Does Your Restaurant Have Enough "Special" Items?

Menu diversity. There it is – the trend of the year.

It seems everywhere you look someone is gluten free, vegan or vegetarian. Dressing on the side or a burger without a bun. If we name it, we bet someone’s asked for it in your restaurant.

So, today, we ask the question, “Does your restaurant have enough special items?”

To help you decipher what those special items might be, we’ll take a look at them and offer some reasons you might want to include them on your menu.

Gourmet Peasant Fare

Everything old is new again. We are seeing a resurgence in restaurants paying a nod to the past by bringing back old items and revamping them.

This is especially true with what’s often called peasant fare. Today’s version leaves much of the rustic in the past and adds some gourmet touches.

For example, porridge and polenta are hot on the scene with extra fruits and vegetables such as Kale, cabbage or heirloom tomatoes thrown in for a modern twist.

Incorporate these special items by getting creative and coming up with your own twist.

Artisan Bread Hits Big

You have witnessed the gluten-free revolution as many people avoid it. Others choose to follow a paleo diet, and they find bread an indulgence and a real treat.

Your restaurant customers crave something special when it comes to bread – they want something sophisticated and artistic.

Think locally-made, fresh, gluten-free, carb-free, and specialty seasoned.

Buzzwords for bread on today’s restaurant’s special menu include artisan bread, pretzel bread, naan bread and other ethnic breads.

Locally-Sourced and Organic

Your customers will appreciate special menu items that are locally-sourced. Many diners today are concerned with your eco-friendly practices. They want to know you are buying local.

They want to know that you care about recycling and water conservation.

This in turn makes them want not only locally-sourced menu items, but organic and eco-friendly options as well.
Consider the diner with two restaurant choices. Both restaurants serve authentic Italian food. One restaurant buys all of their meat and produce locally. The other trucks it in across many state lines.

Which one do you think diners will choose? You can bet they’ll choose the one that cares about the environment and the community it resides in.

Consider where you buy your food from very carefully as it can affect where diners choose to eat.

Use this special aspect in your marketing materials to drive traffic to your restaurant.


Global Gallivanting

If your menu doesn’t include some ethnic items, think about adding some.

The diners of today want to travel the globe in their dining excursions. They’re game for something new, and they’re looking to expand their palates.

You’ll find experimenting with flavors and countries of origin a good way to add some special items to your menu and increase your restaurant traffic.

Veggies Gone Wild

With the recent trends towards locally-sourced food, seasonal produce and sustainability, vegetables are showing up in unique iterations.

If you’re looking to add more special items to your menu, vegetables are an easy place to start. Consider making vegetables the main course.

New on the scene are vegetables such as zucchini and squash taking the place of noodles in a nod towards the gluten-free and health conscious crowds.

Other opportunities to add more “special” to your menu come in the form of parsnips, beets and other unique vegetables. Look for ways to use vegetables in place of items. For example, try squash instead of pasta in your next pan of lasagna.

Not Your Child’s Leather

This specialty item is an up and coming trend on the culinary circuit. Reminiscent of your childhood favorite, fruit leather, these leathers are unique and special in their own way.

Some restaurants are featuring yogurt leather in the granola, while yet others are making leather out of ketchup and Sriracha.

Nostalgic, but definitely not childlike, leathers are hitting the scene from west coast to east coast.

If you want to push the “special” to its limit, this is a good place to start.

Collar, and Not On Your Coat

What is collar? It’s the cut of meat butchers take along the clavicle of an animal.

A definite “special” item, collar is most often found in fish and pork menu items.

Collar is the most unique item on our list and one that really speaks to special menu items. If you choose to offer something so different, do make sure and train your restaurant employees in how to sell it.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve looked at some specialty items and discussed the state of your menu, what do you think? Does your restaurant have enough specialty items?

Today’s diners want more than just good food. They want an entire experience, and that often comes about through your special menu items.

Not only do diners want unique, delicious and well-prepared food, they are often health conscious and mindful of allergens, food safety and your sustainable practices.

Your diners are also interested in where your food came from, and they want you to meet their dietary concerns and needs.

Diversify your menu and offer healthy options, items prepared with seasonal produce and ethnic variety – be creative and unique when designing your menu.

Be sure to incorporate your special items into all of your marketing to increase your bottom line.

What kinds of special items are on your restaurant’s menu? What do customers ask for the most? Please comment below to share your tips with others.