A charcuterie board featuring cheese, prosciutto, olives and grapes

3 Ways to Make Your Holiday Menu Merry

Add the indulgence customers want without breaking your budget and theirs.

The season calls for opulence and better ingredients. People want to indulge this time of year, so treat them with upscale ideas that fit your budget and theirs.

To make it work, create new recipes using items already on your menu, or use plus-ones that elevate menu offerings without adding lots of inventory. Our Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialists suggest three easy ways to make it work.

1. Build a meal toolkit

Start with a menu basic and create a classic, elevated and trendy version. Chef Bobby Viel explains how it can work using common holiday foods:

  • Classic. Make a “Leftover Sandwich Special” using cranberry walnut bread, petite turkey, cornbread stuffing and cranberry jelly.
  • Elevated. Take the same sandwich and add a smoky aioli or cranberry relish and add texture and flavour appeal.
  • Trendy. Use a cranberry muffin mix and add corn and crab to turn it into a savory holiday pudding bread.

“This helps aspiring operators aspiring to go to the next level by adding one element and creating a flavour bomb,” Viel says. “A good dessert also could fall under the classic, elevated or trendy concept.”

2. Use simple cross-utilization

Adding a menu twist for the holidays doesn’t have to be expensive—for operators or their customers. Chef Rachel Mazur explains how to wow guests with creative ideas by cross-utilizing soup. She describes three ideas using a seasonal pumpkin apple bacon soup.

  • Pasta sauce. Fettuccini, topped with apples, hazelnuts, chopped bacon and use soup as a sauce.
  • Au gratin potatoes. Use the soup as a sauce for the potatoes and top with cheddar cheese.
  • Pizza sauce. Spread the soup on the dough, shingle some potatoes and sprinkle with more apple bits.

“No matter what soup you choose, it becomes an ingredient,” Mazur says. “You get three different applications without ever using it on the menu as soup.”

Call on cheese or charcuterie boards

One way to feed a holiday crowd is with small bites, and cheese or charcuterie boards are a festive treat perfect for your restaurant table, at-home family gatherings or small office parties. “Charcuterie boards are huge,” Mazur says. “People want to pick and graze, and they love the variety.” Keep in mind:

  • Include variety. Whether it’s cheese, meat or a combo, call on hard and soft textures and sweet, mild, salty and zesty flavours.
  • Make it visual. Cheeses and meats limit your colour variety. Add fruits, nuts, olives, spreads or pickled vegetables. Don’t forget crackers and bread for serving.
  • Be unique. Try a seacuterie board, with tuna nduja, whitefish spread or smoked salmon or seafood pate. Because you’re not presenting the entire fish, you can use tail pieces or less-desirable portions as profit-makers.

The great thing about board builds, Viel says, is they work for the holidays, but also as a takeout/delivery option. Another option is to display them in a grab-and-go area where people can see them when they come and go.