A La Carte: Definition, Menu Examples, Characteristics, and Advantages

A la carte is the term for the system of serving dishes in star restaurants and upscale hotels.

Maybe some of you have seen this term in fast food restaurants and you must be wondering, why do fast food restaurants also have an a la carte menu? Actually, what is the meaning of this term?

Here’s the explanation:

Let’s see the following explanation so that you better understand the term a la carte.


What is A La Carte? (Definition)

Ala carte is a French expression that means “according to the card ” in English.

The meaning of the word refers to the menu of food available in the restaurant. All menus include:

  • Appetizer
  • Main Course
  • Dessert

Restaurant visitors can freely choose what type of food they want from the menu in a restaurant according to their food tastes and pay for the menu they choose

This term is a revolution of the restaurant system that occurred in the 19th century.

At that time, each restaurant would only offer a  table d’hôte system meaning diners could only enjoy their pre-set meals.

This menu is then served to all visitors who want to take part. With no other choice but the dish that is already in front of the visitor.

Judging from the table d’hôte dish system it is very inefficient and leaves a lot of leftover food wasted.

Finally came the a la carte system that provides various types of food that visitors can order according to their appetite.

Also read: Gueridon Service: Definition, Types, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Characteristics of A La Carte

  1. This menu has more variety than the table d’hôte menu which has more places to prepare food than the a la carte menu.
  2. Offers a wide selection of food and beverages by type and category.
  3. Each item on the menu has a small narration below its food menu to explain the type of dish.
  4. The chef will cook the dish after receiving the food order from the waiter. So this food can be served well and still warm.
  5. Each meal has a different preparation time.
  6. Food prices are much more expensive than table d’hôte menus and require more space and kitchen equipment.
  7. Usually, these dishes offer varied and expensive seasonal dishes.
  8. All appetizers, dishes, salads and desserts can be ordered separately by customers
  9. Dishes that often use this system are found in almost all types of food and beverage businesses. Except for banquets, flight catering, institutional catering, and other meeting catering.

Because it has a large selection of food and drinks, sometimes restaurant management can’t know the increase in orders from each food.

This makes it difficult for the restaurant industry to control raw material supplies and ensures that much fewer leftovers are made than table d’hôte menus.

Here are the food menu styles that you should know:

A La Carte and Semi A La Carte Menu Style

  1. Breakfast Menu 

Almost all of the breakfast menu comes from both a la carte and all a la carte segments.

Examples of a la carte menus on the breakfast menu offer juices, fruit, cereals, eggs, meats, pancakes, French toast, waffles, bread, side dishes, and drinks. Meanwhile, the semi-segment usually offers a combination of food variants.

Usually, the breakfast menu has the following characteristics:

  • Although breakfast menus are offered in many upscale restaurants and large hotels, they are usually more expensive. Even so, the breakfast menu offers food at a reasonable price.
  • Some breakfast dishes will be prepared after the order has been made.
  • The breakfast menu usually has a reliable chef to provide food quickly.
  • American-style service usually has a waiter take orders and serve them to the guest table.

Example of A La Carte Breakfast Menu Menu :

  • Juice,
  • Fruit,
  • Cereals,
  • omelet,
  • Waffles.
  1. Luncheon Menu
A La Carte Is

Unlike the breakfast menu, the lunch menu usually offers a la carte and semi a la carte dishes.

In this lunch section, the dishes they usually offer are appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, desserts, and drinks.

As for the spring menu, it is an appetizer with salad, vegetables, potatoes, or rice. Here are the characteristics that you can find in the lunch menu:

  • The lunch menu usually offers special dishes.
  • The portion of the lunch menu dish is smaller.
  • Prices listed on the lunch menu may vary depending on the type of food, the operating system of the hotel or restaurant, and the location of the hotel or restaurant.
  • Requires proper kitchen equipment because usually, this lunch menu has many different cooking methods. Such as bread, baked, fried, and others.

Example of A La Carte Lunch Menu Menu :

  • Sandwich,
  • Pasta,
  • Soup,
  • Salad.
  1. Dinner Menu

The dinner menu includes a la carte and semi a la carte dishes. Usually, the dinner menu provides more appetizers than the lunch menu. Countries that often follow this system are America, France, and Russia.

