Menu reengineering—we’re not going to lie; this term sounds like a daunting and complicated task for a restaurant manager. The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to refreshing your menu. In the age of COVID, restaurants now more than ever are looking for creative ways to trim costs and attract more guests. A menu revamp is a great way to do just that.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to scrap your entire menu or add in a bunch of new dishes, quite the opposite. You want to key-in on your best-selling items and imagine new ways you can leverage those offerings.
Let’s Get Seasonal!
One quick approach that can make add life to a tired menu is by incorporating seasonal ingredients to your offerings. Consider this an easy way to pique interest, similar to the idea of limited time offers (LTOs). Slapping an avocado on a meat patty and naming it California burger isn’t innovative or unique, but it’s a step in the right direction. The key here is to offer something different, with an emphasis on fresh! Seasonal foods are not only fresher, but they are also tastier and more nutritious. Are fish and chips a hot seller for you? How about offering a seasonal, lighter version – grilled fish topped with fresh tomatillo salsa with baked, seasonal zucchini fries on the side? A chilled roasted corn soup may be a great addition to your soups of the day, to replace a boring clam chowder or chicken noodle.
If breakfast is your forte, imagine the innovative possibilities of introducing a Summer of Toppings menu! Your guests’ favorite pancakes, waffles, and French toast with a variety of summer fruit compotes (passion fruit, melon, apricot) to indulge in. You could even offer summer fruit-infused maple syrups.
We can’t stress enough the importance of offering vegetarian or even vegan options for customers. Convert a couple of your core menu items into a tasty meat-free or vegan offering. With meat made from plants from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, the conversion should be simple. Be careful of getting into any legal trouble regarding how you cook these vegan or vegetarian options. Plan wisely, and you may have just invited a new loyal customer base to your restaurant.
With various alcohol selling restrictions, it might be a good idea to offer beautiful, over-the-top, house special drinks and mocktails—a perfect refresher for the hot months. Watermelon and guava mojito mocktail or non-alcoholic sangria for (a very timely) al-fresco dining, anyone? A low-calorie papaya seltzer can be an excellent way for your guests to cool off, too.
Since summer is in full swing, let’s take a look at some seasonal foods you can experiment with right now (and a longer list here):
- Bell peppers
- Passion fruit
Plus, in-season ingredients tend to be more cost-efficient. Check out this produce guide from the USDA for more ideas on seasonal ingredients.
Pro-tip: Your new menu offerings should be proudly announced on your website and social media profiles. Remind your guests of your take-out and delivery options, take great photos, and then share away!