THIS YEAR’S HOTTEST
Director of Marketing
It’s a dilemma faced by restaurants everywhere: keep classic menu favorites or introduce adventurous new dishes? If you maintain the status quo, you could appear a bit boring. By spicing things up, you may risk alienating regulars. The best bet for menu planning is somewhere in the middle, so you can attract new diners while keeping loyal customers happy.
One way to keep things fresh is to change your menu with the seasons, taking advantage of ingredients with limited availability or that are popular at certain times of the year — think pumpkin during the fall months. A limited-time offer allows you to offer new dishes without the commitment of adding them to your regular menu. Special promotions are another approach to consider, like a seafood extravaganza over the summer or a prix fixe menu on busy holidays like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.
Tap into hot food trends
Upserve Restaurant Insider analyzed menu and sales data from nearly 9,000 restaurants to uncover what food trends drove the most orders. It found increased popularity in what it termed “wellness warriors.” These diners prefer fermented foods (which can be good for digestive health) and CBD-infused food and drinks. CBD, or cannabidiol, has been said to help everything from inflammation to anxiety.
Similarly, plant-based menu items continue to be popular among diners who want to eat healthy. And we’re not just talking about traditional vegetarian or vegan diets. In a recent blog post, author Lorri Mealey notes that plant-based nutrition allows for more latitude with the inclusion of dishes with small amounts of meat, dairy and other animal products.
Global flavors are another hot trend, influencing breakfast dishes and kids’ meals in particular. According to chefs surveyed by Restaurant.org, African cuisines, condiments and spices trended across several categories including items that originated in North, West and East Africa (Ethiopia).
Thai-rolled ice cream is a hot trend gaining popularity across the country.
The popular street food trend shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s showing up at events like weddings and boardroom lunches. BizBash reported that hotel culinary teams from the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek are creating Mediterranean dishes like rotisserie chicken shawarma wrapped in house-made naan bread baked in mobile tandoori ovens.
Also, updating your menu is the perfect time to make any necessary price adjustments based on competitive and profitability analysis. Because food costs fluctuate, Aaron Allen & Associates, global restaurant consultants, recommend making price adjustments at least twice a year. It’s also a great time to evaluate your overall menu offering, replacing unpopular items and finding new ways to prepare popular ones. For example, if brisket is popular, you might offer a brisket salad or sandwich.