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brussels sprouts on a restaurant's winter menu

When the weather turns chilly, it’s time to warm things up from front to back of house. As a restaurant owner or manager, you’re competing with the holiday season for consumer attention and dollars.

You know you’re not alone. From catering companies to pop-ups, foodservice operations all across the country are working hard to fire up wintertime business. It’s a crowded field this time of year, so it’s time to deck the dining room walls and develop new winter recipes for your restaurant’s menu.

Winter Menu Ideas for Restaurants: 12 Inviting Ways to Keep Guests Happy

Whether you manage a large restaurant, run a fast-casual location or own a busy cafe, the holidays always impact business. You need to stand out with enticing menu selections that celebrate the season and ring up sales. These 12 ideas offer a bounty of cold-weather inspiration.

1. Warm Up the Appetizers

Let guests start off with starters still warm from the oven. Roast shrimp cocktails, and bake oysters in half shells. Toss a touch of elegance into the appetizer menu mix with French gougeres. These tender cheese puffs can be baked in advance and reheated just before serving.

2. Stir Up Seasonal Soups

Some of our favorite soups are wonderful winter traditions. Classics like lentil soup and clam chowder are always popular with customers. Turn butternut squash or fresh corn into creamy creations that chase away the chill outside.

3. Slow-Simmer Rich Stews

The best hearty winter recipes include savory stews brimming with seasonal veggies and choice meats. Try pairing root vegetables with lamb or black-eyed peas with hot Italian sausage. Elevate a classic to fine-dining status by slowly simmering a rich beef bourguignon with cremini mushrooms and slab bacon.

4. Bake Fresh Bread In-House

Warm up your dining room with the heavenly aroma of loaves fresh from the oven. Sourdoughs and artisan boules can be started and refrigerated the night before and baked the next day. Serve small loaves as sides to soups and stews.

5. Oven-Roast Winter Vegetables

Roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots are naturals in wintertime vegetable side dishes. Beets, turnips and red onions turn out colorful oven casseroles. Oven-roasted Brussels sprouts always bring guests in from the cold.

6. Entice With Comfort Food

Make it warm, familiar and delicious. That basic recipe covers all kinds of winter comfort food possibilities. It’s a starter for customer-pleasing entrees that are easy to prep for simple oven baking. Consider favorites like luscious lasagna, savory meat loaf and beef and veggie pot pie.

7. Celebrate Turkey’s Versatility

Bring out the best in this seasonal bird with recipes that celebrate its versatility. Delight guests with bourbon-glazed roasted turkey. Give the grand bird a Tuscan touch with rosemary, garlic and fennel, or fire up spicy turkey flavors with Southwestern red chile gravy.

8. Serve Fine Dining With Flair

The right combination of winter menus and fine dining creates elegant entrees served with special flair. Think carving stations for standing rib roasts and steak Diane flambeed table-side. If you prefer simpler presentations, wow dining room guests with beautiful plates of Merlot beef tenderloin and veal tails.

9. Put Game on the Table

Venison, elk and wild boar can be difficult to source, but they’re all uniquely delicious choices for cold-weather menus. Feathered game ranges from quail and grouse to pheasant, partridge and goose. On the hoof or on the wing, wild game brings rich winter flavors to restaurant tables.

10. Include Hearty Vegetarian Fare

Complete your winter menu with vegetarian fare that appeals to everyone. Cauliflower steaks, pan-seared eggplant and roasted Brussels sprouts yield healthy, hearty entrees. With a few creative ingredients like phyllo dough, kale and goat cheese, even simple butternut squash becomes a memorable main dish.

11. Tempt Guests With Warm Sweets

Give restaurant guests every reason to come back again with tempting desserts still warm from your kitchen’s oven. Offer an irresistible variety of dessert breads, crisps and puddings. Take a cue from Southern chefs who keep hot desserts cool with caramelized bananas Foster and housemade vanilla ice cream.

12. Salute the Season With Winter Cocktails

Guests in the dining room and the bar enjoy saluting the season with winter cocktails. Hot toddies, Irish coffee and hot buttered rum are wintertime classics, but don’t rule out chilled libations. Orange-spiced old fashions and berry-ginger champagne cocktails are perfect for toasting the spirit of the season.

Develop a Winter Marketing Strategy

egg nog

Be sure to let regular customers know how warm you’ve made their favorite dining room. Keep the lights on across social media, and make it easier for new guests to find your restaurant door. A little winter promotion can really fire up business this time of year.

• Adjust regular shift schedules to accommodate several services targeting busy holiday shoppers.

• Earn new customer loyalty with lunch specials that feature complementary hot chocolate or eggnog.

• Spread the good cheer across social media, and encourage guest reviews.

• Send your best customers exclusive invitations that include a complementary dessert or bottle of wine.

We’re Here Every Season

The best winter menu ideas for restaurants are the ones that outlast the holidays. After the festivities wind down, you still have a great menu that stands up to the coldest weather. You have newly loyal customers who look forward to return visits and enjoying your kitchen’s creativity.

You also have Boggiatto to support your foodservice operations. We’re here year-round growing and shipping the freshest produce available from our California fields. We’re always proud to be a part of your business success, and we’re here for you every season.