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5 ways to craft a holiday menu game plan

Retailers aren’t the only ones counting on the holiday season to stoke their profit picture. Restaurants have a lot at stake as well: Consumers spend more time socializing with family and friends in restaurants, annual corporate and social events drive more catering orders, and many time-strapped guests rely more heavily on takeout and delivery simply to get dinner on the table.

Supplementing an existing menu to emphasize appetizers, sides, shareables and small plates can help boost sales during this key period.

Consider appetizer platters. According to Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates and Sides report, 47% of consumers say they would like to find more appetizer sampler plates at restaurants, and nearly half say they strongly agree the ability to customize those platters would provide an incentive to order them. A “pick three” approach, for example, would allow guests to build a selection of mild, medium or hot wings with their favorite dips, or tacos with a variety of meat toppings, so members of larger groups can find something for everyone.

Provide more sharing-friendly choices. Sliders, chicken kebabs, samosas, charcuterie, cheese boards, fondues and other options that enable no-fuss sharing are good options for groups that are meeting for drinks or attending a catered event. A special LTO selection of holiday small plates, especially if they have a premium or seasonal hook, is one way to drive sales; encourage multiple orders with a small price break (e.g., “choose three for $20”). The Technomic report found that 28% of consumers would be likely to order appetizers more frequently if they were designed for sharing—and 42% consider small plates an ideal way to share dishes within a large group.

Pump up the sides. Larger, convivial groups dining out or ordering in are often more likely to order dishes for the table, so during this time of year, consider offering family-sized sides that can supplement entrees and feed multiple guests.

Create dinner bundles. Nearly everyone craves the classic dishes served at Thanksgiving, but far fewer relish the time and effort that goes into preparing them and cleaning up the mess. Your restaurant might not normally offer mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, roast turkey, cranberry relish and pumpkin pie, but this is one day where making an exception is likely to pay off with reservations or takeout/delivery orders. Similar menus can work for Christmas and New Year’s Day. Regardless of the day at this time of year, any harried parent will appreciate the ability to pick up a homey dinner built around a simply prepared roast chicken.

Don’t forget dessert. Guests are in a celebratory mood during the holidays, so expect interest in desserts (and drinks) to be high, and plan accordingly. Seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice and peppermint, premium ingredients and over-the-top presentations are among ways to hit the sweet spot. Desserts to go—whole cakes, cheesecakes, pies, themed cookies and other craveable pastries designed to feed a group—is another way to drum up sales and provide a convenience for customers.

This post is sponsored by Pierce Chicken

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