Summer is the perfect time to go out with family and friends. That’s why many restaurants see a significant uptick in attendance and revenue. While there are many valuable ways to prepare and maintain your restaurant, creating a special summer menu should be one of your top priorities.
Fortunately, you don’t have to make a ton of sweeping changes. Some minor tweaks and additions should not only help attract new folks to your establishment but also keep regulars coming back. Here are some easy summer menu ideas for restaurants to try this year.
1. Get Out the Grill
The grill will be your summer menu’s biggest friend. Everyone loves the taste of grilled and char flavors, especially when the temperature rises. All types of meats and seafood are fair game, whether it’s steak and chicken or shrimp and salmon.
Vegetables also are delicious when served off the grill. Consider offering grilled potatoes, asparagus and corn as alternatives to your usual selection of sides. For vegetarian or vegan patrons, remember to include some entrée-style veggies like eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower and mushrooms.
Another grilled entrée that people love in the summer is kabobs. Kabobs are not only easy to make, but the combinations are also endless for both meat and veggie eaters.
2. Use Fresh Ingredients
The warm weather isn’t the only great thing about summer. Farmer’s markets are a staple in many local communities during the season, and they usher in a wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables you can use in your restaurant.
Make sure to look for other fresh ingredients too. Many farmer’s markets offer everything from spices and herbs to jams and honeys. Some even sell grass-fed or organic meats, which are perfect for the grill. All of these ingredients can be used to accentuate your mainstay dishes and specials throughout the summertime.
Also, find a way to publicize the ingredients from your local farmer’s market, whether it’s on the menu or some type of signage. Community support is always appreciated by the vendors at the market.
3. Create Cold Sides
There’s no doubt that restaurant-goers love the usual warm sides like French fries, baked potatoes or rice. However, a few cold alternatives can be very appealing during the summer months. Think of featuring some options like fresh fruit, side salads or coleslaw.
Since some patrons love defaulting to potato-based sides, whip up a homemade potato salad. You can go with the standard deviled-egg potato salad, or make a loaded recipe with ingredients like bacon, cheese and green onion.
While grilled veggies are ideal for summer, there are plenty of tasty ways to prepare them cold. For instance, create a cool, balsamic salad made with fresh tomatoes, onions and mozzarella cheese. If your establishment specializes in Tex-Mex, a Southwestern medley of corn, black beans and tomatoes topped with a citrus vinaigrette is definitely a side dish best served cold.
4. Sprinkle in Citrus
Citrus is always a summertime favorite. Think of some fun ways to mix in orange, lemon or lime flavors into different foods and drinks. Salads are an easy solution. Think about offering side and entrée salads with orange slices and lemony dressings. When grilling or charbroiling meat, top them with a sweet citrus glaze for a special summery taste.
Sure, the main courses and sides might be the star attractions, but don’t forget about the drinks and desserts. Aside from margaritas and cocktails (we’ll get to those later), there are a vast selection of delicious citrus beers you can add to your rotation this summer. Variety is key, so remember to stock up on the citrusy IPAs, radlers, shandys and saisons.
For dessert, everything from lemon torts to citrus-flavored ice creams are sure to be a hit. Consider having palate cleansers like sherbet or sorbet in lemon, lime and orange flavors. Italian ice is another light yet delicious option to cap off a summer meal.
5. Mix Frozen Cocktails and Drinks
Who doesn’t love a cool cocktail when it heats up? They’re perfect for a hot day, and there are so many choices for your restaurant’s summer drink menu. Of course, margaritas are a must. While you should always have the standard lime and strawberry mixes, make sure your list includes unique tropical flavors like pineapple, mango and passion fruit as well.
If your restaurant already serves the standard cocktails like mojitos and gin and tonics, offer some unique summer specials. Different sangria drinks make great weekend specials throughout the season. For a more tropical flair, serve up rum buckets to bring a beach-like atmosphere to your establishment.
Don’t forget about the kids or non-alcohol drinkers! Lemonade and ice tea are refreshing substitutes for soda in the summer. On those scorching hot days, mix up some frozen slushes or fruit punches. These definitely will come in handy for your patrons sitting on the patio.