The culinary world is especially sensitive to trends. Although some restaurants and chefs are strong traditionalists when it comes to their menus, many more cater to customers who want to try something new from time to time.
Of course, plenty of chefs simply love to experiment with new ingredients, preparations, flavour combinations and plating techniques. According to a recent report about food trends, the theme of seasonal menus increases the overall orders placed within restaurants by 26 per cent. Meaning, more money being invested back into your business and not at your competitors.
Along with increasing your venue’s bottom-line, switching up your menu also benefits your relationship with diners, and most importantly, your staff. This is because regular new menus keep your customers excited, while your staff’s engagement increases due to the need to be creative in the kitchen with fresh ingredients.
So, I have unravelled the top five reasons why changing your menu seasonally will benefit your business, staff and self:
1. Increase your business’ bottom-line
Menus are an opportunity to increase your business’ overall bottom-line because new and improved menus keep your business relevant to the market. It also shows your clientele that your restaurant meets current trends happening within the hospitality industry. This approach attracts new customers and re-engages first-timers. That is why it is important to keep it fresh, new and seasonal.
Along with increasing your clientele, changing your menu depending on seasons can also lower your produce bill, meaning you could be spending less on your prep. This is because foods that are in season are less expensive than those that aren’t but are still produced and sold – so ensure you do your homework before purchasing.
2. Allow staff to show off their creativity
While new and improved menus attract more customers, it is also attractive to your colleagues who thrive on creating new dishes in the kitchen. This results in the engagement between your staff, front-of-house and back-of-house dramatically increasing.
Overall, the dish experiments and changes will keep your staff interested because it presents them an opportunity to show off their creativity with seasonal ingredients regularly. For example, in summer they may have the option to create dishes that incorporate blackberries, cherries, capsicum and turnips; whereas in winter it could be grapefruit, mandarins, brussels sprouts and fennel.
Chefs are known for their creativity and love of creating new and improved dishes. So, giving your team a chance to create a new menu four times a year could be a great way to keep your staff and ensure they’re engaged with your business on a regular basis.
3. Keeps business on-trend and fresh
For any restaurant or hospitality venue, it is essential to stay up-to-date on the latest food trends and crazes in a bid to keep customers interested in your brand. Whether the trend is gourmet burgers, quinoa salads or avocado on toast, consumers will always search menus for the item everyone is talking about. Subscribe to magazines and websites and spend time searching social media accounts to keep yourself up-to-date with the trends within the market.
One trend that has stayed within the industry for some time is fresh, wholesome foods. The demand for fresh foods has opened up the opportunity for venues to use local produce, which is also attractive to customers. The move towards fresh foods and supporting local businesses comes after hospitality industry released a report claiming 68 per cent of consumers were more likely to visit a restaurant that had locally sourced produce (meat and vegetables).
4. Keep your menu favourites
While summer foods are generally referred to as being fresh, light meals and winter portrayed as warm, hearty dishes – it proves that some dishes just don’t fit for all seasons. And while it is important to swap and change your menu regularly, you should also ensure you keep some of your crowd favourites. Whether it is a traditional lasagne dish or a Famous Fish and chips or your special signature dish, don’t eliminate them due to a seasonal change.
By keeping dishes that have an established reputation amongst your customers, it will provide them with a fall back for the just in case your new items don’t resonate with them. Sometimes customers just can’t move past a good, traditional meal.
5. Try and test your new items
It is well and good to change your menu accordingly, but it is even more important to trial and test your new featured items, both before and after presenting them to your customers. To ensure the dish releases the flavours and textures you are after, create them in your kitchen and have your BOH and FOH try them. Why not try them yourself with your family and friends?
Once you have tested your recipe with your staff, ask for relevant feedback and make the changes where you see fit. Remember, everyone wants the business to succeed, so there is no such thing as a bad comment. After your dishes have passed your staff, trial them with your customers.
If you have a ‘specials board’, promote these items on there before adding them to the menu, otherwise have them as a ‘limited time offer’. It’s important you try them with your customers before making the commitment and placing them on the menu. For example - if you invest money and time on a dish that isn’t well-received with your customers, it could result in food wastage and loss of customers. So, always test and learn!
In conclusion, while changing your menu seasonally has multiple benefits for your business, many restaurants tend to stick with what they know works – their traditional menu. If you are one of the venues who choose not to change their menu seasonally, remember it is still important to regularly review the dishes and ensure it meets the expectations of your guests.