July 22, 2020

With the arrival of summer comes new menu trends for restaurant owners to be aware of. Consumers’ demand for fresh meals and beverages means operators must act quickly to bring new ingredients to the table. Doing so can help you generate extra revenue during the summer months while tapping into new customer bases. Here are four menu trends restaurants can take advantage of this summer:

1. Meat Alternatives

The past year has seen an increase in demand for alternative meats. Whether it is for ethical or health reasons, customers have been steadily moving away from meat-based meals in favor of their plant-based counterparts. This trend is set to continue into the summer months as more restaurants are adding meat alternatives to their menus. One popular option to include is an “Impossible Burger”. This uses all the same ingredients as a standard burger, just with a plant-based patty. It is not uncommon that guests will want to perform a taste test between plant-based and meat burgers which you can use to create a favorable customer experience. Furthermore, offering plant-based meat requires minimal investment and can be easily integrated into your existing menu.

Watermelon has also become a popular meat substitute. Watermelon steaks and smoked watermelon are being offered across the country as they provide a refreshing meat alternative during the summer months. As watermelon steaks are still relatively niche, there is an opportunity for owners to attract new customers. Whether it’s out of curiosity or genuine interest, guests will come to your place of business to try it out or to just see what it looks like. For owners, this is a perfect scenario as even if they do not order the watermelon steak, they will still dine with you.

watermelon steak

2. Revamped Catered and Takeout Menus

With employees starting to return to the office, restaurants are reworking their catering and takeout menus in order to take advantage of the re-emerging market. For restaurants that do not typically offer takeaway meals, this is a good time to start as customers are less likely to dine in due to health concerns. While catered meals are still viable, restaurants are having to rethink how they package meals in order to account for COVID regulations

Whether you already have a takeaway menu or are looking to create one, be sure to include meals that can be easily packaged and will remain fresh upon delivery. Similarly, when creating catering menus do not include your entire menu. Instead, only offer best sellers as this helps cut costs and reduce food waste. Finally, for catered orders, spreads are no longer considered safe so it is best to package meals individually.

3. Bowls

Bowls have become a staple at many restaurants and with summer in full swing, menu developers are changing up bowls ingredients to highlight the season. Due to the ease of assembly, bowls provide an excellent opportunity for restaurant owners to source and include local goods on their menus. This will allow you to offer regional summertime meals and help you stand out from the competition.

Menus creators are using bowls to target diners who are looking for functional meals that are high in protein but low in fat. Bowls also allow for customization so that restaurants can cater to specific dietary needs. When building a bowl menu, keep in mind that for consumers the look is just as important as the taste. In the digital age, customers are quick to share their meals on social media which you can use as an advertisement for your business. That said, consider the following to ensure that your bowls look and taste great.

The Base

The base of your bowl should be a neutral ingredient like rice, potatoes, or grains so that it does not interfere with the other flavors. The base should also be high in nutritional value as it will serve as the building grounds for the rest of the meal.

Crunch and Flavor

On top of your base should be an assortment of vegetables to add flavor, crunch, and color to the bowl. Kale, shredded lettuce and stringed carrots are all excellent ingredients for crunch as they blend well with other flavors. For color, you can add peppers or pico de gallo. You can also sprinkle in some dressing and vinegar to add additional flavor.


The final step when creating bowls is to overlay your ingredients with a protein. Charred chicken is a popular option as it can add texture without overpowering the rest of the flavors. Other options include tofu, salmon, eggs, and avocados.

4. Non-Alcoholic Drinks

With younger generations increasingly turning away from alcohol, mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages have grown in popularity. Having a non-alcoholic menu helps restaurants cater to those who do not drink, or are taking a break from booze. As summer is the prime time to grab drinks with friends, including non-alcoholic beverages on your menu can help generate additional sales while also catering to your guests’ needs. Below are three tips you can follow to create a stellar non-alcoholic beverage menu.

1. Start Simple

It is important that you start simple in order to determine whether or not having a non-alcoholic menu is economically viable. Choose two or three beverages  to put on your menu that can be made with the ingredients you already have at your bar. Some examples include virgin bloody mary, non-alcoholic blackberry mojito, and virgin strawberry daiquiri. Depending how well they sell, you may want to invest in additional ingredients.

2. Consider Menu Placement and Price

Work with your team to identify the best area to include your non-alcoholic beverages on your menu. Include it near the other beverages, however, be sure to call out the lack of alcohol with a header or title. As far as pricing, many restaurants charge the same amount for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. With that in mind, if you do not have an established menu, it may be worth charging less initially to gauge interest.

3. Train Your Staff

If you decide to build a complete non-alcoholic beverage menu, then you will likely have to train your staff on how to create drinks with no alcohol. Taste is key so you will want to make sure that your bartenders are able to keep non-alcoholic flavor consistent with alcoholic beverages. As with alcoholic beverages, presentation is extremely important so make sure that you use the right glassware when serving customers.

Final Thoughts

As the demand for fresh and functional summertime meals and drinks grows, there is a real opportunity for restaurants. When expanding your menu it is important to start small as you do not want to waste time and resources creating meal options that your consumer base is not interested in. If possible, speak to other operators in your area to see what they are offering. This will help you determine popular menu trends and provide insight into how you can modify your own menu.