Creating a Standout Seasonal Menu

From conception to recipe testing, and from sourcing ingredients to costing, creating a seasonal menu that fits within (and enhances) your restaurant and captures your guest’s attention will take time and effort. But, we are here to help with the planning process so you and your team can create some great seasonal dishes to roll out to tables in no time.

We’ve asked our very own Angie Mauermann, Director of Culinary Logistics of VSAG client Farmers Restaurant Group, for some expert advice in creating a standout seasonal menu.

Conception. The vision for a standout seasonal menu starts with the ingredients. Inspiration can come from a variety of elements, says Angie. From exotic destinations or places you and your head chef have been, to experiences you have had and things you have read, there are a lot of creative starting points out there. Take notes of what standout elements speak to you – and the menu conceptualization can start to flow. Hold a brainstorm meeting to help finalize recipe ideas/dish names, and you’ll be on the way to the next step.

Testing. Angie suggests letting your chef work independently for one round of testing to vet out any possible issues and/or gain more knowledge of each dish. Then the testing and tasting can begin. Gather a top team of trusted taste buds to sample dishes and discuss what works, what doesn’t work, and how to improve the product. Your chef will take this info back to the drawing board to finalize. (Conducting an additional taste testing of revised dishes is highly recommended.)

Sourcing. Cull through final recipes for new ingredients, and then contact vendors to discuss ingredient specs (such as items on special order and lead times). Angie recommends creating a comprehensive database listing of all ingredient specs to help simplify the sourcing process.

Costing. Discuss ingredient costs with vendors, and create a cost analysis section for each dish within the ingredient list. Review all details and devise dish costs accordingly. Note: Installing a food cost database system (such as Compeat) to finalize individual dish costing is recommended.

As the seasonal menu creation process comes to a close and dish costs/names are finalized, review completely with staff (managers, chefs, line cooks, servers, front-of-house, marketing team, and anyone else that can help sell the items) for seamless service once the menu is introduced to guests.

Lastly, don’t forget to work the menu printing lead-time into your schedule – if the kitchen is ready, you can always ‘special’ the new menu items as a way of introducing them to guests.

As with any ideas and advice offered to better your business, each objective can be tailored to fit the specifics of your restaurant, menus, locally available ingredients and clientele this season – and each season thereafter, for your delicious menu success.