Restaurants can live or die because of these menu items

It's on the menu ... just because

It's a classic situation. Brian really wants steak. A good steak. At a proper steakhouse. The kind where diners have to sell possessions on eBbay to afford a meal.

Robert, on the other hand, doesn't eat meat.

Fortunately, this super-swanky steakhouse also has a pasta dish just in case someone actually comes in and doesn't want steak.

Today is that day. And Robert is that someone.

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Some call it a throwaway dish. Others say it's a scapegoat. Either way, these dishes exist so that there's something for everyone. And so Brian and Robert don't just end up going to some cold, silent diner.

Thus, Robert gets the pasta, and Brian sells his grandmother's heirlooms for his steak.

Of course, these throwaway dishes don't only exist just to cater to special dietary needs. A scapegoat can also be something simple and familiar for the unadventurous diner.

In a different situation, Esther thinks jellyfish salad sounds delightful, if not potentially psychedelic. Suzy is disgusted just thinking about it. So, chicken it is. Because that's the scapegoat. Grilled breast meat with some mixed veggies on the side — for Suzy.

And everyone's happy. Or at least they better be.

A scapegoat can either save the night or — if the chef doesn't put any thought into it — the dish can lead to disaster. It goes to the theory that a restaurant is only as good as its last meal, and a proper establishment knows that even its weakest link has to be spectacular.

Watch the video to hear what the hosts of "Restaurant Startup " think about scapegoat dishes.

Tune in to "Restaurant Startup," Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC, to watch entrepreneurs compete for the backing of the show's celebrity restaurateurs.

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