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Aside from your restaurant’s day-to-day menu, offering menu specials in addition to your everyday restaurant menu ideas to your guests can reflect a few things:

  • You appreciate their business
  • You appreciate their feedback
  • You appreciate your chef’s creativity in the kitchen

Whether you’re the type of restaurateur who has been offering menu specials for years or if you’re someone who’s looking to start, we’re here to provide you with our secret formula to putting together your restaurant’s menu specials. Here are the 5 things you’ll need to keep top of mind:

  1. Ingredients
  2. Quality Over Quantity
  3. Timing
  4. Ambiance
  5. Creativity

1- Ingredients

Think seasonal and build your menu specials around ingredients that are in season, from the freshest produce to exotic spices, to sweet and savory flavors. If it’s the winter time, try a warm winter squash paired with perfectly roasted beef tenderloin or choose from a selection of crisp apples for a feel-good homemade pie. If it’s the summertime, check out the local farmer’s market for inspiration! From leafy greens to juicy tomatoes or a pint of freshly picked strawberries, you’re sure to impress your guests with refreshing flavors of the season. By building your specials around ingredients and flavors that can warm up your guests or keep them cool, you’re displaying thoughtful creativity devoted to their dining experience.

pasta menu

2- Quality Over Quantity

Many restaurateurs assume that they are required to have a special on their menu every single night. There are seven days in a week and to produce seven creative and enjoyable meals on top of what is already your menu, is a very difficult thing to do. Have no fear! We’re not here to fill your menu with specials on top of specials, but instead to tell you that quality over quantity is key. Focus on a few ingredients and develop your specials based on the meal itself. Perhaps you’ll present one appetizer, one entre, and one dessert or maybe you just want to focus on two solid entrees. Whatever your style, don’t feel like you have to do more and instead, focus on making a few dishes perfect!

3- Timing

Focusing on when you’d like to add menu specials shows that you’ve put some thought into special occasions, what the actual menu item will be, and whether you want to cater to your regulars or bring in new customers! Maybe you’re a restaurant that brings in a high volume of repeat customers on Friday nights and you want to create a special menu item to get their feedback. Or, if you tend to drive in newer customers on Thursday nights, maybe you’d like to promote a special to make a great first impression! Decide on the time of week or consider what notable occasions are coming up and then build your restaurant menu specials from there. Upserve can even help you determine what days and times you experience higher volumes so you can position your menu specials accordingly! 

restaurant week menu ideas

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4- Ambiance

The mood, music, and lighting of your restaurant can also help distinguish the types of menu specials you’ll be presenting for your guests to enjoy. Is your restaurant dimly lit with candles and instrumental music playing in the background? Or are you a family-friendly restaurant with bright lights and the radio playing from the kitchen into the dining room? If you’re the former, perhaps write your menu using a certain verbiage like “homemade” pasta, the “chef’s seafood selection”, or a “romantic” dark chocolate lava cake. If you’re the latter, why not offer an entree for an adult as well as a special kids meal! Whatever the ambiance may be, this type of detail can help determine the specials you’ll be presenting to your guests. If anything, choose them in a way that reflects who you are as a restaurant and the message you want to share your creativity and taste.

chef in restaurant preparing a menu item

5- Creativity

While they’re often in the kitchen and rarely come face-to-face with guests, your chef’s are your secret weapon when it comes to whipping up specials for the evening. At times, a menu can feel restricting, but allowing your chef’s to play with new flavors and produce is a great way to encourage creativity and get them actively involved in some of the decision making. Allow your chef to create his own menu specials and during pre-shift, let your servers taste and provide feedback! Not only does this encourage and motivate your chef to think outside of the box, but it’s a great way to challenge them and hear how they’re doing.

And that’s our secret formula to your restaurant specials. Use some of these tips and tricks and you’re sure to impress your guests on every occasion!

Check out Upserve’s Restaurant Menu Ideas Guide!

Written by   |  
Kaylen is the Partner Marketing Manager at Upserve, where she's worked since 2015. When she's not wearing her Marketing hat, she enjoys poutine and maple syrup from her native, Canada or going on culinary adventures throughout her current home in the Ocean State.
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