Steaks, cocktails and chicken parmas the most-ordered by Melbourne diners

Hotel Collingwood is back open and, like many other venues, is seeing parmas, fish and chips and Spritzes being ordered ...
Hotel Collingwood is back open and, like many other venues, is seeing parmas, fish and chips and Spritzes being ordered by patrons.  Photo: Electric Sunday

Steak sales are up by fifty per cent, tips have nearly doubled and cocktails can't be mixed quickly enough for Melburnians who are returning to restaurants and pubs with gusto since lockdown was lifted on October 22.

"They just seem to want to have fun," says Teage Ezard, who has operated Gingerboy in the CBD for 15 years and is seeing people spending more at his venue.

"They're more boisterous, more engaging, more connected. There's a good feeling being in hospitality right now."

Data from the Me&u tap-and-order app shows Melbourne diners are ordering plenty of cocktails, pots of beer and chicken ...
Data from the Me&u tap-and-order app shows Melbourne diners are ordering plenty of cocktails, pots of beer and chicken parmas after lockdown, as well as leaving tips for staff. Photo: Supplied

Spending on eating out is up 18 per cent compared to the week before lockdown, according to data from tap-and-order platform Me&u, which is used in more than 200 venues across Victoria. The app (and others like it) work via QR codes or beacons on tables that diners can scan to view a menu, place an order and pay without cash.

Mr Yum, a competitor platform that's used by 1000 venues in Melbourne alone, says it's seen tips rise by 189 per cent compared with the last two weeks in April 2021, before Melbourne's string of winter lockdowns. Fellow ordering platform Hungry Hungry is reporting a 25 per cent rise in tipping between March and October.

Australia-wide, tips this year on Mr Yum are up 512 per cent compared with last year, while Me&u's app took $52,500 in tips over just 10 days after lockdown ended in Melbourne at the end of October. 

Gingerboy in Melbourne's CBD is seeing patrons order more of its banquet menus after lockdown, as well as more ...
Gingerboy in Melbourne's CBD is seeing patrons order more of its banquet menus after lockdown, as well as more cocktails, leading to a higher spend per head. Photo: Parker Blain

"There's no mistaking that we're grateful to be back in venues with our family and friends again," says Me&u's founder Stevan Premutico. "The blood, sweat and tears shed by the great people of hospitality to open up the doors again hasn't gone unnoticed."

People are catching up over chicken parmigianas and chicken schnitzels, according to Premutico's platform, with fish and chips also making a strong showing in the top three dishes ordered.

At city pub Garden State Hotel and sister venue The Espy in St Kilda, it's all about steak, says Garden State chef Dylan Evans, although parmas follow closely behind in popularity.

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But breakfast crowds are opting for lighter fare, at least at Left Field cafe in Carnegie where restaurant-worthy brunch plates attract long queues.

Manager Ed Santos says that the usual best-seller of pulled pork Benedict has been eclipsed in the last three weeks by smashed avo with goat's cheese and almond crumble, and a dish of sauteed spring greens with beetroot hummus, poached eggs and quinoa toast.

Drinks-wise, The Espy and Garden State have noticed an uptick in cocktail orders, particularly during spring racing week when patrons usually order sparkling wine or rosé.

Venues across Melbourne are enjoying an increased spend per head and more tips.
Venues across Melbourne are enjoying an increased spend per head and more tips. Photo: Electric Sunday

Ezard has also noticed a thirst for mixed drinks among Gingerboy's clientele.

"My god, people are into the cocktails," he says, adding that at least one round of cocktails is fairly standard for most tables right now.

Mr Yum data backs this up, with sales of spritzes showing a 155 per cent increase.

Spritzes and other cocktails are proving popular as people order the things they're less likely to make at home.
Spritzes and other cocktails are proving popular as people order the things they're less likely to make at home. Photo: Electric Sunday

"You can really see what people missed and that's having an expert make a drink for you," says Ash Hicks, executive chef at The Espy.

"There's a willingness to spend and invest in the time they're in the venue," he added. "Everyone seems really relaxed as well."

It's all positive news for owners who might be concerned about staff shortages affecting diners' experience in their venues.

In Victoria, the number of shifts being worked in pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes has dropped by 46 per cent since January 2020, according to shift scheduling software Deputy.

Hotel Collingwood owner Julien Moussi, who also runs more than a dozen cafes and bakeries across Melbourne, says he is short approximately 50 staff across all his venues.

He describes apps that allow tableside ordering by patrons as "a necessary evil" at the moment, allowing him to ride out the staffing shortage.

He says the apps not only free up staff for other tasks, it means less time is needed to train new staff, who don't need to know the menu inside-out on day one.

"It's also allowing our staff to be more relaxed on the floor. They're able to be more hospitable, interact with the customers."

Many ordering platforms claim that the tech encourages people to spend more, with less waiting around to order at the bar or with floor staff, and the option to upsell within the app. Moussi has definitely seen this play out in his venues, seeing a consistently higher spend per head.

But with or without apps, people are in the mood to be back out.

"There's a real buzz in every venue in Melbourne at the moment," says Moussi. "There's a real opportunity to make up for lost time."

Top five most ordered dishes in Victoria according to Me&u

  • Chicken parma
  • Chicken schnitzel
  • Fish and chips
  • Beef burger
  • Salt and pepper calamari

Top five most ordered drinks according to Me&u

  • Espresso martini
  • Carlton Draught
  • Aperol spritz
  • Coburg Lager
  • Balter XPA