You likely have a specific vision in mind for your restaurant –– what kind of dishes you specialize in, and which direction you want to take things in the future. But while there’s nothing wrong with having your own identity, being open to new ideas can help you widen your customer base, not to mention help you learn all sorts of new things along the way. After all, if you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backwards!
Here are a few easy restaurant food ideas and dinner menu ideas for restaurants to consider to craft a more interesting and appealing offer to people outside the core target customer group.
Easy restaurant food ideas.
Provide vegan options
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many restaurants still offer few to no vegan alternatives. The number of environmentally-conscious people out there just keeps growing, so why not get your piece of that vegan pie? Even if you are not vegan yourself, it’s not hard to imagine how frustrating it could be to visit a restaurant with friends and have almost nothing to choose from while everyone else enjoys their favorite dishes.
Once an obscure niche product, vegan “meats” are now being produced by dozens of different companies, and some of them are more convincing substitutes than you’d think. Offering tasty vegan options to classics like beef burgers, cheesecake, buffalo wings or mac’n’ cheese is sure to bring in new customers who may love the taste of said classics as much as the next man but prefer their food to be cruelty free.
Give kombucha a try
It may not exactly smell like roses, but like everything that’s an acquired taste, kombucha does have a surprisingly large group of loyal fans. Kombucha is also mind blowingly healthy, packed full of antioxidants and probiotics. The best part is that there are plenty of ways to incorporate this drink into your menu –– its acidic taste makes it a good substitute for vinegar in salad dressings as well as a surprisingly tasty mixer in cocktails. You might also want to consider a kombucha pairing with a few different dishes –– a tangier kombucha will help offset the sweetness of a rich dessert, while a sweeter one could complement a sharp cheddar.
Kombucha gets a bit of a bad rap, but its health benefits and versatility make it a trend well-worth checking out. Not to mention incorporating it into your menu in a few creative ways will help you stand out from the competition!
Once again, people are paying more attention to the food they eat nowadays than ever before, and “superfood” is one of the hottest buzzwords out there. But although the word “superfood” sounds like something both hard to come by and expensive, that doesn’t have to be the case at all. Sure, there are some super-exotic superfoods that could be a challenge to get and incorporate into your menu, some are things you’ve probably been eating for years without thinking too much about it.
Like what, you ask? Berries. Cruciferous vegetables, like brussels sprouts, cauliflower and bok choi. Pumpkin. Kefir. Virtually all nuts and seeds. Ginger. Mushrooms. Oats. Seaweed. And, of course, avocados. In fact, the list goes on, but you get the picture. “Superfoods” may be a trendy buzzword, but in reality, people have been eating them forever. All you have to do now is take advantage of people’s love for trendy. So make sure you mention that blueberry breakfast smoothie is an antioxidant-packed superfood, or that ginger tea can help reduce chronic inflammation. It’s almost too easy!
Offer non-alcoholic beers
Granted, the first non-alcoholic beers tasted like drinking water out of a beer bottle, but that’s far from the case nowadays. With dozens of different non-alcoholic beers available from various breweries, there is something for everyone who wants to be a part of the group without overindulging in alcohol. Alcohol-free beers are also surprisingly healthy, as they hydrate instead of dehydrating, aid the body in post-workout recovery, and contain quite a bit of vitamins B2 and B3. Not to mention selling beer is definitely more profitable than pouring free glasses of water!
Provide the macronutrient breakdown & calorie count
This is the last paragraph on health, promise!
More people than ever are working computer-based jobs from home these days, and that means we are getting less exercise than ever –– even that walk to the bus stop and back was something, and that something is now gone. This sedentary lifestyle makes it awfully easy to gain weight, and people are starting to notice. Do your customers (and yourself!) a favor but calculating how many calories your dishes have, as well as the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates. You might think that being straightforward with customers about how many calories meatballs have will be bad for business, but many people will actually be more likely to eat at your restaurant if you let them know what they’re getting into. At the end of the day, many people prefer awareness to ignorance, and if you’re the one telling them, they will come back.
On a side note, finding out how many calories are in certain dishes may motivate you to cut down a little on the amount of fat or sugar added to certain dishes in an effort to be more attractive to calorie-conscious customers. Win, win!
