Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get a free report tested a new Main Dining Room (MDR) menu on a Symphony of the Seas sail. The new menu offered far fewer choices and dropped the cruise line’s “Classics” lineup, which appeared every night.
That menu offered basics like grilled chicken, a New York strip steak, and spaghetti bolognese. Dropping those options would make it a lot 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 getting past the kids’ menu but who haven’t fully acquired the tastes of adults yet.
It’s easy to understand why Royal Caribbean wants a slimmer menu, but it seems tricky to execute one. Fewer choices mean less waste, shorter service times and may subtly lead customers to more specialty dinners. Two of those three benefit customers, but it’s very difficult for a cruise line to take away something that customers are used to.
That’s a problem compounded by most people who 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 trip to trip, and the changes Royal Caribbean has tested are no small feat.
However, the cruise line promised that it would not make any permanent changes without asking its customers. Now the cruise line does that with a completely different dining idea.
Royal Caribbean is asking customers about a new menu
Royal Caribbean has sent out a survey to some former passengers with questions about a new potential Main Dining Room menu, the Royal Caribbean Blog’s Matt Hochberg first reported.
“We would like to show you a possible menu that you may see in the Main Dining Room on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Please review this menu carefully and answer a few questions,” the email read.
On the menu was a ‘French evening’. At the top, the cruise line showed a series of “Chef’s Recommendations”, including an old favorite from the “Classics” menu, escargot à la Bourguignonne, tenderloin and Creme Brulee. In addition, the menu offers five starters, six main courses (including meat, fish, pasta and vegetarian choices). Five desserts round out the selections.
It’s a much smaller menu than what was offered before, but it’s kind of a mix between offering some favorites and some more new choices.
Guests were then asked to rate how appealing each dish is on a scale of 0 (poor) to 10 (excellent).
Royal Caribbean seems poised for dining changes
Obviously, Royal Caribbean doesn’t know what changes it plans to make to the MDR, but it does want to offer fewer choices. The cruise line is also using the survey to ask passing 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.
That’s a balancing act, because some people view dinner on a cruise ship as a lengthy, formal affair, while others want to get back to the action on the ship.
Royal Caribbean also used the survey to ask previous passengers “what part of the menu would you like to include familiar versus new/unfamiliar dishes?” (Your total answer must add up to 100%). the menu without taking away too many choices.
Furthermore, the cruise line asked respondents what they looked forward to most when it came to the main dining room. Choices included:
- Great variety of dishes
- Many items to choose from
- Well-known articles
- Healthy items
- New items I’ve never owned
- Easy to understand descriptions
- Small portions
- Listing of all ingredients in each dish
- Exotic options
Royal Caribbean seems to be taking a thoughtful approach to making a very difficult change. It is clear that no decisions have been made yet, but the research and testing on Symphony of the Seas could lead to changes or more testing.