ice cream cone

The countdown to summer is on. Is your restaurant ready? Staff hired? Newbies trained? Patio cleaned? Time to start the fun part.

Check out what’s hot for 2016 and get some inspiration to add some cooler dishes for hotter nights.

Farmers Market Produce

If you haven’t developed a relationship yet with your local farmers, summer is the perfect time to reach out and take advantage of farm fresh ingredients. Working with farmers gives you delicious seasonal food, and another selling point to your customers. Availability and quantities can vary widely, so work with your farmer closely to communicate your needs. If quantities aren’t high enough for a standard menu item, plan exciting summer specials.

Be sure your staff is well trained on which ingredients are local so they can communicate it to your customers.

Seafood

For sure, seafood is delicious all year round, but the summer makes it the perfect time for different preparations, and to bring a little bit of the beach to your restaurant. Hot summer days are perfect for cold seafood dishes. Culinary hotspot Lima, Peru has been inspiring chefs around the world to make ceviche using local fish.

In the same vein, another hot trend, this one making its way to the mainland from Hawaii, is poke (pronounced po-kay).

Salads & Veggies

The trend toward healthy eating keeps getting bigger year after year. People are eating healthier, especially during bathing suit season. Many diners are trying to eat more vegetables, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going vegetarian. Rather than relegate veggies and salads to side dishes or one or two gratuitous vegetarian options, consider adding some dishes that feature vegetables along with some meat and doesn’t sacrifice on flavor.

Consider topping a salad full of interesting local greens with a piece of roasted chicken, or grilled kalbi ribs.

Mocktails

Seasonal Drinks

Craft cocktails and mocktails are still seeing huge popularity among diners, a perfect excuse to expand your cocktail menu to include summer flavors. Get inspired and take your drinks a step further. Think about making your own juice purees from local fruit for drinks like Bellinis, or infuse liquors using local fruits and herbs.

Don’t leave the non-alcoholic drinkers with nothing to order but inexpensive sodas, mix up some seasonal alcohol-free drinks for them too.

Homemade Ice Creams

Who can resist ice cream in the summer? No one, especially if they’re unique and interesting flavors that can only be found at your restaurant. Getting an ice cream maker for the kitchen, or teaming up with a local artisanal ice cream maker, could pay off big on added dessert orders.

Experiment with flavors that are unique and think about how they pair with the food on your menu. Consider adding some interesting adult toppings like Bailey’s or Limoncello for an extra kick. And check out our ice cream marketing ideas to drive even more business!

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.