It’s shaping up to be a very special summer. Friends and family, finally able to gather again, are making plans for vacations, reunions, parties, and, by extension, restaurant dining.

With most international travel still curtailed; however, operators have an opportunity to be inspired by geographical and regional cuisines, switching their menu up and taking advantage of taste trends guaranteed to push the bottom line.

Start with Seasonal

With an abundance of produce and specialty ingredients to choose from, summer always gives chefs the ability to freshen up their menus with exciting dishes. But no matter what the style of cuisine, incorporate as many locally grown ingredients as possible. Local fruits and vegetables can be elevated for the diner with interesting new preparations, making the same old exciting again.

Simple. Simple. Simple.

Rustic Italian cuisine is known for the beauty and simplicity of its preparations. Think of the quintessential melon and prosciutto salad. Ripe cantaloupe or honeydew wrapped in thin slices of Parma ham or prosciutto screams summer, as does a classic caprese—especially when heirloom tomatoes are at the height of the season and the buffalo mozzarella rests softly on the plate. The brilliance of these dishes is the high quality of the ingredients. Customers find an invigorating start their meals, and with appetites piqued, are ready to dive into the rest of the menu.

What’s On Trend?

According to data, Asian has been the fastest growing cuisine of the last two decades. Diners are familiar with everything from spring rolls to pot stickers, rangoons to egg rolls. Get creative with your fillings and go crazy with dipping sauces. Offering a variety, such as ponzu or spicy mustard makes each crispy bite an exploration of flavor.

Turn Up the Grill

If you have a patio with enough space to operate a grill, we can’t think of anything better than grilled buttery oysters, made to order. Topped off with Thai basil pesto and grilled pineapple, these bivalves will fly off the plate. Customers love seeing their food prepared in front of them, but if you don’t have the space outside, prepare in the kitchen. Want to offer something a little more familiar? Look at your protein offerings and summer-ize them all. Citrus marinated flank steak is lean and tender, especially with a creative Bloody Mary salsa; or dress with chimichurri and serve with arugula, avocado, tomato, corn and caramelized garlic.

Get Their Drink On

The best part of summer dining might just be the drinks to pair with it. Nothing beats the heat like a Negroni or Aperol Spritz, but even here variety is the spice of life. Twists on popular libations, like an Italian Mojito, are cross-geographical reference points that just work. And with downhome traditional Southern dishes, like smoked ribs with spicy honey, a bourbon-imbibed blackberry sweet tea tames the heat and quenches thirst.

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