When the mercury rises, the effect it has on the food and hospitality sector is somewhat mixed. For pubs and bars, a good heatwave can send sales soaring. This year’s Easter heatwave saw drinks-focused pubs and bars enjoy a 10.9 per cent increase in sales compared to Easter 2018. But for food-based restaurants, sales slumped by 19.4 per cent over the same period. While some of us are tempted by the thought of a cold drink in a beer garden, the summer sun also encourages people to stay home and make the most out of their gardens. On the whole, the warmer weather inevitably shifts some of the potential food sales from restaurants towards pubs and barbeque food purchases.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are ways for restaurants not only to appeal during these warmer months, but also to excel. For example, while restaurants in general may struggle in the sun, those with alfresco style outdoor dining areas have certainly benefited. With tables and chairs and a few barriers to cordon the area off, businesses can easily set up a luxurious, dedicated outdoor space to make the most of the summer sun. Or, if you want to pull out all of the stops, why not have a log cabin extension for your business and serve up some ever-popular street-food style dishes that people passing by on the street can tuck into without heading into the restaurant?
Freshen up the menu
When the weather’s warm, customers have one thing in mind: to cool off! They don’t want to be stuck indoors with stuffy, rich food no matter how tasty it is. Regardless of whether or not a restaurant has the capacity to establish an outdoor dining area, all restaurants are able to change their menus to suit seasonal customer demands.
In the summer, or during a particularly warm spell, take a look at adding some specials to the menu at least that are designed to be cooling, refreshing, and hydrating. Ingredients such as fruits (melon, strawberries, and peaches, for example), vegetables with a high-water content (such as cucumber, radishes, bell peppers, and lettuce), and some milks and dairy are all great options for staying hydrated. Meanwhile, high-protein and high-fibre foods require more effort to digest and thus, increase body temperature. Citrus and fruit marinades can be beneficial in counteracting this in meat.
Prosciutto e Melone
This simple starter is easy to make and will be lovely and refreshing for summer diners. Wrapping cantaloupe melon wedges in Italian prosciutto gives a salty-yet-sweet flavour that is sure to be a hit. It’s a colourful and elegant dish, not to mention visually flexible — you could present it a number of different ways.
Slow-cooked pork belly with watermelon salsa
With BBQ sauce and a hydrating watermelon salsa to keep everyone cool, this main course is a wonderful celebration of summer flavours. Like the prosciutto e melone, this dish is also pretty versatile; Jamie Oliver recommends serving it with a watermelon salad rather than a salsa, or with sticky rice.
Cucumber and cantaloupe salad with raspberry vinegar
With cucumbers, cantaloupe, radishes, peppers, and lettuce, this is the epitome of a cool and hydrating salad. A tangy raspberry vinegar gives a lovely sharpness to balance out the softer flavours of the water-heavy fruits and vegetables in this salad. Customers will love this healthy option that won’t leave them feeling bloated.
Blended watermelon, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water make this summer-ready special. If you really want to impress the customers, serve in hollowed-out watermelon halves with crushed ice, mint, and lime slices. A couple of straws makes for a delicious beverage to share.
Keep customer service high by keeping staff comfortable
It is important to consider staff comfort during the summer months too — after all, they’re the ones working under what can be difficult conditions if a heatwave strikes. Be sure to supply plenty of cold water stations, and consider allow your staff to take a few extra breaks to cool off (especially waiting staff who may have been on their feet all day!).
As a little morale booster, ice pops in the staff canteen would certainly be appreciated!
The summer months can certainly be a trying time for restaurants who aren’t prepared for the rather un-British weather! Be sure to have a plan ready to make the most of the sun!