The winter is the season for rich and hearty comfort food. Though you can indulge at any time of the year, the winter holidays are known for gluttony and they are right around the corner. Is your restaurant menu ready with some hot new menu items that will delight your clientele?
Chili & Soups
Great alone or with your customer’s favorite crackers – when things get chilly, a bowl of chili or a great soup may just be the remedy. Invest in a good kettle or warming well for keeping chilis and soups fresh and warm for quick customer service during the busy winter rush.
Soup is not only for sandwich shops and the like. No matter what type of restaurant you have, adding soup to your menu this winter season will be a sure seller! January is National Soup Month, and according to Mobile-Cusine.com, Americans eat more than 10 billion bowls of soup each year. Why would you miss out on the chance to give the people what they want during the chilly months?
Soups are a great way to use food that hasn’t sold but is close to expiration plus the profit margins are huge! You can also consider implementing a veggie option to cater to your vegetarian or vegan customers.
Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, red potatoes, tater tots… potato soup! When people look for a warm, filling side dish (or entre) you can often find potatoes being amongst their choices. Nothing says comfort like a menu item that can stand alone, be a side dish, breakfast item, or appetizer. However your customers decide to down it, make sure potatoes are something listed down on that menu of yours.
Another sure-fire way to help your customers to feel right at home is by serving up a nice bowl of grits. It’s not just a southern thing - Grits are popular all over the country. Rich in vitamin B-6, these dried kernels of corn may help with vision and rheumatoid arthritis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Shrimp and Grits is one menu option for implementing the comfort dish into their choices, but you can also try options such as Butternut Squash Grits or Cheese Grits to give a unique twist to this menu item. There are also a ton of other dishes you can make with grits that keep profit margins high.
Helpful tip: To prepare your dish even quicker, you can prepare grits in a rice cooker rice cooker without the hassle of stirring them to avoid sticking!
If your menu is missing a casserole, you better get one on there before the winter season. Casserole is a slow cooked dish (typically baked) that usually consists of ingredients that mix well for taste. Casseroles come in many different options.
Some restaurants are famous for their casseroles; think Cracker Barrel’s hashbrown casserole or Boston Markets’ sweet potato casserole. Casseroles can be a great foundation for your menu and something to get people coming back time and time again.
Chicken & Game Birds
No matter where you are, but especially if you are in the South –good old fashion chicken does not go out of style. Most establishments will have some variation of chicken on the menu, such as fried chicken, roasted whole chicken, or sauce coated chicken dishes. Chicken is an all season menu choice that you can re-purpose throughout the year and on holidays.
Don’t forget about the holiday favorite – you’ve guessed it, turkey! This hearty food choice is so popular, that there is no way your winter menu should be without it.
There is also no denying the turkey’s selling power. With 240 million turkeys raised worldwide last year and 200 million of those turkeys consumed in the United States, restaurateurs have an even better incentive to add it to their winter menus.
Other popular game birds to consider adding on include quail, pheasant, and partridge, which are known as healthier options than turkey and chicken.
Warm Breakfast Cereals: Oatmeal, Grits & Hot Wheat Cereals
A great breakfast menu item in the winter time is oatmeal. Oatmeal is a warm, hearty item that serves the purpose of making you feel full without eating a high calorie, rich meal and it also has health benefits. Some health benefits of this oaty - dish include: boosted heart health, weight loss benefits, and boosted energy all of which you can market to your customers!
Get creative with your oatmeal recipes and give them variety in choice. Try thinking outside the box by offering a fun DIY dish with toppings served to the table or a baked oatmeal dish with fall or winter fruits and nuts. Whatever way you want to serve it, your customers will love a warm bowl of oatmeal.
Aside from oatmeal, there is a world of other hot wheat cereals to explore. Play with your options to give customers something new to experience, from rolled grains such as quinoa, barley, rye, kamut and spelt to cracked grains that include bulgur and couscous. These are gaining popularity due to the associated health benefits, and broad range of nutrients that include complex carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.
Meatloaf is a warm, comforting entrée that you may consider adding to your restaurant’s Winter menu. Your meat lovers will be glad you thought of them during this frosty time. Meatloaf is a great way to fill up and warm up all in the same bite. Make sure you have the proper food heating and warming equipment to keep that meatloaf at the perfect temperature!
If a good stew can’t keep your customers warm, we don’t know what will. Stew is the combination of solid food ingredients that such as beef and vegetables slow cooked in order to tenderize the meat. A round Dutch oven will help you to perfect the beef stew dish for your guests.
Tip: Try out mini Dutch ovens for a great way to make individual portions and wow your guests with your presentation!
Hot Chocolate & Warm Ciders
We know hot chocolate is not an actual “food” item, but this list wouldn’t be complete without it! Hot chocolate should be one of your seasonal menu items, because one of the top go-to items for customers in the winter is hot chocolate. There are a lot of ways to prepare it – be it the old fashioned way or using a hot chocolate dispenser. Just make sure it is not left out of your revamped menu this winter season.
Warm Ciders is a definite way for patrons to keep warm when they come into your restaurant out of the cold. For patrons who are not big fans of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, warm cider is a wonderful option. Hot apple cider is considered a super dietary addition, often containing cloves and ginger which that kill toxins, and a healthy intestinal tract.
Cobblers & Puddings
Cobblers and puddings are a common sweet side dish during the holidays. They add the perfect touch after a savory meal and complete the dining experience for many. Even after filling up on turkey, stuffing, greens, and macaroni, patrons often don’t mind grabbing a side treat to go. Jazz up your cobbler with different fruits to give patrons a broad selection of choices.
Fresh Breads with Jams & Spreads
During the holidays, popular local or homemade gifts-in-a-jar is jam, or natural fruit spreads. These spreads come in various delicious flavors like grape, strawberry, blackberry, mixed berry and more. They are a great addition to your patrons’ favorite bread, oatmeals, or even shortbread cookies! Some great bread choices to compliment these delectable jams include:
- Pumpkin Bread - Pumpkin bread is a type of moist quick bread made with pumpkin. The pumpkin can be cooked and softened before being used or simply baked with the bread, making for a yummy Thanksgiving Day treat!
- Chai-Spiced Tea Loaves -Chai-spiced tea bread is the perfect Christmas gift, that can be wrapped and sealed with a bow as a festive treat.
- Banana Nut Bread - Banana Nut Bread is made from mashed bananas. Its moist, sweet taste can be a great added touch to any holiday meal.
- Sourdough – Sourdough is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread made by the fermentation of dough, add a delicious jam, and this can be a nice holiday appetizer added to your menu.
Knowing what to add to your menu should make your transition from the summer into the colder time of year a breeze. What did you add to your menu last year? Share with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus – we’d love to join your conversation!