Example of A La Carte Dinner Menu :

  • Steak,
  • Short Ribs,
  • Lasagne,
  • Crab Cakes.
  1. California Menu

Usually, this menu can only be found in California restaurants that only provide dishes based on time, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

  1. Ethnic Menu

Furthermore, there is an ethnic menu that offers semi-a la carte or a la carte dishes.

This menu provides dishes derived from traditional foods from certain regions or countries. The price range they offer tends to be more expensive.

Advantages and Disadvantages of A La Carte


  1. Slow Service

This system is not very suitable for restaurants that have busy visitors. The more customers who order the a la carte menu, the slower the restaurant service to fulfill their customers’ orders.

As a result, your restaurant will get complaints and complaints from visitors, of course, this can damage the reputation of the restaurant.

  1. Professional Team

Because it provides many types of food, this system forces the staff to work faster.

Starting from serving orders, delivering dishes, cooking processes, and others. Of course, this kind of service can only be done by a team of experienced waiters and chefs.


  1. Serving Customers Well

One of the advantages or advantages of this system is that it offers good service to customers, from customers arriving, ordering food, to leave the restaurant.

Customers can experience special service starting from choosing a seat, choosing a dish, delivering food, and professional waiters who can provide answers and best dish recommendations for all customer questions.

This service is what makes customers feel special. Of course, this service system is impossible for them to get when visiting fast food restaurants or all-you-can-eat restaurants.

  1. Gaining Customer Loyalty

Having loyal customers is an award for every business industry. For restaurants, one way to win the heart of a customer is to treat them well.

Of course, this system is the best way and trick to win customers’ hearts and create a special taste and customer satisfaction from restaurant service.

Table Setting Standard

Almost all types of restaurants and hotels have unit menus like this system, ranging from casual places to fine dining places with luxurious white tablecloths.

In addition to the menu, they also pay attention to the table setting so that the restaurant’s exterior looks more luxurious.

Actually, this table setting aims so that the waiter or waitress can arrange the place for each guest’s dish to be more organized and orderly when serving food.

However, this standard of table setting is an obligation that must be carried out by every high-end restaurant.

This table-setting system applies in every type of restaurant and hotel business.

In addition, by implementing this system, visitors can rate the restaurant business services much better, so they believe in the quality of the dishes and restaurant service they will receive commensurate with the price they pay.

Here’s how to create a table setting:

  • Place the main plate in the center of the table in an open position,
  • Place the knife and fork around the main plate,
  • Place the companion plate about 5 to 6 inches to the left of the main plate, and place the companion knife on the top right and facing left,
  • Position the napkin in the center of the main plate,
  • Position the glass about 2-3 inches to the right and about 2-3 inches from the tip of the fork.
Example of A La Carte Table Setting

Sample A La Carte Menu

To improve the quality of restaurant service, at least the restaurant has a menu book that displays the available food dishes based on the type of food and its category.

The following is an example of a menu book as a reference so that you know what to include in the menu book.

In addition to a complete menu of dishes, of course, you must have a charming and neat appearance of the menu book, so that customers can read it well.

1. Sample Menu A La Carte Indonesian food

In Indonesia itself, many have applied the concept of menu presentation with the concept of A la carte. Here is one of them.

Example of Indonesian A la Carte Menu
Sample A la Carte menu

2. Sample A La Carte Menu Overseas

More than 65% of restaurants in Europe apply the A La Carte menu concept. Here is one example.

Sample A La Carte Menu

Digital Menu

The modern way to digitize the a la carte menu is to use a QR code. The things you must have before making this digital menu are food menus, food menu documents in PDF format or a website.

This QR code is one of the most important features in any food business.

Apart from being easy to access via smartphones, restaurants can minimize the spread of the virus between visitors and restaurant employees.

You only need to create a QR code through an available online application and then print the QR code, insert it into a photo frame to make it look more beautiful, and place it in the middle of the dining table and around the restaurant.

Besides being useful for displaying food menus, you can also use QR codes as a payment method easily.

Scan QR Code Menu A La Carte

However, as good as technology is, service is an important thing that a customer is looking for. There are some people who besides enjoying the food menu, they want to feel well served.

Although digital technology has developed far, the service of waiters and waitresses is not replaced.

Already Understand What is A la Carte?

That’s the meaning of the term a la carte that you should know. Star hotels and high-end restaurants do use this system to better serve their customers.

As for fast food restaurants, they only use this term in menu choices, not with special services that you can find and feel when visiting expensive restaurants.


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