10 Spring Menu Ideas for Restaurant Patio Season

Spring is definitely patio season. That means restaurants get to significantly increase their seating capacity…and therefore their ability to generate revenue. Imagine if a hotel in were able to go from 120 rooms to 190 rooms just as demand for those rooms spiked, say for graduation or a major sporting championship. Wall Street would call it “Hotel Profit Season”; parking decks and local eateries would double their prices; local wages would spike; loan defaults would disappear.

Tables are to restaurants what rooms are to hotels…and each Spring restaurants have the opportunity to increase their sales by double (or even triple) digit percentages simply by adding more seating. A couple of years ago we focused on making sure your patio is ready for the business. While you are preparing your patio for the crowds, be sure your menu gets a Spring refresh too. After a winter of tubers, stews, and grains, it’s time to add some color and flavor through the sudden availability of fresh ingredients that reflect the flavors of the season.

In addition to Spring menu items being lighter and more flavorful, they also tend to take less time to cook and to plate. When your seating capacity goes from 120 seats to 190 seats overnight, your kitchen will need that new menu to be speedy. You won’t necessarily need to add 58.3% more hands in the kitchen to handle 58.3% more volume. Also, quality labor is hard enough to find so you don’t want the reputation as the restaurant that hires and fires just for volume.

Here are ten Spring menu ideas to consider as you get ready to make hay while the sun is shining:

  1. Fresh Salads: Spring is all about freshness, so consider adding colorful salads featuring a variety of crisp greens like arugula, spinach, and kale. Incorporate seasonal fruits like strawberries, oranges, or grapefruits for a burst of sweetness. Top it off with nuts, seeds, or cheese for added texture and flavor. Meatless dining is here to stay.
  2. Light and Bright Appetizers: Offer appetizers that are light and refreshing to kick off the meal. Think about dishes like avocado bruschetta with cherry tomatoes, cucumber gazpacho shooters, or smoked salmon crostini with herbed cream cheese.
  3. Seasonal Soups: Transition from hearty winter soups to lighter, broth-based soups with Spring vegetables such as asparagus, peas, or leeks. A vibrant pea and mint soup or a creamy asparagus soup can be delightful additions to your menu.
  4. Seafood Specials: Spring is a great time to feature seafood dishes that showcase the freshest catches of the season. Consider offerings like grilled or seared fish with citrus salsa, shrimp scampi with fresh herbs, or a seafood risotto featuring seasonal ingredients like ramps or fiddlehead ferns.
  5. Vegetarian and Vegan Options: Cater to the growing demand for plant-based options by introducing vegetarian and vegan dishes that highlight Spring produce. Roasted vegetable quinoa bowls, stuffed bell peppers with couscous and Spring vegetables, or grilled portobello mushroom burgers are all great choices.
  6. Pasta Primavera: Pasta primavera is a classic Springtime dish that features a medley of seasonal vegetables sautéed with garlic and olive oil, tossed with pasta, and finished with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.
  7. Herb-infused Entrees: Incorporate fresh herbs like basil, mint, and dill into your main courses to add brightness and depth of flavor. Offer dishes like grilled lamb chops with mint pesto, lemon and herb roasted chicken, or a Spring vegetable stir-fry with a variety of fresh herbs.
  8. Citrus-infused Desserts: Showcase the vibrant flavors of citrus fruits in your dessert offerings. Consider desserts like lemon bars, orange olive oil cake, or grapefruit panna cotta for a refreshing and light finish to the meal.
  9. Seasonal Cocktails and Mocktails: Refresh your beverage menu with Spring-inspired cocktails and mocktails featuring fresh fruits, herbs, and botanicals. Offer options like strawberry basil mojitos, cucumber gin fizz, or a sparkling lavender lemonade.
  10. Farm-to-Table Specials: Partner with local farmers and artisans to source the freshest seasonal ingredients for your menu. Highlight these partnerships on your menu to emphasize your commitment to supporting local producers and serving the highest quality ingredients to your customers.

By coordinating the arrival of these Spring menu ideas with the opening of your outside seating areas, you’ll create a dining experience that celebrates the flavors and colors of the season. Successful restaurants also use this time to sock away profits to retain staff and implement initiatives during slow times when competitors go into hibernation.

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