The food service/hospitality industry is a competitive marketplace. After more than two years of supply chain disruption and societal upheaval, combined with technological solutions designed to ease market turbulence, the restaurant industry has become a crowded and complex industry.
How do entrepreneurs, cafe owners, and culinary professionals differentiate themselves in such a contentious atmosphere? By harnessing the natural advantages available to them. One such advantage? Implementing seasonal menus.
A seasonal menu helps you play to your regional market's strength while simultaneously creating an interesting, exciting, and even celebratory atmosphere in your venue. Today, we're going to examine why seasonal menus are such a strong sales driver. We'll then explore strategies for creatively implementing a seasonal menu at your establishment.
The benefits of seasonal menus
What factors drive business into your establishment? Is it your venue's ambience? Is it the customer experience? Or is it solely your menu offerings? In reality, it's a mix of all three, which means you can't afford to neglect any single aspect. With that in mind, let's take a look at one leg of our tripartite recipe for success: the menu itself.
According to Roland Foods, more than 59% of all consumers are willing to take a chance on a new menu item as long as it is labelled as "seasonal." That's a large percentage of market share and one that's rife with benefits. Let's take a look at those benefits on the granular level.
Seasonal menus are great for businesses and customers
While the holidays themselves are synonymous with family get-togethers and celebrations, holidays aren't always a cause for celebration in the restaurant industry, especially if your region of the world is subject to harsh, cold winters.
There's a concept known as the "holiday slump" in which customers are reluctant to go out to eat due to the weather, the stress of the season, or a combination of both. Seasonal menus, however, provide your clientele with a reason to leave the cooking to someone else.
Seasonal menus not only create a sense of novelty and excitement at your venue through varied cuisine, but they also help drive the customer experience. While your customers might have their favourite year-round dish, the numbers speak to adventurous holiday spirits, with 42% of patrons willing to try something they'd never prepare at home. The end result? A panacea to the holiday slump and a superior customer experience.
Seasonal menus allow your kitchen staff to show off their creativity
A stagnant atmosphere in your dining room kills business; so does a stagnant kitchen.
No chef on earth wants to prepare the same chicken fingers and french fry platters year-round. For artistry to thrive, you need to provide your kitchen staff with creative outlets. Seasonal menus offer the perfect on-ramp for experimentation. By offering a rotating menu predicated on limited-time ingredients, you can let your kitchen staff off the chain, so to speak.
Seasonal menus circumvent supply chain woes
The main allure of a seasonal menu comes from the freshness and quality of the ingredients used. In effect, you are using seasonal vegetables, seafood, and other ingredients that have limited availability, so freshness is crucial. How do you ensure an adequate level of freshness? By sourcing your produce locally.
For the last two years and counting, the global supply chain has been struggling. As a result, scarcity and inflation rule the roost. Seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally help you cut through supply chain woes to deliver a superior plate to your customer's table.
Creative seasonal menu ideas to impress your customers
Now that we've taken a moment to analyse the wealth of benefits inherent to implementing seasonal menus, let's explore some creative menu ideas that your own establishment can put into practice.
Focus on freshness
Freshness isn't just a benefit, it's also the cornerstone of seasonal menu development. After all, a seasonal menu derives much of its appeal from the quality (and scarcity) of the ingredients that you use to create it.
When debuting your seasonal fare, don't be afraid to showcase seasonal produce, seafood, and other ingredients as a form of marketing. Attention to freshness and quality will translate into a positive brand reputation and increased business.
Incorporate drinks and desserts
Entrees aren't the only thing on the menu. While it may be tempting to limit your seasonal menu efforts to a "chef's special" section, don't neglect ancillary items such as drinks, desserts, and appetisers. A seasonal drink menu alone, complete with alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, will go a long way towards netting you add-on sales and a healthier, more robust bottom line.
Employ "catch of the day" verbiage
Scarcity is the other side of freshness. While accentuating freshness helps communicate the quality of your seasonal offerings, accentuating the limited nature of the ingredients helps to build excitement and urgency amongst your patrons. It pays dividends to communicate seasonal menu items as a signature, limited-time catch of the day.
Let your chefs get creative
We talked briefly above about how creativity in the kitchen is a benefit to your business, but it is that very creativity that serves as the cornerstone of your seasonal menu offerings. When developing your rotating menu, make sure your chefs are in the driver's seat, creating bold and daring new tastes that will drive business through your doorway.
Hold special preview tasting events
At one end of the continuum, you have menu development. At the other end, implementation. Don't be afraid to make the debut of each new season a grand event. Once you've decided on your seasonal fare, try holding a special tasting event to generate excitement and a critical response to your efforts.
Make it an ongoing part of your budget
You don't have to limit your venue's creativity and inspiration to specific times of the year. Seasonal menus teach us the value of ongoing research and development (R&D). You always want to shoot for the highest quality in your ingredients, cooking, and plating. To that effect, turn the seasonal development process into ongoing R&D for your base menu.
Create eye-catching visuals
We can talk about food all we like, but as the saying goes, "A picture paints a thousand words." To get your clientele truly excited about your seasonal fare, present high-quality photographs of each seasonal item to entice your customers into trying something a little different.
Tie it all together with digital QR code menus
The quality of your food always comes first, but presentation is a close second. As we discussed above, pictures of each seasonal item go a long way towards selling your limited-time entrees. Reprinting menus can become costly, however.
Digitally-based QR code menus serve as a means to circumvent those costs while injecting agility into your operations AND fostering a phenomenal customer experience. With scannable QR code menus, you can add or delete menu items at the click of a button without adding significant expenditure to your books. Additionally, scannable QR code menus help to free up your waitstaff to interact with your client base in a more authentic manner. The end result? More efficient use of your resources and a healthier bottom line.
Unsure where to start with your digital, seasonal menu? Let the experts at Mr Yum help. Contact us today to set up a free demo.