Winter holidays are a wonderful time of year. Even though it’s cold and blistery outside, people get to set aside time to enjoy the holidays with loved ones inside, often eating delicious food and exchanging presents. Many times, these groups also go out to eat, which is where your restaurant enters the picture. Groups, and even single people, are looking for something special when they go out to eat—a way to celebrate the holiday with all their senses, including taste. A holiday menu is the best way to do that. Keep reading to learn why your restaurant needs a holiday menu and how you can build one that won’t drive your staff crazy.
Benefits of Adding a Holiday Menu
Holiday menus are a great way to temporarily expand your restaurant menu, help people celebrate the season, and bring in extra money. Most restaurants don’t want to expand their menu if they’ve created something that people like and consistently order, especially since the holidays are so busy. However, taking the time to craft a small menu addition that uses popular holiday flavors and foods allows you to make a sustainable expansion. You can offer your guests a new, special experience without breaking the bank with too many new ingredients or confusing your servers with too many new items to memorize.
Many people go out to eat around the holidays and even on specific holidays. They want to celebrate, and one of the best ways to celebrate is with good food. While your normal menu is great, you can help festive people celebrate even more with a specific holiday menu. Even if it’s just a special drink or appetizer, telling festive patrons that something is only on offer during this holiday season will make them want to buy one and continue to celebrate.
The limited-time offer we mentioned above will help bring in extra money. People love buying something special, especially if there’s a chance they’ll never get to have it again. When you offer a holiday menu, you’re encouraging people to come try new dishes and drinks while the season lasts, and they’ll jump at the opportunity.
Building a Holiday Menu
Now that you understand the benefits of offering a holiday menu, you need to learn how to build one. Different demographics celebrate different winter holidays or celebrate the same holidays differently, which can make it difficult to build a holiday menu everyone can enjoy. A food or drink that one person associates with the holidays may not make another person feel festive. However, there are some flavors that many people living around western Canada will associate with winter and the holiday season.
Turkey, ham, cranberry, winter squash, peppermint, pear, and turnips are some of the most popular holiday flavors. Incorporating these flavors into your dishes and drinks will help people feel like their tastebuds are having a holiday party. Expand beyond the specific holidays to include seasonal options as well. Including seasonal produce in your dishes makes them more sustainable and provides people with the nutrients they need during cold winter months.
Brussel sprouts, broccoli, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, leeks, persimmons, red currants, and sweet potatoes are all winter produce you can include on a holiday menu. Venison, pheasant, and rabbit are also popular winter meats in addition to the turkey and ham we mentioned as popular holiday meats. Combining winter and holiday produce and meats on a limited-time menu will help your restaurant reap the benefits we mentioned above.
Limiting a Holiday Menu
We listed a lot of holiday and seasonal flavors you can turn into a special menu, and inspiration may have struck. You may have already grabbed a pen and started designing the perfect holiday menu for your restaurant. Before you throw together an extravagant list of dishes and drinks, though, remember that this menu isn’t just about the dishes. Your chefs need to feel competent cooking it, and your servers need to feel competent telling customers about it.
To help your restaurant efficiently manage a holiday menu, limit its size. If you throw a long holiday menu on top of everything else you already serve, chefs and serves will have to scramble to keep up. You could scrape your old menu during the holidays and only offer something seasonal and festive, but that could also offend customers who love specific items from your regular menu. Balance the learning curve and customer demand with a small holiday menu.
How small is small? That partially depends on the size of the menu you already have. If you already serve an extensive menu, you may only want to add two items to each category. Two drinks, two appetizers, two main courses, two sides, and two desserts. For restaurants that already offer a limited menu, you may want to expand a little more so customers can have multiple options if they visit several times during the holiday season. You could offer three or four additions to each category on your menu.
However, we don’t advise surpassing four or five new items in each category. Learning to create five new items for each category and having to answer questions about all those new listings is too much for most kitchen and front-of-house staff. The holidays are already a busy, stressful time for your staff, so don’t overwhelm them with too many new things.
Serving a Holiday Menu
When you serve your holiday menu, include something for everyone. Offer a virgin cocktail for people who don’t drink. Provide a vegan option or allow guests to substitute protein options for no extra charge. Add at least one fun new item to your kid’s menu so even your younger guests can enjoy the holiday experience. These accommodations will help your guests feel seen and valued, which will keep them coming back even when your holiday menu is over.
Now you know why your restaurant needs a holiday menu, how to build one, how big it should be, and how to serve it with all your potential guests in mind. If your restaurant needs new equipment to accommodate a holiday menu, DSL can help. Our commercial clamshell grill will help you conquer the holidays and beyond, no matter the size of your menu. We also offer 24/7 service and support, so if you run into a problem this holiday season, you can trust us to be there.