Once upon a time, a person could return to a restaurant year after year and see the same assortment of menu items. Inflation and supply challenges have turned that idea on its head, making rotating menus a more common experience. But even if the macroeconomic environment stabilizes, there are big benefits to keeping dynamic menus around. They spark ongoing interest from guests. What better reason to visit a restaurant more often than to discover the latest changes to the menu? They allow you to flow with the seasons and offer ingredients more apt to be local and plentiful. New menus naturally offer you content to promote online – you can entice people to come in before your menu options change and again when you’re unveiling new items. Finally, they keep your operation nimble. You’re able to respond more creatively, flexibly and cost-consciously when there is a shortage. A restaurant with a regularly changing menu can’t be shouldering a lot of waste.
Supply chain challenges have made it all the more important for restaurants to support regional suppliers and source what is plentiful, local and easily transported. As you source more seasonal items, look for ways they can help you refresh a menu item that may be popular but could benefit from a new twist. Weaving seasonal additions into everything from salads to desserts can help you add creativity and color to your menu, as well as give a long-standing menu item a welcome update.
Comfort food is always on trend. But as much as guests crave the nostalgic comfort of a dish they know well, they also want something creative and interesting – a step beyond what they might think about preparing at home. Making small adjustments can offer that interest and extend your menu. Consider how global spices, seasonal produce or new marinades or sauces might complement the classic dishes you serve.
More consumers may be cutting back on alcoholic beverages, but they are still craving premium drinks. Your beverage menu is an ideal tool to use to bring customers in the door to enjoy items they crave but are less apt to prepare at home or order for takeout. As the weather cools, you can pull in so many appealing flavors of the season – think warm, spicy pumpkin, caramel apple, tangy cranberry or sweet pear. What flavors could you recast in new recipes to help guests experience the season?
The season of hearty food is upon us. As the weather cools, customers will be craving warming, filling options that taste good on autumn days. In the months leading up to the holidays, which are often filled with classic American dishes, take a broader view and consider these chillier months as opportunities to add some global flair to your menu – especially as international travel remains slow. Where can you add some interest to your menu with authentic dishes from other places?
Want to create an interesting, satisfying dish that also happens to look Instagram-worthy on a plate? People already have stuffing on the brain at this time of year. Why not take it a step further and use it to help elevate your entrées? You can combine your favorite spices and in-season ingredients into signature stuffing for foods as wide-ranging as pork, poultry, seafood and produce. There’s even room for creative adaptations on the dessert menu. Think of stuffing as a vehicle for adding warmth to your menu in the cooler months ahead.
Are you serving up (or packaging up) Thanksgiving meals at your restaurant this year? While Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where people enjoy eating traditional dishes year after year, you can help your menu stand out by offering alternatives that don’t stray far from the classics but still add interest to the menu. Instead of trying to sell guests on creative new main dishes and sides, try incorporating special marinades, gravy and on-trend spices and flavors that will elevate – but not distract from – the classic foods consumers crave.
Fall vegetables aren’t only healthy additions to your menu: Their density and texture make them filling substitutes for everything from pasta to meat. Offer spaghetti squash as a low-carb pasta alternative this season or butternut squash to add meaty consistency to a vegetarian chili. Capitalize on pumpkin spice mania by adding pumpkin to pancakes and granola at breakfast or to hummus and curry dishes later in the day.