include photos of the dishes, which can help diners make their choices

If you’re interested in creating restaurant’s digital menu, you can use a service like Menubly. Menubly allows you to create a beautiful, user-friendly digital menu that can be accessed through a QR code.

Setting up a website for your restaurant

When setting up your restaurant, it’s crucial to explore ways to attract more customers to your restaurants. One effective way to do this is by having a dedicated website where your customers can learn everything about your restaurant anytime, anywhere. 

Menubly lets you create a mini website with a built-in online menu which centralizes all important information about your restaurant into one accessible link. It makes it easy for your customers to interact with your restaurant: they can view your menu, find your location, book a table, place delivery orders… all in one place.

By adding your mini website link in your Instagram bio and other social media profiles, or sharing it directly with customers, you make it easy for them to discover and engage with your restaurant through a single, convenient link. This streamlined approach not only enhances customer experience but also boosts your online presence and attract more customers.

Best of all? You can set up your Menubly mini website for Free in just under 5 minutes and tailor it to match your restaurant’s style.  

Ready to boost your restaurant’s online presence? Click here to create your free website with Menubly!


If you run a restaurant, you might want to think about whether an a la carte menu would work well for your business. This certain type of menu can give your customers more choices and flexibility, but it can also end up increasing their bill. To make a good decision, you need to know what an a la carte menu is and what its pros and cons are for your business. You can find out if this kind of menu will help your customers and keep your restaurant successful with a little bit of research.