Pumpkin season has arrived – and that’s great news if you work in foodservice. According to the experts, there is an allure to short windows of consumer enjoyment, with seasonal dishes experiencing a 26% increase in orders. In the words of trendologist Kara Nielsen: “Seasonality is one food trend you can put your money behind.”
Beat the Crowds and the Competition: Add Pumpkin to Your Menu Today
And this year there is more good news. If you follow in the footsteps of some of the food-and-beverage industry giants, you can gain a significant edge over the competition by beating the crowds and adding pumpkin specials to your restaurant menu even before the season arrives. Although pumpkin spice is traditionally associated with the fall, the changing colors of the leaves, and Thanksgiving, this year Dunkin’ Donuts (recently rebranded as Dunkin’), beat everybody to the punch when it announced that it was bringing back pumpkin-flavored coffee and pastries on August 21st.
With the calendar and weather still screaming summer, fall’s favorite flavor was already being featured in a growing number of Dunkin’ products, including: pumpkin donuts, muffins, and Munchkins donut holes, K-Cup Pods, the new Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte, and the option of adding a pumpkin-flavored swirl to hot and cold brews, espressos, frozen coffee, and even frozen chocolate. And if all that wasn’t enough, the company even temporarily renamed eight of its locations “Pumpkin'”!
Not to be outdone, in an almost simultaneous move, Starbucks announced the return of its all-time top-selling seasonal beverage, Pumpkin Spice Latte (which broke sales records for 15 years straight), as well as its new offering: Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, comprised of Starbucks’ cold brew and vanilla topped with pumpkin cream cold foam and a dusting of pumpkin spice topping.
How to Add Pumpkin to Your Dishes and Desserts
No matter what type of eatery you operate, there are endless ways to incorporate pumpkin into your menu and add the beloved flavor to dishes, desserts, drinks, and more. Your chefs can creatively concoct their own signature pumpkin delights, or you can use the following ideas to tingle the taste buds, excite the palates, and cater to the masses of consumers across the nation who can’t wait to sink their teeth into this classic fall favorite.
Breakfast and Lunch Pumpkin Ideas
For breakfast and lunch, consider pumpkin pancakes, waffles, and muffins; yogurt with fruit, granola, and honey-sweetened pumpkin. For a decadent brunch item or dessert, enjoy this recipe for pumpkin crepes: Fill a sweet crepe with pumpkin mousse or yogurt, top with cinnamon-and-sugar, and add a dollop of whipped cream for a finishing touch.
In pumpkin soups, the fruit’s rich and creamy flesh is turned into a puree and often paired with other gourds or with the flavors of apples, chestnuts, and butter. Likewise, you can try your chef’s hand at pumpkin hummus.
In pumpkin pastas, raviolis, and tortellini, pumpkin puree is a prominent ingredient in the sauce. You can also make pumpkin lasagna.
Pumpkin Frozen Desserts
From frozen yogurt to ice cream, some coveted flavors include pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin and caramel, and pumpkin hot fudge sauce.
Pumpkin Baked Goods
Grated pumpkin lends itself beautifully to cakes, cookies, and breads. Enhanced by the addition of pure honey and/or a sprinkling of cinnamon-and-sugar, consider giving carrot cake a pumpkin makeover, make pumpkin scones, or experiment with new recipes for classic pumpkin pie.
Yes, you read correctly! Bartenders are also busy reinventing their drink menus with the likes of Boston’s Rail Stop Restaurant & Bar’s Pumpkin Up cocktail, comprised of house-made pumpkin puree, tequila-based cream cordial Vespertino, and organic spiced pumpkin vodka. In the words of bar manager Eli Shapiro: “It’s creamy, delicious and balanced. The sweetness of the cordials and puree are cut by the spice of the cinnamon powder. It is aesthetically pleasing with our presentation and just plain fun.”
Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds have risen in the chef and consumer popularity charts as health experts confirm that the tiny seeds are nutrient powerhouses and super-easy to add to appetizers, main dishes, breads, and desserts. And for all your customers with special dietary needs, pumpkin seeds more than rise to the occasion as they are nut-free, allergen-free, dairy free, gluten-free, soy free, and a plant-based protein alternative to meat.
Pumpkin Quick Facts
If your customers have an appetite for some fascinating and fun pumpkin facts, they will love the taste of the following tidbits:
- Pumpkin is a fruit, not a vegetable
- Pumpkin has been around for over 5,000 years
- Historically, the first mention of the word ‘pumpkin’ is said to have been in the fairy tale Cinderella during the 17th century. Prior to that, they were called “pepon” in Greek (meaning large melon), “gros melons” and “pompon” in French, “pumpion” by the English, and finally “pumpkin” by American colonists
- Pumpkins are grown on every continent except the icy tundra of Antarctica. In the United States, where 1.5 billion pounds are produced annually, Morton, Illinois has been crowned the Pumpkin Capital of the World, followed by leading producers Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, and Ohio
- Remarkably, a full 80% of the crop becomes ripe for the picking during one month of the calendar year: October
- Pumpkins are highly nutritious: Low in calories, fat-free, rich in potassium, and especially high in fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamin A
- You can actually eat the pumpkin flower! Pumpkins flowers have been used to treat the common cold, maintain eye health, and boost male fertility
- According to Guinness World Records, the world’s heaviest recorded pumpkin weighed in at 2,600 pounds in 2016 in Germany while the largest recorded pumpkin pie weighed 3,699 pounds
- Originally, pumpkin pie recipes involved cutting off the top of the fruit, deseeding it, filling the hollow with milk, honey, and spices, and baking it in hot ashes
- Native Americans called the gourds ‘isqoutm squash,’ used them as food and medicine, and made mats from dried, flattened strips of pumpkin
Pumpkin Marketing Ideas for Your Restaurant
According to Forbes magazine and data from Nielsen, Americans are spending more and more each year on pumpkin spice – to the tune of $600 million! Calling it the most ubiquitous seasonal ingredient on the market, here are some savvy ways to promote your restaurant’s decadent pumpkin offerings and attract the masses:
- Celebrate Pumpkin Spice Day every year on October 1st with pumpkin-themed promotions and discounts
- Before Thanksgiving and/or Halloween, add pumpkin-themed decor to your establishment and post the pictures online
- In the fall, run a special pumpkin beer campaign featuring different types of autumn brews
Recipe: Pumpkin Ice Cream Roll
And now what you’ve all been waiting for: An absolutely to-die for pumpkin recipe featuring pumpkin cake and ice cream.
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Dash of salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup pumpkin
- icing sugar
- 1 quart butter pecan ice cream, softened
- Optional: Whipped cream, toasted chopped pecans
- In a small bowl, combine first four ingredients
- In a separate bowl, beat eggs at high speed for 5 minutes (until pale yellow). Gradually beat in sugar
- Fold in dry ingredients and pumpkin
- Pour batter into a 5 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan lined with floured wax paper
- Bake at 375° for 15 minutes
- Turn cake out onto a linen towel sprinkled with icing sugar
- As you peel off the paper, roll up cake with the towel, then unroll onto a baking sheet.
- Spread softened ice cream to within 1 inch of the cake’s edges
- Without the towel, roll up cake again, cover and freeze
- Slice before serving. Top with optional icing sugar, pecans, and/or whipped cream