Seasonal Food Calendar
Seasonal food has been considered a top trend for at least 6 years now and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. In a recent Nation’s Restaurant News poll, 23 percent of operators reported plans to alter their menus over the next year to work seasonal items into their offerings. That isn’t surprising, with more than half of customers claiming they’re not only more likely to order food described as seasonal, but are also willing to pay more for it. Adding a seasonal menu to your restaurant takes some extra work, but for many businesses it may be a decision that pays off in the end.
Benefits of a Seasonal Menu
Seasonal Planning Tips
It can be tempting to jump head-first into the seasonal food excitement, but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Consider starting with a small seasonal menu in addition to your usual staples, then expand it later if the trial goes well. Be sure to keep your menu updated. Customers don’t appreciate being told that you actually ran out of that locally grown corn you still have listed from last week, and making claims about your menu that you can’t back up is sure to land your restaurant in hot water.
Seasonal menus require a fine balance of planning and flexibility. You’ll need to plan ahead by designing recipes featuring the seasonal ingredients you choose, but your ingredients being at the whims of the weather means you also need to be prepared to adjust your menu at the last minute to make do without that shipment of squash or tomatoes you had your eye on. On the flip side, if your supplier comes into an abundance of zucchini at the end of August, it may be offered to you at a special price for a bulk purchase. That could leave you with baskets full of an unplanned ingredient you need to create a recipe for. You’ll also need to decide whether to stick with local providers or to widen your options a bit by expanding your buying radius. Buying locally gives you another advantage you can capitalize on in advertising, but expanding your search allows you more flexibility in planning your menu with a wider range of ingredients. If you decide to stay local, you can discuss your seasonal options with local produce suppliers, or you can do some research online on what items are in-season in your area.
If you decide to have seasonal items shipped in from outside your immediate vicinity, you have more ingredients to choose from, but you may need to be careful about where you buy from to ensure you’re getting fresh, never-frozen produce. While each year’s weather can cause this to vary some, we’ve put together a list of which fruits and vegetables are usually available each month of the year in the U.S. to give you a starting point as you plan your menu.
Please note that most seafood is also seasonal. However, because it’s a little more complicated than produce, keep an eye out for a future blog post on sourcing seafood.