Be strategic on your fall menu during this persistent pandemic
As COVID19 dining restrictions have tightened again around the country, it’s easy to miss that the changing season is upon us. Fall will arrive soon and usher in a bounty of comfort food possibilities. Cooler weather will welcome menu items like soups, heartier pizzas and rich desserts.
Many pizzerias choose to rotate menus quarterly, infusing fresh, new seasonal offerings to accompany tried-and-true favorites in the fall. With a persistent pandemic, changing up a menu may seem like a risky and daunting task. You can mitigate some of that risk by doing the following:
- Go for your proven winners.
- Look back to your sales reports from the past three to five years and find those fall menu specials. Which fall debut items were hits and which were duds?
- Odds are you will find common ingredients that customers loved and ingredients that your market just didn’t care for. If you are unable to access item-by-item data history, scour your past fall special social media posts. Were there items that garnered more attention than others
- Once you have a list of the popular fall ingredients for your market, it’s time to think labor. Amidst a pandemic, now may not be the time to roll out a labor-intensive new item. Instead try preparation and cooking techniques that do not strap your kitchen crew. Choose methods that can be prepped ahead or are already a part of your makeline.
- Now it’s time to get creative in your kitchen. Try pairing seasonal items with those can’t-miss ingredients. People may be willing to get out of their pizza comfort zone if they see pepperoni or sausage on that new fall item.
Cornucopia of Harvest Produce
Take advantage of the Autumn harvest. The bounty of fresh veggies means great pricing and variety. Compared to other seasons, fall provides a cornucopia of delicious possibilities. Depending on where you are in the U.S., the abundance of autumn offerings will be robust.
Many parts of the country can look forward to these ripe, fall produce items: acorn squash, apples, arugula, beets, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, cranberries, fennel bulbs, figs, grapes, kale, onion, parsnips, pears, persimmons, pomegranate, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and turnips.
Show Local Love
If you are sourcing harvest produce in your area, leverage your relationships with local purveyors. Sing their praises. Tell the story of the ingredients with each new fall menu item. Community relationships are stronger than ever in this uncertain time and people are gravitating towards creating or reigniting that sense of community. Demonstrating that you use local products and promote those items on your menus and in marketing go a longer way with your customer base when people are staying close to home.
This goes beyond produce. Think local meats, cheeses, honey and other specialty items. Showcasing farms in your area can entice customers to purchase that out-of-the ordinary menu special.
Harvest Pizza Inspiration
Let’s look at some pizza combinations that evoke the spirit of the autumn harvest season. Switch around the ingredients with those most popular toppings to create something unique. Give these a try in your kitchen:
- Butternut squash, sausage, fresh sage, kale, fontina and ricotta
- Sweet potato, Sopressata and balsamic red onions on a garlic base with mozzarella and Parmesan
- Bacon, apple, Gouda and mozzarella on buttered base
- Red potato, rosemary, pancetta and smoked cheddar
- Roasted pumpkin and bleu cheese crumbles on a ricotta base and finished with prosciutto
- Pear and bleu cheese on an olive oil base and finished with arugula and honey
- Balsamic and sage roasted acorn squash and Brussels sprouts, mozzarella and chicken, finished with goat cheese and hot honey
An Autumn Bruschetta
This simple alternative to traditional bruschetta is versatile and delicious. Let’s start with the recipe.
>> Get the Autumn Bruschetta Recipe.
For to-go and delivery, use separate containers to allow customers to assemble bruschetta at home to keep its freshness. Don’t forget to add simple assembly instructions.
Go versatile with the Autumn Bruschetta
Don’t stop at bruschetta. Since you have this dynamite combination of ingredients, take it across the menu like this:
- Create a seasonal salad. Top a spinach salad with squash mixture and finishing ingredients. Make it filling by adding bacon, Pecorino and cranberries.
- Create a fall harvest pizza. Use an olive oil base and par bake with sliced whole-milk mozzarella. Then add squash mixture and bacon crumbles and bake. Finish with goat cheese, pecans, arugula and hot honey.
Don’t forget dessert
I’m going to leave you with one last idea: a dessert that is designed for carryout and delivery and screams autumn. Caramel Apple Cups! Yes, who doesn’t love caramel apples in the fall? Make an apple pie filling with cinnamon. Once cool, create two layers of each of the following in the cup in this order: apple pie filling, caramel sauce, chopped nuts and mascarpone.
Denise Greer is Executive Editor of Pizza Today.