Holidays bring unique opportunities, and challenges, to the restaurant industry. Celebrations, splurging, and revelries mean that customers are looking for something special. Kent MacDonald, Gordon Food Service Customer Solutions Manager for Atlantic Provinces, says, “Holidays in the fall and winter open up a profound difference in menu content and an influx in customer spending.”
Family traditions are the backbone of holiday meals, and each celebration through the year can bring customary “must haves.” This challenges restaurants to create holiday menus that are recognizable, yet elevated enough that customers find value. With that in mind, here are five satisfying and sales-building ways to add a bit of holiday luxury to your menu.
As customers look to indulge, give them the opportunity to splurge on a spectacular steak or over-the-top preparations. From tomahawk pork chops and show-stopping tomahawk steaks to traditional holiday roasts and pies, there is a lot of opportunity for luxe centre of the plate selections.
Tourtière prepared with Berkshire pork and a lily-gilding garnish of foie gras, a la Chef Martin Picard of Au Pied Du Cochon, takes a classic holiday dish to the next level and offers something that customers are unlikely to prepare at home. Chef Michael Viloria, with Gordon Food Service British Columbia, says that while he always looks forward to a traditional roast turkey, he loves the idea of fusing tradition with a little twist. His turkey “two ways” combines a five spice salt rub turkey breast with honey ginger turkey confit and pairs it with sweet potato and chive dumplings, wilted greens and date jus. The technique of roasting the breast and preparing the legs in a braise or confit works particularly well for busy holiday service; the dark meat can be prepared in advance and stays moist and tender, while the breast can be cooked perfectly without drying out.
When you want to make every effort to impress, choose a cut that displays the true artisanship of the protein butchering, as well as the storyline of the animal origin. Certified Angus Beef® ribeye spinalis, also known as the ribeye cap, offers rich marbling and grades out to an eight on the marble scale; three grades above prime. Certified Angus Beef tomahawk ribeye, or “cowboy,” steaks are a thick-cut, bone-in ribeye. Because they include the six-inch frenched rib bone, each steak is roughly two inches thick and a real stunner on the plate.
From shareable dips and spreads to memorable centre of the plate options, seafood is a sure-fire way to impress guests. Baked oysters, bubbling with rich toppings, are a fine holiday tradition with boutique appeal.
From the classic Oysters Rockefeller with crumbled bacon, spinach and buttery breadcrumbs to wood-grilled oysters with compound butter and a drizzle of Pernod, these hot preparations add a touch of luxury and are well-suited to sharing plates and appetizers.
For some serious indulgence, upgrade your recipes with flavourful melting cheeses like Raclette or Gruyere. Even a grilled cheese can seem splurge-worthy when it’s stuffed with Fontina and Comte; layer flavour with a three-cheese approach that combines cheddar with a piquant blue cheese and something soft and melty.
Fonduta, a bubbling crock of melted gooey goodness and Italy’s answer to Swiss fondue, is perfect for starting a memorable meal. Fabulous as a dip for crusty bread or seasonal veggies, fontina fonduta also makes a great sauce for spooning over roasted stuffed peppers or pork medallions.
Specialty preparations like tartiflette, a peerless potato gratin traditional in the French Alps, are especially appealing around the holidays. Combining creamy potatoes with bacon lardons, caramelized onions and rich Reblochon cheese, tartiflette offers over-the-top indulgence and a reminder that when it comes to comfort food, you can never have too much cheese.
A yen for good old-fashioned indulgence offers an excellent opportunity to increase dessert sales. According to Technomic’s 2016 Canadian Dessert Consumer Trend Report, nearly 60% of consumers overall eat dessert at least once a week. There is a significant opportunity to increase dessert sales, particularly if you are offering something special.
To create luxurious and crave-worthy holiday desserts, keep it simple; all-butter flaky crusts, real whipped cream, double-fold vanilla bean extract, pure maple syrup and the freshest and tastiest nuts. Adding a tipple never hurts—Technomic also notes that bourbon-laced desserts have grown by 167% on menus since the first quarter of 2014. Amp up your dessert program with indulgent ice cream toppings or create your own signature sundae by swirling in different flavours to good quality vanilla ice cream.
Holiday punch specials, handcrafted sodas and indulgent blended beverages add flavour and menu differentiation, as well as great margins. Streamline service by pre-batching punch and soda, then finish with a bit of sparkle; soda water, sparkling wine or fizzy cider. Holiday inspired flavours like cranberry, ginger and green apple are great for non-alcoholic soft drinks, but can also stand in for the traditional mixers in cocktails. Add a creative garnish and you’re done; fresh bunches of herbs, a clove-studded orange twist, candied ginger or charred cinnamon sticks add both flavour and flair.
For something stronger to fend off the deep chill of winter, a house made Caribou cocktail can be just the thing. Red wine or port, brandy or whisky, maple sugar or a twist of lemon; a proprietary batch adds menu differentiation and can be served straight up or blended with hot tea for a twist on the toddy.
While holidays are all about tradition, adding a twist to an old favourite can bring menu differentiation.