Menu + Food

The Effect Of Seasonal Trends on Your Menu

Explore how seasonal trends can elevate your restaurant's menu offerings, increase customer engagement, and drive loyalty through strategic marketing and seasonal promotions.
Trace Mannewitz

As the seasons change, so do customers' palates. As restaurant owners, this offers a great opportunity to go above and beyond and meet your customers where their stomachs are. Consider the results of Toast's Q4 Trends Report—they reported a notable shift towards warmth and comfort that comes with the colder months. 

What does this mean? Restaurants that built around that and redefined their menu for the season to match the cravings for heartiness and warmth. 

Embracing Seasonal Flavors

What does this mean for the average restaurant? Let's look at one of the most popular and well-documented examples. Every year, Starbucks re-releases the pumpkin spice latte. Beyond embracing seasonal flavors, the PSL has nearly defined the season itself, becoming as indicative of autumn as the leaves falling off the trees. While highly successful, this demonstrates the key concept: tailoring your menu to the season can reap great rewards. 

Have a "Spirit" -ed Season

Coffee isn't the only drink that changes from season to season. Just as food preferences evolve with the weather, so too does the inclination toward certain beverages. Spirits such as whiskey, wine, and vodka, known for their complex profiles and warming effects, become the stars of the bar menu during the winter months. Here lies an opportunity for restaurants to craft a selection of seasonal cocktails or curated spirit tastings that complement the winter menu, creating a holistic dining experience that appeals to the senses.

The flavors of the season will also affect which liquors perform well. What better time for a vodka cran than during the Christmas season? 

The Meta Game of Seasonal Menus

A seasonal menu does more than just offer new dishes; it reflects a restaurant's agility and commitment to delighting customers with timely and topical offerings. By simply having a varied menu, you're showing your customers that you're flexible and actively working to meet their needs. In addition, variability and limited time offerings are an easy way to incentivize your customers to return or visit your restaurant more frequently. 

It's crucial, however, that these menus are well-marketed. Social media, email newsletters, and in-house promotions are all channels that should echo the excitement of the new seasonal offerings, generating buzz and anticipation. 

Leveraging Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are not just a tool for customer retention; they're a direct line of communication with your most engaged customers. By tailoring loyalty rewards and communications around seasonal offerings, restaurants can:

Encourage Trials: Use the program to encourage sampling of new dishes, turning your regulars into advocates for your seasonal menu.

Collect Data: Analyze order data from your loyalty program to understand which seasonal items are hits and which may need tweaking.

Foster Community: Loyalty programs that highlight seasonal menus can foster a sense of community and belonging among customers, driving engagement and repeat visits.

Community Engagement and Beyond

The ambiance of a restaurant plays a crucial role in customer experience, especially during the colder months. Creating a warm, inviting environment that reflects the seasonal menu can transform dining from a mere meal to an immersive experience. Additionally, events such as seasonal tasting menus, cooking classes, or collaborations with local producers can extend the warmth beyond the plate, turning the restaurant into a community hub during the winter season.

Staying Ahead Of The Game 

As the year progresses, the popular flavors, foods, and beverages are going to change. Restaurant owners and managers must keep their heads up and stay aware of any opportunity to set themselves out above the rest of the competition. By thoughtfully integrating seasonal menus with strategic loyalty program promotions, restaurants can not only captivate the hearts and palates of their customers but also cement their place as leaders in the local food scene.