Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get a free report tested a new MDR (Main Dining Room) menu on a Symphony of the Seas ship. The new menu offered far fewer choices and dropped the cruise line’s “Classics” lineup that appeared every night.
This menu featured staples like grilled chicken, a New York strip steak, and spaghetti bolognese. Leaving out those options would make it that much harder for picky eaters to find something they want every night. The change would also have been a nightmare for parents of children who are outgrowing the children’s menu but haven’t yet had the full taste of adults.
It’s easy to see why Royal Caribbean would like a leaner menu, but implementing one seems difficult. Less choice means less waste, faster service times and perhaps subtly leading customers to more specialty restaurants. Two of those three benefit customers, but it’s very difficult for any cruise line to take something away from customers that they’re used to.
That’s a problem made worse by the fact that most people only cruise once a year (or less), but cruise lines have a very loyal audience. They generally expect things to be more or less the same from voyage to voyage, and the changes Royal Caribbean tested are no small ones.
However, the cruise line promised that it would not make any permanent changes without asking its customers. Now the cruise line is doing that with a completely different dining idea.
Royal Caribbean is asking customers for a new menu
Royal Caribbean has sent out a survey to some past passengers asking questions about a new potential main dining menu, the Royal Caribbean Blog’s Matt Hochberg was first to report.
“We want to show you a possible menu you might see in the main dining room on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Please read this menu carefully and answer a few questions,” the email said.
The menu showed a “French night”. At the top, the cruise line featured a series of “Chef’s Picks,” including an old favorite from the “Classics” menu, escargot à la bourguignonne, and beef tenderloin and creme brulee. In addition, the menu offers five starters, six main courses (including meat, fish, pasta and vegetarian dishes). Five desserts complete the offer.
It’s a much smaller menu than what’s been offered before, but it’s kind of a mix of some favorites and slightly newer choices.
Guests were then asked to rate how appealing each dish was on a scale of 0 (poor) to 10 (excellent).
Royal Caribbean appears to be set for dining changes
Of course, Royal Caribbean doesn’t know what changes it’s making in the MDR, but it wants to offer fewer choices. The cruise line also uses the survey to ask previous passengers how long is too short and how long is too long. That speaks to the cruise line’s stated goal of improving the speed of service.
It’s a balancing act, because for some people, dining on a cruise ship is a tedious, formal affair, while others want to get back to what’s happening on the ship.
Royal Caribbean also used the survey to ask previous passengers, “What proportion of the menu would you like to have familiar versus new/unfamiliar dishes?” (Your total answer should be 100.) This question speaks to the second goal of simplifying the menu without taking away too many choices.
In addition, the cruise line asked attendees what they were looking forward to most in terms of the main dining room. Included choices:
- Large selection of dishes
- Lots of items to choose from
- Known Items
- Healthy Items
- New items I’ve never had before
- Easy to understand descriptions
- Small portions
- Listing of all ingredients in each dish
- Exotic options
Royal Caribbean appears to be taking a considered approach to making a very difficult change. Of course, no decisions have been made yet, but the survey and testing on Symphony of the Seas may result in changes or further testing.