Offering a seasonal menu is a great way to improve your restaurant business. People love unique dining experiences, so adding seasonal drinks and dishes gives people incentive to come back and sample your limited-time offerings, becoming loyal customers.
Best of all this marketing strategy can be applied to multiple types of restaurants — from cafes to diners and sports bars. Every season gives you new opportunities to offer enticing limited-time meals, giving you a regular way to increase your business.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a seasonal menu and how to create one for your restaurant, read on. We’ll cover the best perks of seasonal menus while also offering useful tips and templates for making one that fits your dining establishment.
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Why use a seasonal menu?
Seasonal menus offer plenty of benefits. Even if your restaurant has a loyal following, your diners will appreciate sampling something new from the menu. New dishes also attract new guests who may become regular diners after trying your food.
The nature of seasonal menus also makes them an ideal marketing tool. People love learning about limited-time offers and will want to take advantage of them. This is particularly true if you create a post of your menu on Facebook or Instagram along with a great photo of new dishes and reviews of people who loved your food.
Offering a seasonal menu can also brand your restaurant as a business that helps sustain local farms and food suppliers. Remember, since you’re offering seasonal dishes it makes sense to harvest your ingredients from local farms. This not only lets you promote the freshness of your meals but also shows you’re interested in contributing to your community. Beyond that, using seasonal foods can help cut food costs since they’ll be an abundance of certain fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meats at different times of the year.
Behind the scenes, seasonal menus can also help liven up your workplace. Many chefs and bartenders appreciate the chance to work with new ingredients and break away from the usual recipes. Letting them create seasonal, weekend, or nightly specials lets them be more creative with dish and drink preparation, increasing the enthusiasm of working at your restaurant.
7 tips for creating and managing seasonal menus
We’ve covered why you’d want to create a seasonal menu for your restaurant. Now, let’s look at the best ways to build, manage, and promote this sort of menu.
1. Plan ahead
When you’re working with perishable ingredients, you need to plan your seasonal menus well in advance. Start by researching the menu for the upcoming season — plan your June menu in May, your fall dishes in July, and so on. This will help you determine how many ingredients you need to purchase when they come into season.
2. Offer seasonal choices on all of your menu items
Your entrees may be the centerpiece of your customer’s dining experience, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for seasonal drinks, appetizers, and desserts as well. People love sampling peppermint cocoa during the holidays or digging into a Fourth of July-themed dessert in the summer.
Offering special drinks and dishes can be a great way to attract people to your bar, too. Promote some of these seasonal choices as “Happy Hour” options to encourage people to try them out.
3. Emphasize the freshness of your ingredients
Being able to use sustainable ingredients from local food suppliers is a huge selling point for seasonal menus. So, make sure your customers know what they’re getting.
When you post your menu offerings on social media, use hashtags like #seasonalproduce or #farmtotable to attract people who want to eat fresh local food. And be sure to mention the local producers that supply your ingredients. They’ll also want to promote your restaurant on their social media channels.
4. Take great food photos
Taste might be the deciding factor in a popular dish, but don’t discount appearance. Your seasonal dishes and drinks should be presented in an attractive way that’ll make people want to order them.
Have your chefs prepare some exquisite examples of each selection and have professional photos taken of them. They’ll make excellent marketing images that you can share not only on your menus but also on your restaurant website, social media posts, and email newsletter.
5. Give your staff time to experiment
Adding dishes with lobsters, oysters, and other unique ingredients might be fun for your chefs, but they need time to learn the best type of dishes they can make with these ingredients. Factor in some extra time for them to experiment with different recipes and see which ones turn out the best.
Make sure the rest of your staff stays in the loop as well. Servers need to be able to describe the new dishes to customers in an enticing way. You’ll also want to have some great copy for each dish written up in your physical menus and on your website.
6. Emphasize that your seasonal menu is a limited-time offer
All products sell better when there’s a sense of urgency to get them before they’re gone. Restaurants are particularly well-suited for this since they deal in perishable items. Plus, seasonal menus offer a great way to market this since your dishes are only available for a few weeks or a month.
Emphasize this urgency in your marketing copy. Post how long your seasonal menu will be available on your website and social media channels. Also, limit the scarcity of your limited-time offerings to one or two dishes. That makes them seem more special and desirable.
7. Learn from each season
You won’t really know how popular your seasonal dishes and drinks are until your customers sample your offerings. But, once they select their favorites, you’ll know which meals to keep on the menu for next year. You’ll also know which ones to replace with new culinary specials.
Give yourself permission to experiment and grow with each season. Remember, part of the fun of offering seasonal menus is to give your staff and customers a unique experience, so don’t be afraid to shake things up.
Seasonal menu templates
Once you’ve settled on some seasonal recipes, have great photos, and copy prepared to promote each item, it’s time to develop your menu. One of the best ways to do this is with editable seasonal menu templates that make it easy to customize each menu to your exact specifications. You can then advertise your new menu changes in your next social media marketing or email campaign.
These menu templates take the stress out of designing entirely new menus and promotional materials every season. Some of the best ones to use include:
Easil’s menu maker can help you design menus and wine lists for your restaurant, café, food truck, and more. Their menu templates offer professional designs that you can modify into a custom menu for any season. You’ll also be able to upload your own photos to add to your seasonal menu.
Minimalist food menu
As its name indicates, the Minimalist Food Menu template offers a clean, minimalist design. Promote your appetizers, main courses, and drink selections, and let your copy speak for itself without any overly elaborate signs and banners. These are great for bistros, bars, nightclubs, and lounges.
Elegant food menu
If your restaurant or bar is more high-end, you might want to look at the Elegant Food Menu template. This food menu offers an Art Deco-inspired design with a white or dark background. Text can be easily edited for multiple seasonal menus.
Vegetarian food menu
Vegetarian menus are becoming increasingly popular. If your seasonal menu emphasizes locally grown fruits and vegetables, the Vegetarian Food Menu template offers an easily editable design with plenty of room for enticing photographs of your seasonal dishes. A tutorial file helps guide you through the editing process.
Develop your next seasonal menu
Thanks to the online tools and resources available today, it’s easier than ever to design and promote professional-looking seasonal menus for your restaurant, bar, café, or bistro. Make sure to invest enough time to craft some tasty dishes and drinks as you could be looking at a significant boost in business every season as customers come to sample your new offerings.
Of course, creating a professional seasonal menu is one thing. Promoting your food offerings to a wider audience requires several other skills. Fortunately, Constant Contact offers a free guide for how to promote your restaurant online through The Download. It provides the strategies you need to take your business to the next level. Read the actionable tips for creating mobile responsive websites, email marketing tools, and regularly updated content, and learn how to leverage the Internet to your advantage.