Spurred on by the warm summer weather and pent-up demand, consumers are eagerly returning to activities they enjoyed before the pandemic, like dining on-premise at their favorite restaurants. They’ll be seeking innovative food and drink creations, global flavors, as well as plant–based and healthier ingredients to satisfy their appetites as well as their overall well-being.
Add Excitement with Global Flavors
With a lack of travel for most of the pandemic, consumers have redefined “comfort food” to include global cuisines. Try creating an “Around the World” LTO menu, inspired by the adventurous flavors of the international community, to welcome patrons back to your establishment. Taste profiles from the Middle East, Latin America, and Japan are increasing in demand. It’s also predicted that the Olympics, recently held in Japan, will only further increase the desire to explore global and ethnic flavors and cuisines. Try incorporating ginger, gochujang, teriyaki, and honey sriracha into your menu.
Focus on Health & Relaxation
With many people enjoying summertime outdoor activities, there is a renewed focus on exercise and healthy eating. As a result, consumers are seeking dishes that feature better-for-you, nutritious, locally sourced, and free-from ingredients, as well as dishes featuring plant-based proteins. Add a creative selection of weekly specials that include traditional ingredients with a healthy twist, calorie counts and nutritional information to help your patrons feel good about their choices.
Incorporate Product Cross-Utilization
Create menu versatility and increase profitability by getting creative with go-to staples and pantry ingredients already in stock. Try using global flavors or regional BBQ sauces to elevate standard dishes like wings or burgers into mouthwatering new options. Versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple applications will help you cut down the amount of labor and time needed to prepare dishes. Choose flexible protein options that can be used in sandwiches, pizzas, power bowls and salads. Create adventurous new mac & cheese dishes by adding flavorful sauces or use as a cheesy topping on specialty burgers or pizza. The possibilities are endless! Frozen ingredients can also help your operation by reducing labor and supply chain issues.
Extend Your Floor Plan Outside
Make patio dining desirable, fun and a relaxing place where people really want to be. You can create this type of atmosphere with string lights, colorful cushioned seating, candles, music, plants and flowers. If you haven’t already, offer reservations for outdoor seating. Outdoor reservations provide more predictability around how many guests you’ll seat, so you can process orders accurately, do more turns in a service, and avoid waste and manage unexpected crowds more efficiently. Make use of QR codes for downloadable menus that patrons can view on their smart phones and provide touch-free payment options for an extra level of comfort.
Craft Cocktails & Mocktails
Whether it’s Sangria, wine slushies, Moscow mules, or spiked strawberry lemonade, craft cocktails and mocktails make any summer event more enjoyable. Rely on seasonal ingredients in your cocktails and mocktails like watermelon, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, pineapple and peaches. Help your patrons get excited to come back to your establishment with themed happy hour drink nights, internationally inspired cocktails, or a pet friendly patio deal so if they buy a drink, they get a pup cup for their pet.
Get the Word Out
Many guests are eager to dine at restaurants again, but they don’t always know when their favorite places are open for business. Post photos of your outdoor dining space and feature photos of your delicious summer dishes on social media, while encouraging patrons to do the same. Let people know about your promotions and specials by reaching out to your neighborhood resources, such as: local forums, radio programs, farmers markets, summer festivals, etc. Offer a gift card or savings for dining at your establishment through social media, encouraging followers to comment and share for a chance to win.