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Making Summer Menus Interesting and Appealing

Foodservice Brief — June 2015

For many restaurant operators, the change of season also means a change in the items on their menus. More consumers are out and about when the weather is nice, and having a menu that offers new and innovative options along with a good dose of traditional summer fare is important for attracting these “fair-weather” guests. When reinvigorating your menu for summer business, it is important to offer the tried-and-true along with new.

Summer Favorites — Do They Change?

Every season brings its unique tastes and traditional menu offerings. When the mercury starts to rise, consumers always find seasonal favorites more appealing. Listed below are the foods and beverages U.S. consumers have the greatest propensity to order in the summer months. Also identified here are the consumers most inclined to order these popular summer items — that’s who to target.


Popular Summer Foods and Beverages at Commercial Foodservice

Top Foods Ordered Top Beverages Ordered
Frozen Sweets
(Eater age — kids, teens, 18-24, typically women)
Iced Tea
(Eater age — 35-49,50-64, 65+, typically women)
Hot Dog
(Eater age — kids <12 years, teens, 55-64, typically men)
Non-Carbonated Soft Drink
(Eater age — kids, teens, 18-24, 25-34, typically men)
Chicken Strips
(Eater age — kids, teens, 18-24, typically men)
Iced/Frozen/Slushy Coffee
BBQ Ribs
(Eater age — 50-64, 65+, typically men)
Frozen/Slushy Soft Drinks
(Eater age — kids, teens, 18-24, 25-34, typically women)
BLT Sandwich
(Eater age — 18-24, 25-34, 65+)
(Eater age —  kids, teens, 18-24)

Source: The NPD Group/CREST®, June/July/August 2014

Other Menu Options During the Dog Days of Summer

When temperatures soar, a light entrée is the best way to beat the heat. For many restaurant visitors, grilled or fried chicken served cold is a perfect choice. To spice it up a bit, operators may want to try mustard and tarragon marinade or go for a citrus-based marinade with lime and cilantro. Keeping it cool on warm, humid summer evenings doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor.

Consumers love BLT sandwiches — they were among the top foods ordered at commercial foodservice last summer. They’re a celebration of salty, smoky, and garden-fresh flavors all rolled into one. The classic summer BLT relies on very flavorful ingredients, so make sure you have quality bacon and the very best tomato you can find. Try a new twist on the summer sandwich: use thick-sliced bacon and artisan bread. Your customers may think it’s delicious and that it shows creativity and menu innovation.

And don’t forget chilled summer soup, a refreshing option with a sandwich. Gazpacho thickened with bread crumbs (Portuguese style) has a nice broth, and the tomatoes and cucumbers give it just-picked goodness. It is full of nutrients, easy to make, and low in calories. What’s not to like?

For many, summer is the best time to indulge in a big, beautiful green salad. All ingredients will be fresh (appealing to consumers’ interest in fresh and healthy ingredients), and most probably are available locally (also of growing importance to consumers). Summer is also a time to add more variety to your basic dinner salad offerings by using spinach, bitter greens, and variety of colored peppers. The more colors and textures you add, the more interesting and flavorful your simple salad will be for your customers.

Feasting on sun-kissed fruits served at the peak of freshness is one of the perks of summer dining. Would your customers love chilled watermelon, chocolate-dipped local strawberries, fresh-picked blackberries, or those first-of-the-season cherries? Think outside of the box — it matters to your customers.

And what about summertime favorites found outside of traditional restaurants, such as at the county fair? Maybe your customers have a soft spot for elephant ears, funnel cakes, pulled pork sandwiches, corn dogs, or cheese fries. Is there a regional favorite in your area? Does something more exotic stir your customers’ taste buds? How about deep-fried Twinkies? If you must, you must. But you didn’t hear it from us.

To discuss our insights for the foodservice industry, call Bonnie Riggs at 847-692-1767, or email bonnie.riggs@npd.com.

To learn more about Checkout Tracking, please contact your NPD client service representative, call our restaurant analyst, Bonnie Riggs, at 847-692-1767, or email bonnie.riggs@npd.com.

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