5 Winter Menu Ideas Proven to Work for Restaurants

Discover how to create a seasonal winter restaurant menu that helps attract new customers and drive sales in the colder months.

11 min read

Looking for ways to keep your kitchen busy in the winter months? A limited-time winter restaurant menu is a great way to generate interest and increase sales from new and existing customers.

Keep reading to find insights on winter food trends, how to optimize your menu for the colder months, and tips for restaurants to prepare for the winter season. 

5 winter restaurant menu ideas to drive sales

1. Lean into comfort foods

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, diners are eager for hearty meals that warm them up. An analysis of DoorDash data revealed the menu items that experienced the most growth from summer to winter were pho, soup, and ramen. Restaurant operators should note that orders for these cold weather favorites start trending upwards in the fall

When designing your winter menu, consider adding these familiar dishes and other comforting crowd-pleasers — such as mac and cheese, chili, warm grain bowls, lasagna, dumplings, shepherd's pie, and curries.

Basu Ratnam

People are gravitating to more comforting, wholesome, nostalgic food – food that reminds them of home.

Basu Ratnam, Founder, INDAY

Chefs can also put a unique spin on traditional favorites. Family-owned Caribbean fast casual restaurant Golden Krust introduced a jerk turkey for Thanksgiving and encouraged orders by sharing photos across their social channels. 

2. Showcase local, in-season ingredients

Even in temperate climates, people associate winter with warm, heartier dishes and a rich complexity of spices. Celebrate these cold-weather flavors by looking into in-season, local ingredients and brainstorming ways to incorporate them into your menu. Buying seasonally may also help reduce restaurant costs since you can purchase ingredients when they’re plentiful, and at the right price. Guests will also appreciate that you're supporting local farms, so be sure to highlight where your ingredients come from on your menu. 

Offering bold flavors on your winter menu will get customers excited to dine at your restaurant. Some winter menu ideas include topping salads and flatbreads with greens like kale and Swiss chard, or roasted vegetables like parsnips, Brussels sprouts, beets, broccoli rabe, or sweet potatoes. Citrus fruits, pears, and persimmons shine in the winter months, as do game meats like venison, rabbit, pheasant, and wild boar. A seasonal menu also creates an opportunity for a limited time offer to drive sales, as customers may feel a sense of urgency to order it before it's gone. 

3. Offer festive wintry beverages 

Another winter menu idea for restaurants is seasonal beverages — from cozy cocktails like hot toddies, Irish coffee, and cinnamon-spiced old fashioneds; to trendy shrubs with seasonal flavors like rosemary-cranberry and ginger-pear; to family-friendly mulled apple cider and homemade eggnog. These drinks will keep diners warm and in the spirit of winter. And if your city and state allow it, adding alcohol to your delivery menu is an excellent way to drive additional sales. 

In 2022, 35% of US adults took part in Dry January, a pledge to abstain from drinking alcohol for the month. In general, demand for non-alcoholic drinks is growing as consumers seek to cut back on or give up booze altogether: according to Forbes, the non-alcoholic drinks market surpassed $11 billion in 2022, driven by consumers who are sober-curious or looking for a healthier lifestyle.

Joshua James

“It's not just about abstinence from alcohol. This movement is also about people who just don’t want to drink as much. They want to enjoy some of the same flavors from alcoholic beverages, but without the hangover or other negative side effects.”

Joshua James, Owner, Ocean Beach Cafe

A variety of brands have emerged in response to this trend, such as low- and no-ABV wines, spirits, and beers — and even canned non-alcoholic cocktails. Consider stocking these items to create an inclusive winter restaurant menu.

4. Create inventive plant-based dishes 

Substituting meat for plant-based ingredients on your winter menu is a win-win that helps restaurants save on costs while catering to popular consumer trends. A 2022 study found that one in ten Americans consider themselves to be vegetarians or vegans, and Canadians are also reducing their meat consumption but for a different reason: to save money. As a result, research group Lumina Intelligence found that only 20% of all dishes served at restaurant chains in summer 2022 contained meat — a 4% decrease from spring 2022. 

