I stepped into my neighborhood Dunkin Donuts a few weeks ago. Seemingly overnight, the store had undergone an autumn transformation. Employees had overlain the windows with tantalizing photos of fall foods and pumpkin spiced lattes, apple themed donuts, and slogans like “Trick Out Your Treats.” The counters were lined with fall decor, including orange crepe paper and plastic leaves, and a well-placed sign informed me of the seasonal “Donut Decorating Workshop” for kids next week.
Like Dunkin Donuts, many restaurants plow through the routine monotony with seasonal decorations, menu items, promotions, and activities for fall. It’s a great way to keep the atmosphere dynamic and fresh. And, to be honest, a cozy pumpkin spice latte is much more likely to tempt customers than an iced drink when the weather turns chilly. Here are some ways you can welcome autumn into your food establishment.
Give Your Restaurant a Seasonal Makeover
When the outdoors is cold, windy, rainy, and gray, the indoors should be warm and inviting. A string of lights adorning your food establishment can craft a homey, welcoming ambiance. Another fall decor tip is to give the place a rustic makeover (think oranges, browns, greens, and reds).
Of course, the specifics of fall decor depend on the style of your food establishment. For a tasteful and classy look, try tabletop centerpieces with red, orange, and yellow autumn flowers. Platters, or baskets (or even cornucopias) of fall foods, like pumpkins, gourds, colorful corn, bouquets of berries, and even wheat stalks, placed on countertops and windowsills, add a homely seasonal touch. Leaf-themed dishware can also complement your establishment’s overall design.
Craft a Fall Pop Up Menu
Of course pumpkin spice is nearly synonymous with autumn. But it isn’t the only flavor fall has to offer. After all, there’s nothing like comfort food during a chilly rainstorm, or sipping a toasty apple cider while watching colorful leaves slowly waft past the windows.
Fall provides many opportunities to get creative with food offerings. Here are some dishes that are “hot” when the weather gets cold.
- Fall cocktails: If your establishment serves alcohol, you can give your drinks menu a seasonal twist. For example, you can try an apple cider variation of a traditional mimosa simply by trading out the orange juice for apple cider, and the sugar for cinnamon sugar. Another easy trick is to replace that summery cocktail umbrella with a graceful, autumn cinnamon stick. There are also numerous fall mocktail recipes for kids and adults alike that can be added to any restaurant menu.
- Soups: Piping-hot, rich, hearty soups are among the most popular cold weather comfort foods. And, many soups like butternut squash, mushroom barley, and corn chowder pair well with traditional autumn ingredients.
- Eggplant and squash: Pumpkins are an ubiquitous seasonal vegetable, but they aren’t the only fall food flavor around. Eggplant is a fall vegetable that is extremely versatile and can find its way into nearly any dish. Acorn squash and other winter squashes can be spiced up in any number of ways to enhance your fall menu. These ingredients can give your menu that seasonal twist, without having to radically change your dishes.
- Pies and desserts: With Thanksgiving around the corner “the pies the limit.” Simple, seasonal favorites include sweet potato pie, apple pie, and pecan pie, as well as non-pie desserts like caramel apples. Pie flavorings can be adjusted to suit your menu. For example, instead of offering a slice of apple pie, a breakfast establishment could offer an “apple pie muffin,” whereas a pizza shop could create an apple crisp pizza served a la mode<.
Invite Your Customers to Celebrate the Season With You
Summer means beaches, vacations, and the outdoors. But once the kids go back to school, and it’s too cold to enjoy the surf, fall ushers in its own schedule packed with excitement. Sports lovers will enjoy the football season kicking off. Families wait for their big Thanksgiving reunions. And farmers look to the autumn harvest. Here are some ways to bring that fall energy to your food establishment.
- Organize a visit to a local farm: Fall is the season to celebrate and spotlight community farms, and your establishment’s commitment to locally and responsibly sourced fresh ingredients. Invite your customers to tour a local farm nearby. There’s nothing that says fall like pumpkin and berry picking. Or, if a field trip isn’t feasible, you can use promotional and educational materials to spotlight the local farms that you source your honey, eggs, or other ingredients from.
- Get spooky: Fall weather means that fall holidays are around the corner. Halloween is a great opportunity for fun and for marketing. If you are a family-friendly eatery, your patrons might enjoy a costume day, where kids dine-in in “disguise” and get a free goody bag. Alternatively, you can run an online costume contest on social media to boost your online presence. For an upscale establishment, you can host a theme-night dinner, with spooky decor and hired entertainers.
- Thanksgiving: The other big holiday opportunity in autumn is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is traditionally associated with large meals, something that food establishments can easily capitalize on. Depending on your set-up, you can promote takeout Thanksgiving dinners with all the traditional fall foods for families who are short on cooking time or get stressed out by the idea of cooking up a storm. You can also have a special Thanksgiving menu for patrons who prefer to dine-in. To get into the “giving” aspect of Thanksgiving, food establishments can pair with a local charity to donate food to those in need. Keep in mind that the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend is “small business Saturday” and is a good chance to offer discounts that your customers will need after a weekend of Black Friday shopping.
- Themed Days: Thanksgiving and Halloween are the best known holidays in fall. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make every day a celebration. To name just a few of the October food day celebrations, October is National Pizza Month. October 14th. National Dessert Day, October 15: National Mushroom Day, October 17th, National Pasta Day, October 28th, National Chocolate Day and October 29th, National Oatmeal Day. Remember you can easily take any of these days and create a mini celebration of that particular food.
- Get in the game: There are also a number of ways to leverage the football season. If you have TVs in your restaurant, make sure to let people know that you are a place where people can get together with friends to cheer on their teams. You can also offer tailgate takeout menus for football fans. Survey local fans to find the perfect blend of foods, decor, and activities that they want to see for dining-in, or takeout game nights.
- Get the whole family on board: Halloween means cookie decorating events for kids, fall festivals, and taste tests for all ages. If your restaurant caters to young families, there are many seasonal opportunities to bring families together and promote your business.
- Food contests: Contests are a fun way to engage your social media followers. Challenge them to think up a new fall-themed dish that you can showcase on your menu. This is a great promotional idea because it connects people on social media, and provides your in-person customers with new dining opportunities. Don’t forget a prize for the winner!
Share and Promote on Social Media
When your restaurant is decked out with leaf decor, your food has been given a beige and berry fall facelift, and your autumn calendar is full to the brim, it’s time to share those accomplishments. Show off the hard work you put into your fall decor and color scheme. Reach out to young families and invite them to stop by on Halloween night for a free spider cookie.
If you have fresh, exciting, and fun ideas for the season presented in a shareable form on your Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok accounts, you can grow your follower base and put yourself on the social media map. You can even create fresh, fall food content just for your online followers.
Fall is a great season for making your restaurant cozy and inviting for customers. There are many ways to get your restaurant in the seasonal spirit. So get out there and start decorating, cooking, and planning. And don’t forget to enjoy the wonders of the season while doing it! What are some ways that you are getting your restaurant ready for fall?