Seasonal Menus and Sustainability 

As someone who has worked in the industry for the last decade in nearly every type of establishment, I can say that up until recent times, there was little emphasis placed on the sustainability of seasonal menus. This, however, is changing. According to research and consulting firm Technomic, 59% of consumers say that they are more likely to order a menu item if it’s described as “seasonal”.  We are living in a world shifting towards sustainability. And seasonal menus are just that – sustainable.

What makes a menu sustainable?

  • Locally and organically sourced ingredients
  • Adaptability to seasonal changes
  • In-house production
  • Food waste awareness

If your menu is lacking in one or more of these areas, then it isn’t as sustainable as it could be. This means you could be losing money to higher food costs and food waste, and potentially negatively impacting the environment. But don’t worry, this is a great opportunity to make greener choices and grow your business at the same time!

Benefits of a seasonal menu:

  • Better for the environment
  • Connects the community
  • Creates new marketing opportunities
  • Attracts new customers
  • Lowers employee turnover

The most obvious advantage of a shift towards sustainable seasonal menus is the environmental benefits – i.e., reduction in transportation costs and emissions, using abundant seasonal produce to save on food costs, and using imperfect fruits and veggies to combat food waste. The reduction in environmental impacts also allows for new marketing strategies to improve your business overall.

In addition to environmental benefits, seasonal menus also offer numerous social benefits through supporting small stakeholders, attracting new and local customers, and reducing employee turnover by aligning values of sustainability between employers and employees.

How to make a seasonal menu:

  • Localize suppliers
  • Update menu seasonally
  • Produce in house
  • Reduce food waste
  • Engage staff

There’s no better way to make your menu seasonal than by sourcing ingredients locally and organically. This will help the local economy and food system by supporting small, local businesses, cutting down on transportation costs, and attracting new customers.

Syncing your menu with seasonal changes allows for access to food at its peak supply ensuring you get the freshest, ripest ingredients. In addition to local suppliers, it’s also a great idea to consider an on-site garden or producing menu elements in house (i.e., pickles or dressings). In-house production eliminates some food costs and allows for creativity and delicious outcomes.

To cut down on food waste, consider reducing portion sizes and shrinking your menu. Reducing portion sizes amounts to huge cost savings in the long run while reducing food waste from full customers who can’t finish their meals. Smaller menus also reduce waste by removing less popular items, allowing for an easier decision-making process, and allowing chefs to make each dish as sustainable as possible.

Although they may seem daunting at first, seasonal menu changes are sure to bring in new customers.  Just be sure to keep your audience informed through your website, media platforms, and most importantly – within the community!

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