Let customers mix and match
Millenials and everyone who will come after them have gotten accustomed to the idea of being able to have what they want when they want it –– gone are the days that people would rush home to watch a show that started at a particular time. The same goes for most other areas of life: we are all pretty well used to things adapting to us, not the other way around.
Your restaurant, too, should be versatile and offer different options and variations on dishes so customers can eat them the way they like them. That is not to say that every dish should be completely tailored to the arbitrary musings of people who have little idea about food. Still, make an effort to design your menu in such a way that your customers feel they have a say in what their dish is. So if you serve, say, curry, consider letting your customers decide what vegetables go in it –– so what if you don’t quite think eggplant works? They’ll like it, and that’s what matters most, so take a portion of that tasty curry base and chuck some eggplant in it!
In 2020, many of us are sick and tired of international corporations and their bland, mediocre, one-size-fits all products. Supermarkets are no exception –– we’ve all had a greenhouse tomato that tasted like a wet sponge. That’s why you should consider finding local suppliers for everything from fruits and vegetables to eggs and meats to beer and wines. Not only is wine from a local winery much more unique and interesting in flavor than just another identical bottle of Carlo Rossi, but boasting locally-sourced products on your menu helps you stand out as a business supporting the local community. And who could hate that?
Sourcing your ingredients locally also means much more seasonality, and that means switching up your menu every few months. Keeping things fresh and interesting will help keep people interested in your restaurant.
Have more than chicken nuggets on your kids’ menu
Kids do love chicken nuggets and fries, but the idea of that being virtually the only option available to kids is stale at best and downright annoying to parents at worst. Granted, not every dish is right for kids –– raw fish is probably a bad idea, for example. Still, you must have a few dishes on your menu that kids would enjoy? Halve the normal portion and put it on the kids’ menu! Your smallest guests will get to try something new, and their parents will be spared the guilt of feeding their kids what is de facto junk food while they enjoy something infinitely better.
Consider offering meal kits
Meal kits are a cool new trend that combine delicious restaurant flavors with the pleasure of eating a piping hot home-cooked meal. All you need to sell your own meal kits is a vacuum sealer, some short instructions for your customers, and a few tried and tested dishes that can be easily cooked up at home. Let your patrons enjoy the taste of your restaurant from the comfort of their own kitchen anytime the mood strikes…or pretend they cooked everything from scratch at a potluck. Talk about a simple dinner menu idea that’s sure to be a hit!
Have your own signature dishes
Being open to new ideas is great, but having your own identity is equally important. Simply jumping on board every new trend will leave you constantly floundering and your customers wondering what it is that you actually do. Having a few of your own signature dishes that are always available, rain or shine, will help cement your identity and keep people coming back for another hit.
A signature dish doesn’t have to be anything fancy! It could be something as simple as your grandmother’s special sichuan stir fry, or mushroom perogies just like your dad used to make them. There are people who order the same things over and over again when they visit a restaurant –– not just because they like the way a dish tastes, but because the dish’s predictability offers them a sense of comfort after, say, a long hard day. Give those people a chance to experience that homey security and your restaurant and they will be back again and again.
Turn your kitchen into a stage
There’s no doubt that cooking is a form of art, and many people would love the chance to see such works of art being created. Granted, an open kitchen is not something that will work for every restaurant –– watching potatoes get dumped into a deep fat fryer is hardly fascinating. But if you serve slightly more creative dishes, letting people watch your chef’s chopping skills in awe could be a great way to attract attention and customers. Your chef will likely also enjoy watching customers’ faces light up with amazement when they take a bite!
An open kitchen doesn’t necessarily have to mean your chef and guests are in the same room, though. If due to concerns over hygiene or simply the fact that your chef is a bit of an introvert you would prefer your customers not to be in direct contact with the kitchen, you could simply make one or two of the walls glass. That way, customers could still enjoy the show without distracting your employees or breathing all over someone else’s food.
Running a restaurant, or indeed any business, is both challenging and rewarding –– often simultaneously! Hopeful the ideas here will inspire you to introduce some innovations that will help keep you on top of your game and fulfill your dream of feeding people right!