Peppermint, Pumpkin, and Other Thoughts On Seasonal Menu Items
If you’re alive and leave your house, you’ve probably run into the phenomenon of seasonal menu items. Restaurants and coffee shops everywhere do this, but it seems especially popular among national chains that can coordinate a limited-time offer of great magnitude. And maybe I’m just young, but seasonal menu items seem to be more popular each year, with more options and more restaurants participating. You’ve seen the options: pumpkin spiced latte, peppermint mocha, pumpkin pancakes, etc. The list goes on. Some restaurants even offer special summer menu items like limited time cold drinks.
There are of course also restaurants that offer seasonal menus, which is something entirely different. Rather than offering selected items at different times during the year to bring in new business, some restaurants — often smaller, slightly more upscale ones — change their menu depending on the foods they can get fresh and locally because they’re in season. With everyone and their mom “going green,” this has become a very popular model in many areas with upscale dining options. Whichever strategy is used, it’s obvious that seasonal menu options are “in.”
But should you consider seasonal items for your menu?
Maybe. According to some research, the rising popularity in seasonal items — especially in the fall, when pumpkin and hazelnut flavors are big — is not just to do with restaurant trends, but with a natural change in palette that occurs with the change of seasons. In 2009, the amount of menu offerings including pumpkin increased a whopping 161% from summer to fall, with other flavors and ingredients associated with autumn also rising. So there’s some evidence that it works — that consumers expect some changes with the seasons. (I know I start drinking a lot more apple cider as soon as fall hits.) And of course it’s something you should consider.
But before you add seasonal items willy-nilly, consider a few tips:
1) Don’t add seasonal items just for the sake of adding them. If they seem thrown together, gimmicky, or aren’t given the attention of your staple menu items, customers will see right through your marketing charade.
2) Don’t add too many seasonal items. A couple new menu items or some minor seasonal tweaks to the existing menu is all it takes to spruce up for the new season. Overdoing it will be costly to you and hectic for your staff.
3) Make sure to get the word out. Throwing some seasonal items on your menu, whether it’s fall, winter, spring, or summer, isn’t going to bring in new business. You have to get the word out that you’re changing with the season — that there’s something delicious available only at your restaurant, and only for a limited time.
If you can do it affordably and get the word out, seasonal items might be the perfect way to drum up some buzz for your business while the weather changes. It’s something to consider, at least.
I’ll be back on Wednesday with another post. Until then, contact us here.