Looking for ways to keep your kitchen busy in the winter months? Use some of these winter menu ideas to update your offerings with new items inspired by the season. A special winter restaurant menu is a great way to generate interest and increase sales from both new and existing customers.
While you're reading, follow along with our Winter Restaurant Checklist. You can download and print out this checklist to prepare your restaurant for winter, including tactics you can implement today to make sure you're on track for the winter season.
Top winter menu maker tips
1. Lean into comfort foods
At the Main Street Strong Restaurant Conference, Basu Ratnam, who founded INDAY, an Indian-inspired cafe in NYC, noted that "people are gravitating to more comforting, wholesome, nostalgic food – food that reminds them of home."
With more and more people turning to meals and packaged goods that remind them of their childhood, it's the perfect time to think about classic, comforting dishes you could add to your seasonal menu. What meals do you associate with family dinners or cozy winter gatherings? Whether it's mac n' cheese, chicken korma, or chocolate chip cookies, your customers are sure to appreciate a nostalgic throwback addition to the menu.
People are gravitating to more comforting, wholesome, nostalgic food – food that reminds them of home.
2. Think seasonally
Even in temperate climates, people associate the arrival of winter with different flavors and cuisines: warm, heartier dishes with a richer complexity of spices. It's a great time to swap out your light summer fare for meals that are more cold-weather appropriate. For instance, if you typically offer salads, include options with warm roasted vegetables or winter fruits. You can also transition to heartier options, like soups and stews. Another great way to add some "season" to your menu is to look into what produce is available locally; apples, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, citrus fruit, persimmons, and squash are all great options for classic winter dishes.
3. Create pre-packaged meal kits
Between work, school, and everything else — plus fewer hours of daylight — many people don't have time to grocery shop or prepare meals. Consider offering pre-packaged breakfasts, lunches, or dinners that can be reserved and picked up ahead of time. If you have the capacity, experiment with different options to see which your customers like best; these meals may be eaten over the course of a few days, so choose items that keep and reheat well.
4. Introduce at-home holiday catering
This year, holiday celebrations are more important than ever. Families are eager to spend quality time together — but not necessarily in the kitchen. Take the pressure off home cooks in your area by doing the holiday cooking for them! You can introduce a limited-availability seasonal menu around the winter holidays and establish a pre-order system so customers can reserve their meals in advance.
5. Make it family-sized
With many parents and children working and learning at home, families are spending more time together than ever — and putting food on the table is infinitely more stressful because of it. Adding a family-size option for takeout meals can help you cater to families who need an easy no-cook option. Offer a deal that includes an entree and a couple of side dishes, or enough to feed a family of four.
6. Offer handy pantry staples and provisions
Bottle and sell your popular specialty items — sauces, salsas, pastas, and spices — that people can add to their order when they dine with you.
Chen-Chen Huo, CEO of San Francisco's A La Couch and MAC'D, told Main Street Strong Restaurant Conference attendees:
Having customers stock their pantry full of items from your restaurant is a new way to stay involved and engaged with your customers.
This is also an easy way to reach more customers and increase your revenue.
7. Sell seasonal alcoholic beverages
Irish coffee, mulled wine, spiced cider, and hot toddies are all festive nods to the winter season — and a great way to stand out to customers who are looking for a seasonal drink at the end of a long day. If your city and state allow it, adding alcohol to your delivery menu is an excellent way to drive additional sales. Due to the regulations around alcohol delivery, existing restaurant partners are unable to add alcohol to their menu directly through the Merchant Portal, but can contact DoorDash Support for assistance.
8. Add popular, high-value items to your menu
Certain frequently ordered delivery items have particularly high profit margins. Take a look at your best-selling items and identify the ones you can produce with a food cost of about 30% and a margin of about 70%. For example, if you can make parmesan fries with truffle aioli for $2-3 and sell them for $10, you're making big gains from an add-on item that customers love.
Menu maker tips: How will you warm up your menu for winter?
Whether you opt to adopt just one, a few, or all of these menu updates, seasonal changes to your menu are likely to generate interest — and business! — from your customers. Just don't forget to let your customers know about the new additions via email and social media.
Partner with DoorDash and make the most of the winter months.
Already a DoorDash merchant? Update your menu in the Merchant Portal.