A look at the religious calendars across the globe can provide an opportunity for food marketers to capture the hearts of eaters who may be abstaining, or enjoying foods celebrating their holidays. A quick scan of the March and April holidays offers a sneak peak at the upcoming dates:
Shrove Tuesday March 5
Ash Wednesday March 6
Lent March 6 – April 20
St. Patrick’s Day March 17
Passover April 20-27
Easter April 21
It’s a good time to test new menu items as well as to demonstrate to patrons you understand their needs and provide specialized assistance and understanding of their diets.
Shrove Tuesday Pancakes Galore
Shrove Tuesday, March 5 this year, signals the start of the Lenten period. Historically, pancakes were consumed so households could use all the eggs, fats and milk in the home before they abstained from those foods for Lent. It’s also a great day to feature and promote pancakes to customers. Consider:
Special menu items that “clean the pantry” of eggs, milk and “fats” to celebrate
Special pancake offerings featuring local ingredients
Staging a pancake eating contest
Opportunity for Seafood
Seafood sales reportedly increase as much as 40 percent during Lent since many Christians give up red meat and increase fish consumption. It’s a great opportunity to showcase current seafood on menus and in stores, while also adding new items. Consider:
Daily fresh sheet highlighting the seafood that is fresh that day
Menu inserts featuring seafood items
Not everyone’s going to want to eat seafood so think about other ways you can offer nutritious items that will bring in customers. Consider taking advantage of the trend toward plant-based proteins and see if your customer base is interested in these items being permanently available. Customers still need to eat and eat well. Consider:
Design your own rice bowls offering seafood, vegetables, beans and tofu.
Wraps or tacos featuring seafood, beans or tofu
Soups and stews are a great way to warm up the crowd during cooler temperatures
Irish Stew and Beer
Honor the most famous patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, on his saint’s day and bring in the customers to enjoy a range of hearty stews, corned beef and cabbage, and Irish brews.
During Passover, Jewish people celebrate the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egyptians. For the first two days of the eight day celebration, Seder suppers are attended that include matzah, bitter herbs and four cups of wine as well as the retelling of the story of the Exodus. Throughout the period of Passover, Jews avoid leavened products and many cleanse their homes of all leavened products ahead of the holiday. While Seders are traditionally held in homes, more and more restaurants are offering special dinners for their customers. Restaurants should consider:
Matzo ball soup and gefilte fish (poached fish) are two of the most popular items eaten during Passover
Hosting a Seder supper in a private room at the restaurant open to interested people in the area
Feature baked goods like macarons that don’t include yeast.
See if there’s a kosher bakery in the area that could provide baked goods to serve during Passover
Rework your menu to be suitable for Passover meals with the help of a local expert
Customer’s Choice -- Personalization
Each day it seems there’s a report of a new diet or trend to follow. That translates to requests to provide an increasingly custom product. It’s critical your team members understand the ingredients in each item sold, and the variations the back of the house team can create. At the same time, handling customer requests appropriately is important. Make certain your team knows what to listen for and how to address special requests so errors are reduced. We’ve talked about this several times here.
Don’t Just Put it on the Menu. Sell it!
You’re going to take advantage of the season by focusing on some standbys and offering some new menu items. It takes a lot of time to make these changes. Tell your customers what you’ve done so. Depending on what works with your customers consider:
Table tents and menu inserts
Chalk/menu boards in the lobby
Email or snail mail campaigns; even focus on religious groups
Social media posts
Promotions that encourage regular customers to bring their friends for rewards
Finally, make sure your waitstaff has tasted the menu items you want them to sell and has descriptions to use in selling them. Consider the increasing number of customers who ask their waitstaff for recommendations. It’s a great way to sell more of a product you’re testing, if the waitstaff can describe it truthfully and well.