As the pandemic has forced restaurant operators to adjust their menus, sandwiches have been among the items needing an update. Many of the consumers who once worked outside the home and grabbed a sandwich during their lunch hour are – for now – staying in at lunchtime and preparing food at home. But even if your lunchtime business has declined, there may still be room for sandwiches on your menu – especially if you look beyond lunch. Could a new lineup of breakfast sandwiches help people start the day? Could you make sandwiches a more enticing takeout option for dinner with special sauces and sides? Maybe there’s room for small sandwiches on your menu as an afternoon snack option. Consumers will continue to look for foods that are easy to consume on the go – and sandwiches are among them. Do yours fit the current environment?
Pesto is a menu game-changer: Not only can it add vibrant color to a dish, but there are so many variations of it depending on the produce, herbs, nuts and oils you have on hand. Create a minty pesto to lighten up a rich dish, a smoky variation to add depth, or a spicy one infused with global spices to elevate a new menu item.
As much as food menus have had to transform throughout the pandemic, beverage menus have felt pressure to change too. You may have noticed changes in your customers’ beverage-buying habits in recent months: A downturn in classic coffee purchases from people who would normally stop by on their daily commute to work, or a dip in soft drink sales now that groups who used to order a couple of rounds of drinks over a meal in your dining room are finding their beverages at home. But beverages can still be money makers for restaurants – your menu may just need to shift to accommodate the current environment. First, make it special by offering people something they wouldn’t find at home, from coffees and herbal teas with seasonal flavors, to nutrient-dense smoothies, to fruity kombuchas. If you’re selling meal bundles this winter, don’t forget to build in a special beverage option to complement the flavors in the meal: Suggest a wine for each bundle (and explain why it’s a good fit) or offer a non-alcoholic fizzy drink like a sparkling cider or mocktail to make it more worthwhile for a customer to include beverages in their order. As people continue to work from home, their mid-afternoon breaks have also taken on new importance – and beverages can help there too. Offer a snack/appetizer and beverage pairing as an afternoon pick-me-up: Going out for gourmet hot chocolate and popcorn, a pot of tea and scones, or an Italian coffee and cheese board feels more worthwhile than making a special trip for a latte you can easily prep at home. If you’re known for your specialty cocktails, you can even put together a simple kit to help a customer enjoy a special Zoom happy hour on a Thursday evening.
Desserts can be a profit driver for restaurants – is your dessert menu tempting customers right now? As it’s the start of a new year and consumers are more focused on their health, consider lower-sugar options that still offer some sweetness after a meal, or smaller portions (or a shareable sampler of them) that can be enjoyed without guilt. Think in combinations too: Desserts can pair well with liqueurs or specialty hot drinks that help beat the cold and boost check totals.