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Winter is the time of year where customers opt to stay inside their heated home with trackies, hoodies and Ugg boots the uniform of choice. And with the convenience of now having restaurant-quality food delivered to their doorstep – thanks to online delivery apps – there’s really no reason for them to venture out into the cold, chilly air.
With more customers logging onto apps such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Menulog, pressure has been placed on chefs to develop tasty meals that entice customers to go out. This pressure is especially apparent for venues whose menus don’t lend themselves to home delivery. However, it also represents a great opportunity for chefs to experiment with new ingredients and show off their creativity and culinary skills.
While there always needs to be a link between the restaurant and the food, the menu should always have a balance of unique, new dishes and old, traditional classics. Winter menus are the perfect opportunity to bring out grandma’s favourite comfort food recipe to remind customers of a deliciously home cooked meal.
Winter is synonymous with comfort food. You instantly think of rich, hearty meals such as casseroles, stews and thick, creamy hot chocolate. So, check out some tips on where you can change your menu to suit the winter months.
It’s common for customers to opt for a coffee or tea whenever they are out and about, especially in the cooler months. But nowadays, the standard cappuccino just doesn’t cut it. Despite coffee and tea being a standard beverage offering for every venue, some are beginning to put their own twists and tricks on the classics to ensure they receive cut-through with customers.
Henry Lee’s Café in Redfern, NSW now offers their clientele a range of unique hot beverages – 14 to be exact. The popular venue has created a rich red velvet latte, which releases the same flavours as the indulgent cake, a purple taro flavoured latte and a golden latte that is made with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, chai and honey.
Along with an increase of coffee orders during winter, hot chocolate requests are also on the top of the list for customers. This is why experimenting with flavours to stand-out from competitors is increasingly important – which is exactly what Henry Lee’s has done. Their white lavender hot chocolate is created with delicious white Belgian chocolate that has been infused with lavender. While they have infused their dark Belgian chocolate with cayenne pepper to create their popular Aztec chilli hot chocolate.
But Henry Lee’s aren’t the only venue stepping up their beverage offerings. Head chef, Elizabeth Mason from Song Kitchen in Sydney, NSW told Goodman Fielder Food Service that over the last few months their hot beverage menu has expanded significantly in an attempt to keep up with the expectations of their customers. “Our tea selection has been expanded with the addition of lemon grass and ginger, sticky chai pot and green sencha,” she explained. “We now also have a couple of different types of lattes such as a matcha latte on offer.”
Chef Mason explained the movement towards offering more on a beverage menu has gained traction over the last few months due to customers becoming bored of their standard order. “Our extended range has become really popular…I think people are now getting tired of drinking the same thing. When they come in, they may have already had three coffees that day and they just want a different type of hot beverage [that’s why you need to have options available],” she advised.
Creating a menu that leaves customers feeling full, content and warm can sometimes be harder than first thought. Creating a menu that stands out from your competitors for all the right reasons can sometimes seem near impossible. This winter, ensure your menu, from breakfast right through to dessert is filled with hearty, warm meals that are rich in nutrients. It can be a tricky balancing act, especially when it comes to breakfast where it’s common for venues to overthink what they need to have on offer.
The traditional eggs on toast or the juicy bacon and egg roll are always going to be menu must-haves. But now, many customers are searching for an option that provides them with the same impactful flavours, but a healthier alternative. That’s why oats are making a menu comeback. Oatmeal is a great winter breakfast offering thanks to it being warm, filling and of course healthy once cooked on the stovetop. The brekkie option can be a customisable dish on your menu that allows customers to coat their oatmeal with their own ingredients, such as seasonal fruits and nuts or honey.
The Cove in Abbotsford, NSW offer customers a porridge dish that is combined with barley, spelt, sesame, sunflower, poppy and preserved fruit. Harvey’s Bar & Bistro in Fortitude Valley, QLD also has a creamy porridge on the menu that is topped with a variety of poached fruits and toasted nuts. While warm, wholesome foods are the trend for the breakfast menu this year, these types of characteristics are also being carried through to lunch and dinner menus. When it comes to your lunch and dinner options, anything that is slow cooked, roasted or baked screams winter to customers.
No matter the type of venue, soups are commonly placed on menus and are genuinely welcomed by many patrons. While soups warm up customers and are full of vitamins and nutrients, they are also a great way to reduce food waste within the kitchen; this is because you can use produce that is close to its expiry date (making it a bonus for profit margins). At The Leveson in North Melbourne, VIC, they offer a different type of soup each day as part of their soup of the day campaign. In Sydney, Song Kitchen dishes a Turkish market soup that is filled with lentils, Aleppo pepper and rocket and is available for the whole of winter.
Along with a hearty, healthy soup, many venues are now opting to bake a range of pies. In Paddington, NSW, The Unicorn Hotel, which is run by the Mary’s Group, offer their guests their own signature Unicorn meat pie that is served on a bed of creamy mash potato, green peas and gravy on the side. To set themselves apart from the rest and reach a new target market, Soup Kitchen have switched the traditional meat pie and converted it into a vegetarian offering. Their wild greens and ricotta borek pie is wrapped tightly in pastry and rolled in a snail-like format. It’s then served with smoky almonds and edible flowers that contrast the golden colouring.
Chef Mason explained to Goodman Fielder Food Service they decided to move away from meat and use wild greens and ricotta as a way to stay on trend. “There are a lot of wild ingredients coming through this winter, especially different types of wild mushrooms and greens,” she said. Beef stew with red wine, slow braised lamb shanks, curry ramen and a vast range of pastas are also suitable to fill out your menu this winter. At Rabbit Jack Restaurant in Victoria, executive chef Dwayne Bourke offers his patrons a slow cooked duck leg option, as well as a roast beef eye fillet dish that is perfect for winter.
“The two most popular main courses would be the Bellarine beef eye fillet with cheesy cauliflower and sweet potato and our version of a duck cassoulet,” he revealed to Goodman Fielder Food Service. He explained they have created a “fancy, dressed up version” of the traditional dish to best suit their venue style and tone. “The cassoulet is a traditional French stew that is made with tomato and white beans and a range of different pork products,” Chef Bourke said. “We confit the duck legs and roast them with the tomatoes, then we braise the white beans and slow cook it all with pancetta and a cotechino sausage, which is a traditional Italian sausage.”
Along with the stews and the roasts, you also can’t forget some of the most popular foods that need to remain on your menu this winter. While burgers remain as one of the world’s most popular foods, they are season agnostic and continue to be menu must-haves throughout the year, while pizza can also be kept as either a low-key and traditional option or as gourmet and out there as you wish.
When it comes to desserts, warm apple or berry pies, sticky date puddings, even lava style chocolate puddings are the go-to dishes for those braving the cold. “Puddings are certainly up there [during winter],” said Chef Bourke. “[Rabbit Jack] do a ginger and ricotta pudding that we serve with poached rhubarb,” the experienced chef revealed, adding: “Chocolate is also always a perfect option as well. You can do a pudding or a cake in winter or something with a nice chocolate sauce.”
Before adjusting your menu this winter, always keep in mind the size and lay out of your kitchen because smaller kitchens may affect the variety of dishes you can create and serve. And always remember to have the right food costs in place to maintain profits and products that can be easily reproduced in the kitchen. Keep your meals fresh, warm and rich in flavours. Experiment with new ingredients but never remove your menu classics, such as your bacon and egg roll, burger or pizza – because we can guarantee, your customers will be asking where it’s gone.