The sheer number of pumpkin spice lattes and roasted Brussels sprouts unveiled in the fall is enough to make your head explode. Though people still want to see these offerings on menus, a majority of consumers (53%) would like restaurants to offer more new and unique flavors for seasonal dishes, according to Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Operators shaking up fall menus are swapping in-season vegetables into popular year-round dishes, proffering autumn-inspired variations on summer classics and more.
Let’s take a look at some stealable ideas to make fall menus great again.
A summer classic with a twist
Summertime favorites can easily be extended into fall, if given an autumn variation. Take frank and beans: The picnic classic can be tailored to Oktoberfest- and tailgating-themed menus. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s Frank & Bean Taco, offered during October at participating locations, features a jalapeno-cheddar kielbasa with barbecue beans, wrapped in a flour tortilla and served with taco sauce. The operator smartly turns an American knife-and-fork beloved into an ethnic handheld.
The new applesauce
Applesauce needn’t be limited to an ordinary kids menu side. Since savory flavors are essential to fall cooking, try using apple in a bold sauce to lighten things up. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar combines apple with bacon in a barbecue sauce atop its Smokehouse Burger, available in the fall. This example proves that summer barbecue fare can also be autumn-ized with a single ingredient.
Carve pumpkin into the savory side of the menu
Pumpkin sweets—desserts, breakfast pastries and beverages—saturate menus during the fall. Try a less obvious take on pumpkin by using it in savory dishes like pasta or seafood. Maggiano’s Pumpkin Mascarpone Ravioli with tart dried cranberries, hazelnut croquant (brittle) and chopped kale is a perfect example of the balancing flavor effects of pumpkin: The squash adds sweet, spiced notes to creamy, indulgent ravioli.
The quintessential sports bar grub during football season, chicken wings are getting an autumn twist by swapping in seasonal cauliflower for the poultry. Although it’s a lighter version of the top seller, indulgence is maintained through its preparation. Hard Rock Cafe’s new Cauliflower “Wings” are topped with Buffalo sauce and served with blue cheese, celery and carrot sticks—exactly like the chain’s appetizer wings. And chicken wings aren’t the only item getting the cauliflower treatment at Hard Rock: Burgers are exchanging beef for cauliflower for another meatless option.
Brussels (sprouts) invade salads
Operators can shake up Caesar salads during the fall with in-season Brussels sprouts. Typically prepared roasted in either their whole or halved form, Brussels sprouts can be shaved or shredded raw to differentiate them. Zed451 in Chicago currently offers a Brussels Sprout Salad with Caesar on its seasonal Harvest Table Menu. Chefs don't need to replace all lettuce with Brussels sprouts, but swapping in some will differentiate the age-old salad favorite.