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Fall Feast: How to Plan Food Service Supplies for Seasonal Menus

Fall is here! Embrace it by adding a few seasonal items to your menu. Everyone gets excited when the seasons shift, and new and sought after flavors come back into circulation. If you're in the food service industry, it's quite likely that your produce shifts on a seasonal basis. Here are some examples and ideas for a seasonal menu.

The Best and Most Common Seasonal Items for Fall

Fall tends to be all about warmth and spice. As the weather gets a little colder, people are going to be looking for hot drinks and soups. They're also going to be going to the places that can give them the flavors they associate with fall.

Some of the most common dishes include:

  • Pumpkin spice. Let's start with the most obvious. During fall, pumpkin spice is going to crop up just about everywhere. Hot drinks such as pumpkin spice lattes and baked goods such as pumpkin spice cookies are going to be popular.

  • Chili. Turkey chili, in particular, is a mainstay in many areas. Chili is a hearty soup that can be eaten when it's cold out, and it's a pretty easy dish to prepare and serve.

  • Butternut squash soup. Fall is most definitely the time to bring out your best soups. Butternut squash soup tends to be a popular favorite throughout both the fall and winter months. This sweet-and-savory soup is best served with accompanying sides like fresh bread.

  • Pear salads and pasta. Fall is the perfect time to start using the bright flavors of pears, paired with something a little more savory. Pear salads are common, as are things like pear and cheese ravioli.

  • Macaroni and cheese. If you're looking for something a little more classic, bring mac-and-cheese back to the menu. This simple but filling treat isn't just for kids. An elevated mac-and-cheese (with a number of fine cheeses) is perfect for the approaching cold.

  • Sweet potato dishes. While you may not be able to top sweet potatoes with some marshmallows and call it a day, sweet potatoes are definitely a notable part of fall. Consider making a sweet potato pie or incorporating sweet potatoes into your side dishes.

  • French onion soup. If you're looking for another soup to add, consider a classic French onion. Topped with soaked rye bread and a thick layer of cheese, French onion soup is a great meal to eat as the seasons turn.

  • Turkey. Turkey and turkey sandwiches are going to be prevalent throughout the fall months, and it can be incorporated into a number of dishes. Open-faced, hot turkey sandwiches are often popular, especially in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. 

You don't need to completely change up your menu into a seasonal menu. Just adding a few seasonal dishes is a great way to draw people in. You can even choose a single flavor profile and run with it, such as taking sweet potato as an ingredient and incorporating it into your existing food. 

Minimizing the Impact on Your Procurement Process

Of course, the major problem with seasonal items tends to be procurement. Whenever you change up your operations, it means that you need to purchase specialized items. And that introduces unusual levels of spending, as well as an increased potential for waste. When you're purchasing seasonal items, you're more likely to accidentally purchase overages, because you can't anticipate demand.

It's often better to run out of seasonal, promotional items than it is to have too much of it. Running out means that you'll have a large number of interested parties when you've reordered. Having too much just means that you're going to have a loss. Take a look at your numbers the prior year and adjust your estimates accordingly.

The other issue is simply sourcing items that you've never sourced before. Going through a single distributor for all of your food service supplies can help. The less you have to track on a seasonal and specialized basis, the better. 

For your food procurement, you may want to ask your distributors what they have in stock before you make any major decisions. You might find that your particular distributors are low on butternut squash, but high on Brussels sprouts. 

Fall is a great time to test out some new menu items and draw customers in with the allure of something different. But you want to make sure that it's going to be worth it, and for that, you need to fine-tune and optimize your procurement. Make sure to track your food items and food service supplies in advance, and take a look at your numbers to make sure that it makes sense.


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