During the holidays, consumers have an appetite for seasonal flavors and new, exciting ways to treat themselves. According to Mintel, 78% of consumers consider seasonal dishes to be a treat, and according to Technomic Inc., 65% of consumers say that they associate seasonal ingredients with improved tastes. Meet customer demand by serving a range of seasonal-inspired offerings from limited-time, house-made breads to chef-driven hors d’oeuvres. Signature holiday specials can help build customer loyalty, enhance your brand, and ultimately, boost profits.
Breaking Bread Service Traditions
Serving complimentary bread is a deep-seated tradition of hospitality; however, bread has recently shifted to the menu as a purchasable item. Menuing signature bread presents a profit opportunity, as long as you differentiate your offerings from the average, interchangeable bread and butter duo. Even though it’s a simple canvas, house-made bread allows chefs to push boundaries with techniques and ingredients while creatively conveying your restaurant’s story. Experiment with different bread varieties such as brioche, ciabatta, flatbread, focaccia, whole grain, and sweet bread, or create a signature house-made bread. Work with a variety that aligns with your brand and garnish with a unique combination of herbs, spices, seeds, oats, or cheese to enhance its appeal. Or, if you want to incorporate more diverse selections and cater to the 87% of consumers who order ethnic fare (Technomic Inc.), offer challah with house-made jam, or serve Indian-spiced naan bread with curry-cardamom butter. If house-made bread isn’t practical for your restaurant, ask your Maines Territory Manager about the bread varieties available through our partners like Brickfire Bakery™.
Another way to differentiate your bread is to pair it with interesting accompaniments. Compound butters help further convey your brand story, creating bold flavor combinations that also allow you to increase price points. Utilize peak-season produce and/or seasonal ingredients to create unique butters such as caramelized onion-beet, saffron-date, cranberry-orange, or cinnamon-maple butter. David Chang, previous Maines Food Show special guest, menus a unique take on bread and butter at his restaurant Momofuku Ssam Bar, featuring a crunchy baguette served with sea salt butter and whipped lardo (pork fat). New York restaurant Atera also serves a sourdough pork fat roll as part of its tasting menu. The house-made sourdough rolls are basted in pork fat as they’re baked. Maison Premiere, located in New York, serves a crusty baguette and pairs it with house-made seaweed butter. As more restaurants follow suit, consider the endless possible ways you can execute seasonal bread offerings.
Throughout the U.S., customers are willing to purchase artisan breads that are unique and have a point of difference. Intrigue diners with your distinct, signature, house-made breads. While gluten-free customers won’t be interested in traditional house-made bread offerings, they motivate chefs to expand their reach and create opportunity for experimentation. Try utilizing almond, buckwheat, and other alternative flours to create gluten-free bread options. When you treat bread like any other profitable menu item, you will see the significant impact it can have on your customer base – and your profits.
Holiday Sweet Breads
With ethnic cuisine being a dominant trend in the industry, global ingredients and flavors are a great way to capture customer attention and increase the appeal of your seasonal offerings. In many cultures, breaking bread together is a symbol of harvest, fruitfulness, and peace, and holiday breads can emphasize these notions. Serving limited-time holiday sweet breads from various cultures can give customers a festive feeling of comfort and nostalgia while showcasing your kitchen’s craftsmanship. Offering ethnic sweet breads for a limited time will also intensify their appeal, as customers will feel an urgency to get them now – while they’re available.
Try serving your own take on traditional Jewish sweet bread, babka – a twisted loaf of streusel-topped chocolate or cinnamon sweet bread. Bklyn Larder, a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, menus its own versions of chocolate and seasonal babka. They stray from the traditional babka by utilizing buckwheat and rye flour and covering the dough with honey-tinged chocolate to create a distinct, diverse offering. Stollen, a traditional German bread typically featuring an array of fruits and nuts, is another global holiday sweet bread that makes an ideal seasonal offering. For a signature stollen, try incorporating adventurous flavor combinations such as candied blood oranges and yuzu peel, rum-scented raisins and orange zest, or cherry-chestnut swirl, all paired with spices such as nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom. Making stollen from scratch requires a learning curve, but allows for a great amount of creativity and improvisation, as well as increased charm when menued with the terms “seasonal” and “house-made.” This holiday bread is also a good item to have in your inventory because it can keep fresh up to three weeks and becomes more moist and flavorful with time.
Meet the demand for Mexican fare, one of 2018’s most on-trend cuisines, by serving concha, Mexican pan dulce (sweet bread), as a festive limited-time offering. It’s made from enriched yeasted dough that is similar to brioche and challah. Its streusel topping can feature a range of flavors and adds a shell-like pattern and crunchy, cookie-like texture to the soft bun. Create a signature version of this favored Mexican dessert with your own streusel flavorings such as cinnamon, pumpkin, lemon, or maple. To take the reach of this ethnic sweet bread even further, build a concha Mexican ice cream sandwich by filling a halved concha with ice cream or custard.
Create Customer Loyalty with Amuse-Bouche
The holiday season is all about giving, presenting opportunity for the foodservice industry to give back to their customers and community. Quality food and excellent service are already expected, so strategize what your restaurant can do to stand out from the competition. A popular strategy to let your customers know you value their business is serving amusebouche, hors d’oeuvres that are sent from the chef free of charge.
Charging for signature bread and offering amuse-bouche may be contradicting concepts; however, it’s all about heightening your menu items and presenting customers with an elevated perception of your brand. While amuse-bouche doesn’t directly produce profits, it can benefit your restaurant in a multitude of ways. A complimentary amuse-bouche expresses gratitude while granting chefs free rein creativity in a sample size offering. These bite-size items can also intensify customer appetites, helping to increase check averages while elevating hospitality and increasing customer loyalty. When you pamper guests and serve dishes that make them feel special, it encourages them to return to your restaurant any time of year.
Whether it’s a flavorful soup presented in a shot glass or skewered shrimp with an exquisite marinade, your amuse-bouche should concentrate on flavor, high-quality ingredients, innovative presentation, and inspiration from your menu. Take advantage of amuse-bouche offerings by noting the feedback you receive, as amuse-bouche is an ideal way to give new items a test run before they appear on the menu. Choose a dish that best represents both your cuisine and brand and be sure to highlight your freshest seasonal ingredients. For example, if you serve Italian cuisine, consider serving your take on Italian taralli, a traditional Italian snack food similar to a breadstick. Finish it with signature seasonings or try a combination of black pepper, rosemary, and red chile flakes and serve with whipped mascarpone topped with honey and chestnuts. If seafood is your specialty, try serving crispy salmon skin chicharrónes with dill sour cream and caviar. Even a refined simple offering such as spicy and smoky sweet potato chips with caramelized onion and horseradish Greek yogurt dip can be impressive to customers. Utilizing seasonal ingredients and allowing customers to sample items “on the house” promotes your restaurant, encourages your chefs’ creativity, builds customer loyalty, and enhances the customer experience, creating repeat customers.
According to Technomic Inc., 64% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase items with seasonal claims. As you revamp your seasonal offerings, be sure to list keywords such as “seasonal” and “local” and align it with your brand. Whether it’s an elevated bread program, worldly sweet breads, or offerings on the house, seasonal courses are bound to gain customer interest and bring customers back through your doors year-round.