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5 Tips for Changing Your Seasonal Catering Menu


Spring table setting, green plants, purple lace runner, burgundy candle, wine glasses, menu at place setting
Photo credit: unserekleinemaus/Pixabay

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to rebrand your event menus and packages for spring with these 5 tips for changing your seasonal catering menu! (Or even if you have, don’t be afraid to take some of these ideas and give your menu one more little tweak!)

Even if you’re a dependable, tried-and-true, “been offering the same catering packages for decades” kind of caterer, adding a few new spring items to your menu lists can not only please prospective clients – it can be good for your marketing, too. Seasonal menu changes build urgency and anticipation with clients. Menu changes can create that sense of urgency as prospects think, “Oooo, I need to book this caterer while this menu I like is still available!” It also gives clients something to look forward to throughout the year.

Taking advantage of the foods that are most available in each season can also be advantageous to your budget. Let’s say in the spring and summer, you get a deal on zucchini, for example – or even grow some of your own, if you’re into that. Using seasonal ingredients can yield a better profit margin than trying to get a hold of out-of-season veggies and other ingredients that will cost you more and not be as fresh anyway by the time they make it to you.

But – there’s a right way and a wrong way to introduce menu changes. Some of the potential pitfalls include:

  • Disappointing long-time clients when they can’t find their favorites on your menu anymore. (The new clients who don’t know your work yet won’t know the difference and will hopefully fall in love with what you’re offering.)
  • Being able to get a hold of enough of the new ingredients you need.
  • Mastering the production of your new recipes in the kitchen (depending on how labor intensive some of your new menu items are).

When you’re ready to make that switch as the days get longer (or shorter) and the seasons change, use these 5 tips for changing your seasonal catering menu to make the transition smooth – and to give your marketing a boost, too!

Make sure you can keep up with demand
Is each dish you want to offer sustainable – in the sense of will you be able to keep up with demand? How easily does the recipe scale up or down? Is this dish something you can make ahead for a weekend and pull out as needed for your events? Whether the challenge is getting a hold of enough ingredients or being able to keep up with production, make sure you can offer your new menu items in the right quantities and maintain the quality every time. Don’t do what this restaurant did. They started out offering a beautiful hand-breaded coconut shrimp appetizer when they changed their menu only to realize a few weeks in that they couldn’t keep up with demand and had to switch to a subpar, pre-prepared item.

Get some mileage out of your new ingredients
Got new ingredients? Use them to create multiple new menu items. That way you’ll get more bang for your buck – or at least more variety without having to order as many different ingredients. Take strawberries, for example. How about making them a highlight of some of your salads. Try adding them to side-dishes. For example, stewed strawberries and spinach with brown sugar, garlic, and balsamic vinegar are quite amazing. And desserts! Don’t just settle for strawberries as a garnish. Strawberry shortcake, strawberry mousse – what else can you create? Be it meat, dairy products, a local microbrew or wine, or any other interesting food item, create more excitement by using it across your menu. (That doesn’t mean add it to everything – but it should definitely appear a few times.)

Write descriptions that will be helpful to your clients
Look for that sweet spot between too wordy and dense, leaving nothing to the imagination, and too sparse. Simply listing your ingredients is not a description, and you can’t count on the general public to know a remoulade from an aioli. (Many people just read “sauce”.) When you sit down to write your descriptions, ask yourself, “What would I need to know in order to make a decision about if this is right for my friends and family?” Perhaps focus on flavors and textures in addition to ingredients. And make sure to note if major allergens are present, such as wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, and nuts.

Create themed packages
Package themes are great for clients, because:

  • Clients can remember packages with cute-but-descriptive names more easily
  • It makes it easier for clients to differentiate between your different menu packages, as well as between your menus and other caterers’ menus
  • Chatting about menu items is sometimes easier when you can refer to them by quick nicknames (which is essentially what your package themes are)

Another bonus to making seasonal package themes is that seasonal package names can actually have a strong psychological effect on clients as they decide between menus. A delicious “Blooms and ‘Shrooms” package with lots of fresh veggies or a “Fresh from the Farm” package with whatever local delicacies you were able to score for the quarter is likely to elicit a visceral response in your prospects as they choose between you and the other guys.

Keep some of the old favorites up your sleeve – just in case
Just like that “secret menu” that McDonald’s supposedly offers IF you know what to ask for, there’s no harm in letting some of your longest standing clients know that their absolutely favorite appetizers can be brought back if they miss them that much. Unless you absolutely can’t get the ingredients any more, in which case – whoops! But in most cases, being able to break out an old favorite from a previous menu will solidify your client relationship. Because everyone likes to feel like a special person – like an insider with connections.

And one BONUS TIP! Whatever you do, whether you print new menus, email them in a PDF, or add them to your website, the one more important thing that you absolutely must do is …

… CHECK YOUR MENU!

When we recommend checking your menu, there are two checks you want to make.

First, proofread your new menu packages. Make sure everything:

  • Is spelled right
  • Makes sense
  • Is formatted correctly and consistently (same amount of spaces between sections, etc.)

And get at least two other people read it. And we mean REALLY read it!

Next, give your new menu items a few test drives at a few events before rolling them out to a larger audience. Once you know what it will take to produce and present your new menu items and you get the guest feedback, you’ll know if you have a winner on your hands.

Once you use these 5 tips for changing your seasonal catering menu and get a process and a rhythm down for changing with each season, you’ll find it comes more easily each year – and that you’ll have something newsworthy to create buzz around your business.

Ready to be inspired and informed? For the latest in catering industry news and trends and small business marketing, join the conversation on social media. Follow TPPSoftware on Twitter, like Total Party Planner on Facebook, and explore our boards on Pinterest.

Want to get advice from other caterers and find out how they do things? Join the conversation with #CaterQuest on Twitter!

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