Nothing sustains the food service industry quite like a sense of excitement. A sense of novelty – combined with a celebratory atmosphere – will drive repeat business through your doorway, bolstering your revenue. Sure, you have a loyal clientele that visits your venue for the same dish every time, but nobody wants to eat in a stagnant environment.
You've got to provide your customers with an interesting focal point that communicates your venue's ongoing success in order to garner repeat business. That's why restaurants with seasonal menus excel at building an atmosphere of excitement.
Today we're going to analyse why restaurants with seasonal menus are so profitable, with a particular focus on the best practices involved with implementing seasonal fare in your establishment. But first, some definitions.
Restaurants with seasonal menus: A definition
Spring, summer, autumn, and winter; no matter what region of the globe you live in, the world is in a constant state of flux. Regional produce, seafood, livestock, garnish, and other ingredients may change depending on the time of year. Rather than fighting against supply chain limitations, restaurants with seasonal menus go with the flow, using in-season ingredients to augment their regular offerings.
Under a typical scenario, restaurants that offer seasonal menu items take their regular cuisine and build a rotating collection of specials that are dependent on seasonal meats and produce. In fact, a well-planned seasonal menu includes three primary hallmarks:
- Fresh ingredients
- Ingredients with limited availability
- Ingredients that are novel, exciting, and thematic
In short, restaurants that employ seasonal menus build on the regular menu items using a "catch of the day" approach that is contingent on seasonal availability. In the next section, we'll take a look at why offering a seasonal menu is a great option from a business owner's perspective.
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Why restaurants with seasonal menus make good business sense
According to Restaurant Business Magazine, 32% of all consumers say that their eating habits change depending on the weather, with 37% experiencing a heightened willingness to try new things if they include items that are only available during specific seasons.
The younger the demographic, the more that number increases. In fact, the sense of novelty that comes from limited-time ingredients creates both excitement and urgency amongst consumers, with 35% willing to try something based on its scarcity alone.
When viewed from the customer's perspective, the numbers don't lie: seasonal menus are just good business. Here's why seasonal menus work so well.
They keep your artisans happy
Even the most formulaic of personalities needs change from time to time. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives would do well to adopt their chefs' points of view occasionally. Nothing says "burnout" like preparing the same dish over and over again, year round. Restaurants with seasonal menus help keep your kitchen staff from feeling trapped and frustrated by giving them new culinary challenges.
They harness the supply chain's strongest links
It should come as no surprise that the global supply chain has been faltering for the past two years. Cafes, eateries, and other food service venues have had to embrace a hyper-localised view of their ingredient procurement process.
Embracing seasonal menu options helps your establishment make the most out of what you have – without bankrupting your business. You'll support your local economy and save operational costs, all while sourcing the freshest ingredients for your seasonal fare.
They generate repeat business
People like change because it brings an element of novelty and surprise to the table. By offering revolving, seasonal specials, your venue will keep customers coming back periodically to see what else you've "cooked up." Whether or not they order the seasonal dishes is another matter; the practice will drive business nonetheless.
They allow you to "borrow" the cuisines from different food genres
Every restaurant has its own speciality. That means that it's all too easy for your standard menu to become formulaic. Italian restaurants serve Italian cuisine. A sushi chef prepares sushi. Restaurants with seasonal menus let you break the mould, however.
Seasonal offerings are the perfect opportunity to let your chefs run wild by offering novel or asynchronous dishes that may not normally have a home on your standard menu. It's little touches like this that keep your customers engaged with your brand and coming back for more.
Best practices: Increasing your revenue through seasonal offerings
Restaurants with seasonal menus have a clear advantage over businesses that aren't willing to adopt the seasonal template. If you and your enterprise are considering implementing a seasonal menu, here are some best practices to make the process go more smoothly.
Seasonal menus offer the perfect opportunity for your chefs to unleash their creativity. Using the ingredients available to you, as well as inspiration from your competitors, your kitchen staff can create new and exciting flavour combinations that fit with the region's seasonal themes. Let your artisans stretch their wings, turning your menu into a work of art.
…But stay grounded
There's one caveat: don't go overboard. It's alright to try new things and offer limited time menu items, but don't neglect your basic menu in the process. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Leave the tried-and-true classics on your menu alone. While the general public may gravitate towards novelty, it's the comfort, familiarity, and high quality of your base offerings that will keep them coming back over the long run.
Let the supply chain guide you
Compiling a seasonal menu is a three-part process which includes:
- One part tradition
- One part creativity
- One part availability
Given the current condition of the global supply chain, all the tradition and creative inspiration in the world doesn't mean a thing if the ingredients just aren't available. When formulating your venue's seasonal offerings, you'll have to let the local supply chain guide your actions.
Incorporate drinks and desserts
For restaurants that choose to incorporate seasonal dishes, it can be tempting to adopt a "chef's special" format when presenting your carefully crafted delicacies. But don't leave money on the table. Your dessert and drink menu are prime territory for seasonal offerings as well.
Think spiced rum or eggnog-infused drinks in the cold winter months or a selection of custards, cobblers, and pies. In the end, your venue is only limited by the confines of the chef's imagination.
Highlight "fresh" and use it to build bridges
When it comes to seasonal specialities, establishments have one very big ace in the hole: the freshness of the ingredients required to pull off the meal. Freshness is synonymous with quality. After all, the fresher the ingredients, the crisper the taste.
When compiling a seasonal menu, highlight the freshness of your ingredients, and use it to market the other high-quality, standard items that populate your menu year-round.
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Capturing the season with digital menus
Seasonal menus bring a wide range of advantages to the table. Their presence can greatly influence your bottom line. In years past, however, there was one big stumbling block that often prevented venues from changing up their cuisine with seasonal regularity: the resources required to reprint quarterly menus. Technology to the rescue.
New tech, such as digital QR code menus, allows you to change up your menu offerings at will without the associated printing and laminating costs. With scannable QR technology, you can change menu items as often as you like and at the click of a button.
You can even include vibrant pictures for every one of your menu offerings, rather than a handful of chef's specials. QR code technology lets you implement creativity into your operations without limitations.
Unsure where to start with your digital, seasonal menu? Let the professionals at Mr Yum help you set up your seasonal fare.