Consumers always have high expectations. But those stakes rise around the holidays, when families are gathering over food to make memories.
For operators, the holidays can be a make-or-break time. Many expect a high number of first-time visitors into their establishments, and this time of year is a chance to convert them into repeat customers.
But how can operators do that while keeping food costs—and stress levels—down? It all comes down to smart planning and judicious use of speed-scratch ingredients.
Fall into flavor
When planning holiday menus, keep trending flavors in mind and build from there. At this time of year, consumers still seek out traditional flavors such as spiced apples, pumpkin and cranberry. Trending savory favorites include Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cauliflower and squash.
In fact, there’s been a 105.3% increase in the use of Brussels sprouts in appetizers and starters in the last two years, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor data. They’re appearing in fried appetizers, often paired with bacon, as well as superfood-packed entree salads with kale, quinoa and berries.
And fall flavors have the greatest influence on operator menu innovation, according to Technomic’s recent Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Operators should consider building their holiday menus around these seasonal flavors, while adding their own flair in the form of herbs and spices or housemade pickles and cured meats.
Use ready-made apple pie filling to create a signature twist on the all-American dessert. Add housemade salted caramel or a blend of warming curry spices for a memorable post-meal treat.
Enhance holiday proteins such as grilled pork or lamb with speed-scratch spiced apples or an apple-cider reduction for an easy crowd-pleaser.
Be sure to menu comforting holiday sides such as stuffings and mashed winter vegetables. These “blank slates” of seasonal menus are ripe for operator innovation. Add local, seasonal produce or locally raised meats. Play up from-scratch sauces.
And consider these consumer-friendly holiday flavors when planning beverage menus as well. Pecan notes are trending in both alcohol and non-alcohol beverages. Incorporate an apple cider reduction into craft cocktails or mocktails.
With a combination of housemade specialties and speed-scratch products, holiday menus can transform first-time customers into year-round visitors.
This post is sponsored by Knouse Foodservice