There’s a careful balance in the restaurant industry: keep your menu the same all of the time, and you risk boring patrons. On the other hand, if you change it too frequently, you’ll give them whiplash, and they’ll go elsewhere with their business.
Still, changing your menu seasonally, or at least rotating a few seasonal items, can reap some serious rewards.
Why You Need Seasonal Menu Items
The most obvious reason is that you can take advantage of food items that are in season. In the summer, tomatoes are plentiful, cheaper than any other time of year, and tastier. You can control your food costs by buying what is in season and cheaper than other ingredients and making them the superstars of your menu for a few months.
Another reason to change out some of your menu items is that customers want certain foods during certain seasons. Restaurant patrons in Chicago won’t crave gazpacho in the dead of winter; they want creamy hot soups. People associate foods like pumpkin lattes and peppermint with fall and winter, and fruity desserts and drinks with spring. You’ll sell more of these menu items if you adhere to the seasons.
Tips for Adjusting Your Menu Seasonally
The first tip is to not go overboard in making changes to your menu. You already have some tried and true dishes that your patrons come back for again and again, so don’t remove those. You might take a few menu items that have low demand and low profit off the menu (the “Dogs”) to make room for a few temporary dishes.
As you start to create recipes for new seasonal dishes, use the same recipe costing process you normally use. Account for the costs of each ingredient, as well as the time it will require to prepare. Once you’re assured that there is ample profit margin, add the item to the menu!
(While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to recalculate recipe costs for any menu items that use seasonal products that have gone down in price. You might find that you can eke out even more profit for items using this season’s produce!)
Keep your staff apprised of new seasonal menu items in your meetings. Let them sample the new dishes so that they can recommend them to patrons. Servers should always list the seasonal menu items when talking about the specials to encourage customers to order them.
Additionally, market the new dishes. List them on your sidewalk chalkboard. Post them on your social media page. And send an announcement to email subscribers.
At the end of the season, look to your data to understand how each seasonal dish fared. Did a particular dish get ordered enough to consider bringing back next year? How profitable was it? Next year you might include some of the more successful seasonal dishes, or start from scratch.
Adjusting your menu seasonally allows you to take advantage of what’s fresh and affordable!