04 Sep Keeping Things Fresh with a Changing Menu
An Interesting Menu Keeps Customers Coming Back
Starting a restaurant is no mean feat. You come up with an exciting new concept, design and build your establishment, and, if all goes well, you start seeing success. But even after all that, you still need to keep new ideas flowing. Having customers is great. But to keep them coming back you have to give them something fresh and interesting every so often.
Before you go through with your own ideas or adapt to the latest food trend, make sure to prepare the ground to avoid both reputation and financial losses. Here’s how the experts do it.
Don’t Go Overboard
While mixing things up now and then is a great way to keep people curious about your restaurant, constantly changing the entire menu is likely to put customers off.
Repeating diners expect to find their favorite dishes on the menu every time they visit, so make sure to have at least one or two items that do not change and that fit in with the rest of the menu, regardless of the season. Especially don’t take your signature dishes off the menu, it is most likely your crowd favourite. This ensures that diners have something they like to fall back on just in case they’re not too hot on the new offerings. Don’t run the risk of losing loyal customers for the sake of experimentation.
In most places, a seasonal menu requires adding new items every three to four months to really get the most out of what your climate has to offer. But changing your menu four times a year is difficult, and it’s perfectly acceptable that some restaurant owners prefer not to take on the challenge. If you’re not up to changing the entire menu every season, try small changes. Adding desserts with locally grown fruits, for example, is enough to keep your customers interested.
Taste the Menu Every Time You Change It
Adding new items to a menu four times a year takes a lot of planning. There are a few steps you’d be wise to follow before rolling out a new course.
Start a few months ahead and take notes of recipes you’d like to try once the season changes. Collect ideas and pick up on trends before they hit the market. As soon as possible, but leaving enough time to make changes, have a tasting session with your chefs. Get feedback from as many people as possible. Your friends, family and staff are another great resource for this. Do not shy away from criticism. It’s better to get a critique from a friend than to read about it in the papers. Experimenting and tasting is every chef’s bread and butter. It’s the constant tweaking of flavors and textures that makes them great. Creating signatory dished takes time, but it’s a fun process if you do it in the right spirit.
As soon as the first buds of the season’s vegetables and fruits appear, bring your new dish out for a spin. Promote your new items on your ‘specials board’ or instruct your waiters to encourage customers to try these out. Before you make any definitive changes to your menu, it is important to let actual customers trial these out.
Find a Reliable and Creative Supplier
Make sure you have a stable, reliable flow of ingredients by signing on a vendor that knows how to get these. If you’re working with a supplier that is unfamiliar with local produce, seasonal offerings or recent food trends, you’re likely to run into difficulties getting what you need, when you need it.
Many suppliers find it difficult to adjust to frequent menu changes. You’ll want to find a distributor that is agile, that can keep up with changing seasons and markets, and that will be able to continue automating your orders, even if you change them every 3-4 months. A good supplier would help you get ideas and tips on seasonal availability of ingredients and local produce, cost out products and eliminate costly items, and save you a lot of time.
Have Fun with It
Remember that thinking up ideas, experimenting with seasonal and local tastes and challenging yourself to always be creative and innovative is exactly why you got into the restaurant business.
Keep customers interested in your brand by letting them know you are committed to seasonal freshness. Social media is a great promotional resource. Use hashtags like #seasonalproduce or #localproduce to encourage people to try out local tastes, and make sure you let everyone know the offerings are for limited-time only.
Once you get them in your restaurant, it’s time to help customers create new memories of unique culinary experiences. Something to go on until the next season.