According to Upserve, restaurants with seasonal menus see 26% more orders. There is a good reason so many venues are choosing to shake up their offerings a few times a year.
WHY GO SEASONAL?
Guests appreciate new experiences
Changing up your food and beverage options gives your regulars a chance to experience something special again – just like the first time they walked through your doors. Limited-time offers also create a sense of exclusivity and urgency, driving people to come in more often than they typically would if they just wanted a hit of their favorite dish.
A seasonal menu also appeals to new guests. Something you’re offering in spring could interest an unfamiliar guest more than the winter menu did. Or, the possibility of missing the summer special might be the nudge they needed to finally make a reservation.
Whether or not someone has visited your venue, fear of missing out can be a powerful incentive.
There are more opportunities to play with marketing
Whether you’re already running email or social, more contact with clients keeps you top of mind. Offering something new every few months gives you a legitimate reason to reach back out to your audience. When guests hear about your changing menu, it’ll motivate them to subscribe and stay up to date.
Your menu can be one more way for you to play up events and holidays already infused with marketing potential. There is always a reason to celebrate, whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Independence Day or just National Martini Day. If you’re not doing anything to take advantage of the hype, now is the time to start.
Change keeps staff engaged
Like Amsterdam Printing said, “Just think of all the fun that restaurant chefs and wait staff have in taste testing the different menu options.” It’s easy to get bored preparing and discussing the same options over and over again. Staff will appreciate the opportunity to try new things and their excitement will shine through in their guest interactions.
Ability to use local ingredients
In the past few years, the “locally sourced” trend has gained traction throughout the food and beverage industry. The benefits of sourcing locally is multifaceted. First, you’ll be working with fresher produce that hasn’t travelled across the country to reach your kitchen, which in turn cuts downs on emissions and lowers your establishment’s carbon footprint. Depending on where you’re operating, sourcing seasonal produce from local farmers will help you form partnerships while stimulating your local economy.
Second, different produce grows in abundance at different times of the year, making it less expensive in certain seasons. Restaurant Insider gives the examples of zucchini, blueberries, or sweet corn in the summer and butternut squash and pumpkins during the colder fall months.
Finally, marketing a local menu is a great way to draw in in some fresh patrons who are passionate about their community.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT SEASONAL CHANGES
Get everyone involved
The best way to keep your staff engaged is give them a say in what you’re serving. If you want to shake up your bar menu, turn to your bartenders for ideas. As Open Table puts it, “There’s about 20 classic cocktails that everything spans from and the rest are just variants.” Assign each server a different classic beverage they have to use to come up with a new drink. Then have the whole team vote on their favorites and use those as your specials. The servers will feel much more invested in your business if they are making a unique contribution.
Keep the venue’s brand in mind
There are enough ways to change with the seasons that you don’t have embrace anything that compromises your venue’s message or experience. For example, some venues can go through dramatic changes based on the seasonality they’ve chosen (think television themed restaurants or concessions tailored to certain show releases) while others benefit more from offer a few select “limited-time” options throughout the year.
Explain flavor profiles rather than ingredients
Think of it like listening to a piece of music – would you rather discuss the mood of the entire ensemble or focus on the individual instruments? It’s easier for guests to experience the unique qualities of something unfamiliar when they think terms of what it does rather than what’s in it. By sharing the flavor profile and equating the sensations they feel with the reason you’ve chose to offer it that specific option, you’re create something memorable for them.
Play off of the existing associations of your “seasons”
Whether you’re aligning your menu with the shifting weather or following another kind of “season,” keep in mind the traditions and emotions people already associated with them.
Let’s look at traditional seasons – Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. They all have pretty firm flavor profiles. You can use those to your advantage and create a sense of nostalgia for your guests while also taking advantage of the most plentiful ingredients available at that. In summer, opt for fresh fruit and vegetables, especially peaches and watermelons. For winter, make the switch to warmer spices and herbs with fruits like pomegranates and cranberries. During a cold snap, nothing draws people in like a special spiked latte menu.
You can also manufacture your own “seasons” throughout the year – whether that means sports seasons, television show seasons, or anything else. There are plenty of creative ways to shake up your food and cocktail options, get your staff engaged, and keep guests coming back.