Adding Seasonal Foods to Your Menu

Old man winter is starting to make his presence known throughout the country, and with the shift in temperatures comes a shift in many people’s diet. People look forward to this time of year for many reasons, and one of the main reasons has to do with the flavors that we tend to associate with the season. Just as “pumpkin spice” is pretty much synonymous with fall nowadays, winter also comes with its own much-loved flavors, and you would do well to consider adding some of those flavors to your lineup this winter. If you haven’t considered adding seasonal dishes to your menu, keep reading to see if we can change your mind.

The Benefits of a Seasonal Menu

If you’re not sure how adding a seasonal menu can benefit you, just take a minute to look at some of the numbers: in a recent study, almost 60% of consumers said that they were more likely to choose a “seasonal” item off of a menu than a regular item, with almost half saying they felt those dishes were more appetizing. Some of the reasons listed had to do with flavor and novelty, but it also has to do with perception–40% of those who responded also said they felt that seasonal items seemed healthier, as well.

But it’s not just those numbers that tell the story. Adding seasonal options provides other benefits, too. Varying ingredients and dishes can add a much needed and invigorating spark to your restaurant. Your kitchen staff enjoys the challenge of trying something new. Servers are excited about the change, and pass that excitement on to the customers. All in all, a new menu every couple of month can add a little bit of life to a business that can too easily grow a little stale.

Seasonal ingredients can also help your bottom line. Because the food you’ll choose is fresh and locally grown, it makes a relatively cheap addition. In addition, every new season brings new opportunities to market your restaurant and bring in customers, which can only drive your sales higher. That freshness makes your menu healthier, as well. Since your ingredients aren’t preserved or shipped across long distances, they are higher in nutritional content and less likely to have lost important nutrients or undergone harsh preserving techniques, such as irradiating or waxing.

Seasonal Menu Ideas

Of course, if you’re going to consider seasonal options, you need to know what kinds of foods to look out for, right?  Well, here are some ideas to mull over:

Seasonal Vegetables are the Key

As fall winds down, autumn produce takes center stage. Root vegetables such as rutabagas, beets, and turnips, and autumn gourds such as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash can really bring a deep, earthy tone to your menu, and are versatile enough to become the main focus on a variety of dishes. These vegetables stay in season and are easily available through the winter months, giving you plenty of opportunities to try them out.

Winter Comfort Foods

Baby, it’s cold outside–and when that mercury drops, people like to warm themselves up by chowing down on timely comfort foods. Throw in those seasonal vegetables mentioned above, and you have a dish perfect for a cold day. Hearty, thick foods like soups, stews, and chili are perfect this time of year. Steamy beef stews full of carrots, parsnips, or potatoes can thaw someone on even the chilliest of days. Butternut squash soup is an excellent choice that can go down thick and creamy.  And chili?  Well, it’s chili. What more needs to be said?

Don’t Forget the Sides

That produce also makes great sides, as well. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts are in season, and can be incredibly flavorful with only a slight amount of seasoning. Acorn squash can be prepared in what seems to be an infinite amount of ways (that hollow center is practically begging to be stuffed with all sorts of savory ingredients), and beets–baked or grilled–bring a unique, down-to-earth flavor that really can’t be replicated with any other food.

Wintry Desserts

It’s a safe argument that, when people think of wintry food, what springs to mind more than anything else is dessert. The holiday season is basically one long sweet-fest anyway, and there’s no reason that can’t continue well through the rest of winter. Seasonal produce once again is the focus here. Pumpkin, sweet potato, or squash pie are all obvious choices, and apples are plentiful as well–and a versatile a food as any that we have encountered. In addition to pies, you can add strudels, crumbles, and a host of other options to your menu.

But why not change it up a little? Carrot cake is a great and flavorful choice. Cookies, fudge, and nuts (in the form of peanut brittle, roasted almonds, or chestnuts) are hearty and wholesome, and who doesn’t think of mint when they think of December? There are so many options for winter desserts that you could spend each day of the season creating something new, and still never even begin to scratch the surface.

So, as you think about winter, consider spicing things up a bit by changing your menu. The benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of having to change the routines and established procedures you’ve been running your restaurant with. And when winter’s over? Spring is right around the corner, with a whole new list of choices to try!