Just chill! How to winterize your menu - Brand Points Plus Canada

Just chill! How to winterize your menu

Brace yourself…winter is coming. Despite so many uncertainties in the last months, seasons continue to change. Winter (especially in Canada) requires preparation in order to weather the coming cold. Food vocabulary changes with the drop in temperature, too. Anything braised, roasted, baked, slow-cooked, hearty, and home-style will feed your customers’ need for comfort food. Is your menu ready?

Don’t hibernate

“Operators should be developing their menu based on the season,” says Gerald Drummond, Executive Chef for Campbell’s Foodservice.

“When looking to do a seasonal menu, stay within the confines of your critical core, the centre of the plate.”

In years past, operators could get away with changing the menu once or twice a year. Because of social media, ever-changing times, the need to stay relevant and build excitement, that model doesn’t work anymore.

Instead, Chef Gerald suggests, “Base a portion of the menu that can constantly be revolving between seasons. Three or four items that can pop on and off the menu based on the season.”

  • TIP: This is a perfect opportunity for LTOs. Work with your distributor and suppliers to create the best LTO for your operation.

Insulate your profits

“Foodservice operators run on very thin margins. When winterizing your menu, for cost savings look at your inventory,” says Chef Gerald. “Take your summer grilled chicken served with mango and asparagus. Keep the chicken and adjust the complements to make it trendy, modern and seasonal.”

Campbell’s Foodservice products can be integrated into menus regardless of season, he adds.

“We recently assisted in the development of a Vegetarian Pot Pie, incorporating a multitude of root vegetables in our Butternut Squash Soup base and topping with a traditional pastry.”

“You get a soup that also works as an ingredient. You can control your inventory and ease labour costs because of its ease of prep. A win, win, win.”


Keeping warm (hot)

Winterizing your menu is key. However, there are other factors to consider as temperatures plunge.

“Patios may stay open longer into fall and early winter because of capacity restrictions. It’s imperative even with additional patio heaters that hot food stay hot longer — stews, meat pies, chilis and hearty soups are a great fit,” says James Keppy, Corporate Chef for Foodservice for Maple Leaf.

Preheated dishes and bowls or baked items would heat things up — and keep them hot.

Chef James reminds us, “Call out your winter menu, highlight the creative offerings you’ve made and always factor in how well these dishes travel for delivery.”

With current capacity restrictions and knowing patios will be too cold for comfort at some point, delivery and pickup will remain strong solutions to maintaining and building business. Unkind Canadian winter temperature and distance (time) can be enemies of certain menu items.

  • TIP: Ensure success by evaluating the holding ability of each dish. Takeout & delivery will continue to be important components of your operation even into winter.

“Call out your winter menu, highlight the creative offerings you’ve made and always factor in how well these dishes travel for delivery.”

Gerald Drummond, Executive Chef for Campbell’s Foodservice

A snowball’s chance

Travelling to southern climates this winter might not fly. So, it may not be necessary to completely abandon warm weather fare. Who won’t be ready for a taste of summer in January?

“Items like BBQ ribs will still appeal to customers not willing to shovel snow to get to their barbecues,” says Chef James.

“Restaurants that adapt to offer off-premise meals for family or work groups can still pull items from summer menus. Burgers and hot dogs work as a takeout solution in the winter.” 

Winter is coming, no matter what. Before you get snowed under, take the time to winterize your menu (and operation) to comfort your customers and protect your profits.   

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