Photo by Rob Deutscher (Flickr)

Photo by Rob Deutscher (Flickr)

By the time this is published, it will be October. For me, here in the northeast of the U.S., that means my heat is on and I’m under a blanket while I type this. For you folks down in the southern hemisphere, though, you’ve just entered spring, with summer only a couple months away. Now, for the bulk of the continent, that doesn’t mean much, weatherwise. At least I don’t think it does. Most of the continent is desert, with the surrounding areas being predominantly semi-arid. Some smaller bits in the north are tropical, and in the south it’s more temperate. Overall, though, there aren’t the wild swings in climate from one season to the next as happens more frequently in the hemisphere that I call home. Still, summer means warmer days–whether it’s the soul-nourishing mid-20’s temperatures in Byron Bay or the soul-crushing heat and monsoons inside Kakadu National Park–people will turn to restaurants and cafes to satisfy their seasonal appetites. With that, I’d like to go over a few things that our users can do to prepare the perfect summer menu.

[A note to our North American subscribers: this post is for you, too. Just replace any mentions of warmer weather with cooler weather, and add the words “pumpkin spice” before any specific food and drink items I might mention]

  1. Image courtesy of The Top Shop

    Image courtesy of The Top Shop

    Cool it down. We all love sizzling fajitas served on a hot skillet, and if you’ve never had a steaming stone bowl of the Korean classic Bi Bim Bap you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. But those dishes don’t play well under the summer sun, unless your customers enjoy seasoning their meal with the saltiness of their own sweat. This doesn’t mean you need to take all the hot food off your menu–burgers and fries can be enjoyed no matter the weather–but rotating in seasonally appropriate items to supplement your regular ones is always a good idea. Salads of any kind are ideal–green salads, fruit salads, chicken salad–because they’re healthy and filling without leaving the diner wanting an air-conditioned nap afterwards. Creative takes on some Asian foods can be satisfying and refreshing–like Vietnamese style spring rolls, with veggies and mint rolled up in a rice wrapper, or veggie sushi rolls. For breakfast, some yogurt with granola and fruit is likely to fuel your diners much more comfortably than a traditional farmers breakfast of meats and carbs. Chilled soups can also be the perfect tonic to beat the heat. Remember: Gazpacho, not unlike revenge, is a dish best served cold.

  2. Bust out the blender. Whether you’re making frozen margaritas or fruit smoothies, blended ice drinks are a great way for your customers to cool off while they’re waiting for their food. It’s also the perfect balance to a meal for people who aren’t into the cold food I suggested up above.

    Photo courtesy of Careinfo (Flickr)

    Photo courtesy of Careinfo (Flickr)

  3. Rehydrate the dehydrated. Summer has a way of dehydrating people quickly, before they even know it’s happening. And, let’s face it, you’re putting more salt in your food than your customers would if they made it themselves. That’s not a condemnation; you want it to taste good. But there’s only one other thing in the world that causes worse cottonmouth than salt, and it isn’t legal. And while the blended drinks in tip #2 will cool people off, they won’t necessarily rehydrate. Help your customers replace their lost electrolytes–and the energy that’s sapped from them as a result–with ultra-hydrating drink options. I’m not talking about those bottles of sugar-water masquerading as sports drinks. No, I’m talking coconut water. The stuff is delicious and refreshing–alone or as the base for a non-alcoholic cocktail–and naturally packs more vitamins and electrolytes in a serving than anything food science has cooked up in a lab.
  4. Grow your own. If you’ve got the space, there’s no better way than a small herb and vegetable garden to make your food taste as good it can. You can grown an awful lot of food in just a 1 meter x 3.5 meter garden bed if you know what you’re doing, and you can let each day’s yield dictate daily specials. Not only will these dishes taste better, but the fact that there’s a built-in limit to how much of it you can serve each day will do a lot to create demand. Those two facts alone–better flavor, limited supply–are enough to price these dishes higher than if you had to pay for the ingredients from a distributor, which makes them very profitable, indeed.

    Kounta in action at Gelato Messina.

    Kounta in action at Gelato Messina.

  5. Stay on top of all these changes with a state of the art POS. Menu changes are a breeze when you’re using a digital point of sale, especially if you’ve got multiple locations that are all making the same adjustments. You’d only need to update the menu in one place and then push it out to all your sites simultaneously. And this sort of thing gets easier over time. Create your summer menu, then spend autumn analysing all the data you accumulated over those few months. Find out what sold well, and ID which dishes earned you the most profit. Fix up the summer menu based on that, and save it as a separate price list. You can then automatically schedule the summer menu to go into effect next year, and not have to start the whole thing over from scratch. If you’re interested, I know just the POS to handle it all.