The procedure of translating a restaurant menu is more complicated than it seems. A dictionary is not enough to transform it into another language! Every country has their own dishes that cannot be translated literally because it requires a reworking of names and local ingredients and an understanding of the local culture.

Restaurant owners often rely on automatic translations as this is the cheapest and fastest method. Sometimes they even produce D.I.Y translations which result in mistakes that can have serious repercussions, not only for the reputation of the restaurant, but also for the customers. To avoid running this risk, it is crucial to choose a professional translator who knows how to correctly reinterpret the menu and steer clear of misreadings and misunderstandings. Even though there aren’t many words to be translated, it is worth the restaurant owner investing in this crucial communication tool.

So, here are five reasons why getting a professional translation of your restaurant’s menu is the right choice.

First impressions count

Menus mark the first contact between customer and restaurant. Reading the menu is a crucial moment that influences the entire experience.

Having foreign customers understand your menu is the first step in creating loyalty and it could be the deciding factor in choosing your restaurant over one of the many others available to tourists. The customer will immediately feel comfortable choosing dishes and won’t feel like they need to constantly rely on the wait staff.

A good translation can make all the difference and your restaurant’s reputation will reap the benefits. On the other hand, a poor translation – aside from being downright funny – can also compromise a restaurant’s credibility.

Avoid misunderstandings

The name of a dish doesn’t necessarily describe its ingredients or preparation. In fact, they are often creative or regional names that can be ambiguous or confusing for the customer.

A professional translator is also equipped to explain the specifics of a dish:if for example you need to translate ‘spaghetti all’assassina’ (literally ‘killer spaghetti’), a translator won’t only list the ingredients but also describe the special preparation that makes it unique. (For example, ‘a spicy tomato pasta dish with bits of caramelized spaghetti, finished with rich, buttery olive oil.’)).

Providing a brief description of the dish and its ingredients can help the customer to understand it, and removes the issue of the wait staff having to answer questions in a language that isn’t their mother tongue.

Another aspect that mustn’t be underestimated is religious or personal dietary requirements. An accurate description of the dish will help the customer avoid choosing something that doesn’t suit their needs.

Avoid serious consequences for customers

Translating a menu, and above all translating it properly, not only lessens the likelihood of bad reviews that could damage the restaurant’s reputation, but is also helpful in making sure that customers don’t suffer any allergic reactions or other health problems.

The ability to provide customers with accurate information about the food on offer is synonymous with atransparent and reliablerestaurant. Choosing to make up a translation is a risk that could cause serious harm to people with allergies or intolerances for certain ingredients.

Promoting local cuisine

Many restaurants serve dishes that are characteristic and unique to a particular local dining culture, whose name alone would never grab the attention of a tourist or a foreign customer, thus forcing them to miss out on a once in a lifetime culinary experience.

In addition to translation, a level of adaptation is also required. A translated menu becomes an informative tool that attracts customers who, now intrigued, go out to discover new flavours.

Avoid bad impressions

Although it is fun to laugh at the table – let’s face it, we have all left with a smile after reading unlikely translations such as ‘spaghetti to the rock’ for spaghetti allo scoglio, or those giggle-worthy stories from the TDM Facebook page – but translation slip-ups can seriously compromise the credibility of a restaurant.

Therefore, do not underestimate menu translation. Instead, give it the same weight as other tasks when it comes to running your restaurant.

Rachael Chambers
Rachael Chambers

Rachael is a young but talented colleague, who specializes in translations from French and English into Italian. After graduating in the UK, she moved to Italy where she taught English as a foreign language to Italian students and where she learnt the real Italian she needs to fully understand the source texts and translate them into English. She has also worked as an intern at AlfaBeta’s office in Rome and is now one of our youngest freelancers.

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