Why use seasonal produce?
- Build strong local networks. Switching to a more seasonal menu is a great opportunity to start building strong relationships with local growers and farmers to help support the local economy and attract more local guests.
- Reduce your food costs. Seasonal food tends to be more readily available and so cheaper to buy. If you’re buying locally then you won’t be paying for the cost of transport either.
- Inspire your chefs. There is nothing like a seasonal menu drawn from local ingredients to get a chef’s palette going in the right direction. From kitchen staff who are inspired to be more innovative, to wait staff who are more engaged, using seasonal produce can have a positive impact right across the team.
- Invest in sustainability. Seasonal produce is eaten when it is ready, often grown without chemicals and doesn’t travel far to get to your kitchen. By using it you’re positively impacting on sustainability by supporting traditional farming, reducing the fuel consumption involved in transport and encouraging people to eat what is growing at that time of year.
- Improve taste and quality. Seasonal food tends to be what grows naturally and often requires much less support to thrive. Many people believe it tastes better, especially as the produce hasn’t travelled long distances to get to you or been treated with harsh chemicals to sustain growth.
- Support better marketing. There is no doubt that seasonal produce is currently something that many diners seek out when making restaurant choices. It can be a great driver for business, support more effective marketing and help to create new opportunities for your restaurant.
How to implement using seasonal produce in your restaurant
- Don’t fake it. Yes, it’s a trend that diners look for but you’ll suffer the consequences if it’s revealed that your food is not as seasonal as you’ve promoted it to be. Consumers aren’t stupid – if you offer seasonal vegetables and they don’t change all year round, it’ll be a bit of a giveaway!
- Emphasise the limited nature of ingredients. You can create urgency around your new dishes when they are seasonal – if diners don’t come and try your gooseberry tart in the next few weeks then it will be off the menu when the fruit goes out of season.
- Use seasonal produce to tell a story. There are all sorts of personal interest that you can weave into your brand story by using seasonal produce. From incorporating information about the growers to why your chefs love seasonal vegetables and which are their favourites, this kind of food is ideal for storytelling.
- Upgrade your inventory control. Switching to seasonal produce can make inventory a challenge, as it is often perishable and limited in availability. Take the time to work out how seasonal produce works for your business and to encourage your kitchen to be more flexible when it comes to using what’s available.
- Use tasting sessions to evaluate new dishes. When a new season rolls around, test out your potential new dishes with an after-hours tasting session with staff, friends, management and family to get some input on what you’ve created.
- Trained chefs are key. The more experience your chefs have, the easier they will find it to be creative with what is available seasonally.
- Consider a staple menu and a special menu. If you want to introduce seasonal produce slowly then start with a smaller, special menu to see how your diners react to seasonal specials and what they prefer to eat – the staple menu will still provide options for those who don’t want to try the new dishes.
- Use all your tools to create some hype around your seasonal dishes. From social media to promotions and even restaurant décor, make sure everything reflects the seasonal focus and gets people excited.
Implementing a seasonal menu could give your business a new lease of life and make it much simpler to motivate staff and attract new customers while also supporting more sustainable practices