As an example, oyster mushrooms are gaining popularity as a meat alternative. This ingredient can be seared in coins as scallops, peeled and sauteed to resemble pulled meat, or even breaded and fried in the place of chicken like at Olivia Restaurant in Los Angeles.  

You can also consider high-protein foods such as beans, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu — which work great in veggie burgers, salads, grain bowls, and tacos. Briana Valdez from HomeState in Southern California introduced vegan menu items, such as their new black bean taco and oat milk-based beverages, to reduce food costs and appeal to diners focused on healthy living and sustainable food practices. 

Briana Valdez

We just changed our cookie milk to be oat milk-based, then shared it on Instagram. It got people interested in ordering a lower-cost beverage and also got people excited because our menu doesn't change that often.

Briana Valdez, Founder & CEO, HomeState

5. Let guests indulge with desserts

During the winter months, diners save room for dessert. DoorDash data reveals that cinnamon rolls and donuts were some of the fastest-growing menu items from summer to winter. 

The best dessert menus make a meaningful impact on your bottom line. Restaurants can offer desserts that pair well with the rest of their winter menu and explore a variety of flavors — from chocolate to fruity, creamy, or cozy winter spices. Focus on classics like pumpkin pie, creme brulee, or even a simple warm chocolate chip cookie. Or if you're feeling adventurous, TikTok provides endless inspiration. Put your spin on viral recipes such as crinkle cake, white chocolate hot cocoa bombs, honey lavender ice cream, and vegan matcha cheesecake

For delivery menus, consider adding a sweet option that travels well — like cheesecakes, cupcakes, or pots de crème — so you won't worry whether the dishes will melt en route or arrive too cold. When DoorDash customers are finalizing their orders, our app's built-in upsell feature automatically suggests desserts or sides in a "People also ordered" carousel to help restaurants increase their order size.

How to package your winter restaurant menu offerings

During the colder months when customers often opt to stay in, restaurants can package their winter menu items in creative ways to drive off-premise sales and increase order size. Consider incorporating the following winter menu ideas into your restaurant's delivery and pickup offerings:

  • Offer take-and-bake meals: These pre-packaged dishes are typically fully cooked and just have to be heated up in the oven or microwave, so customers can enjoy a restaurant-quality meal without the hassle of cooking. Be sure to include instructions on how to store and heat the meals. 

  • Provide meal bundles: If customers are looking to order for a group, bundled options simplify their ordering experience. Whether it’s dinner for two, a full family-style meal, or a promotional package (like five pizzas for the price of four), bundles increase order size and make group orders less complicated.

  • Promote online ordering: Make it easy for customers to place online orders for pickup or delivery. In addition to adding a prominent "Order Online" button to your website, you can also add your online ordering link to your social media profiles and posts, Yelp page, and Google My Business profile.

  • Introduce holiday catering pre-orders: Families are eager to spend quality time together during the holidays — but not necessarily in the kitchen. Take the pressure off home cooks by creating a limited-availability holiday catering menu and establishing a pre-order system so customers can reserve their meals in advance.

  • Sell pantry staples: Bottle and sell your popular specialty items — such as sauces, salsas, dry pastas, and spices — that people can add to their delivery order and enjoy at home or give as a gift. 

Chen-Chen Huo

Having customers stock their pantry full of items from your restaurant is a new way to stay involved and engaged with your customers.

Chen-Chen Huo, CEO, A La Couch / MAC'D

How will you warm up your restaurant menu for winter?

Once you've solidified your winter menu, make sure your customers know about it by putting together a comprehensive winter marketing plan

For more tips to prepare your operations for the colder months, download our Winter Restaurant Checklist.

Already a DoorDash partner? Visit the Learning Center's Menu Setup section to see how DoorDash partners can easily make changes to their delivery and pickup menus.


Sara DeForest
Sara DeForest


logo subscribe to blog

Subscribe for insights to help you run a great business, delivered weekly to your inbox.