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This Summer's Must-Serve Dishes

This Summer's Must-Serve Dishes

Picture of Denise Prichard
Denise Prichard

Are you ready to refresh your menu for summer? Discover seasonal dishes and drinks that will delight your guests and boost sales. Beat the heat with these must-serve summertime favorites.

Summer is here, bringing with it sunny days, refreshing drinks, and the enticing aroma of seasonal dishes that capture the essence of the season. Guests are eagerly looking forward to fun beverages and summer-inspired dishes that perfectly complement the warm weather. Offering a seasonal summer menu isn’t just a passing trend—it’s essential for attracting customers as the temperature continues to rise. A well-curated summer menu can elevate the dining experience, making your restaurant the go-to spot for summer get-togethers. 

No matter your restaurant’s style, every establishment can benefit from having a seasonal summer menu. Whether you’re thinking about a complete menu overhaul or simply adding a few new items to keep things interesting, these ideas will help you get started. But before we dig into the dishes, let’s explore why it’s important to mix things up for summer. 

Why it’s important to mix it up for summer

Summertime is all about kicking back, relaxing, and enjoying good food and great company. It’s the perfect season to treat yourself, especially with a delicious dinner out. With longer days and warmer evenings, people tend to go out more often, making it the ideal time for restaurants to attract a larger crowd. This is the perfect opportunity for restaurants to showcase some amazing summertime treats. 

Mixing things up isn’t just about changing the menu—it’s also about creating an experience that captures the fun-loving spirit of summer. Consider extending your happy hour or introducing live music to add to your restaurant’s ambiance, whether that’s live music during dinner or having a DJ at brunch. Organizing a special summer event or theme night can also entice guests looking for a unique dining experience. These small changes can make a big difference in attracting customers and creating a memorable dining experience. 

Seasonal menus let customers know that your restaurant is in tune with their tastes and preferences. It shows that you’re committed to providing the freshest ingredients and innovative dishes that reflect the best of what the season has to offer. Now, let’s move on to some food inspo. 

Cool, crisp salads and soups

When the temperature rises, your guests will crave dishes that are light, refreshing, and packed with flavor. Cool, crisp salads and chilled soups are the perfect answer to hot summer days. They offer a burst of freshness and are a great way to highlight seasonal produce.  

Incorporating these items into your menu not only satisfies your customers’ desire for something light and healthy but also showcases the best that summer has to offer. Here are some ideas you might want to try:  

  • Summer corn salad: This salad not only celebrates summer produce but also serves as the perfect side dish or a satisfying light meal on its own. It’s a colorful, crunchy, and refreshing option that adds a touch of summer to any meal. 
  • Caesar salad: Girl Dinner, anyone? This timeless classic has seen a resurgence in popularity, especially when accompanied by a side of crispy fries—thanks to its recent viral fame on TikTok, the Caesar salad has become a trendy summer must-have.  
  • Watermelon feta salad: This salad is the epitome of summer, offering a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors. It’s a refreshing treat that cools you down making it an excellent choice for a hot summer day. 
  • Caprese salad: Nothing beats a ripe tomato in the summer. This classic Italian salad is simple yet incredibly flavorful, showcasing the essence of summer in every bite.  
  • Gazpacho: This chilled soup, made with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and onions, is a refreshing way to start any meal. It’s cool. It’s tangy. And it needs to be on your menu. 

Hot off the grill

There’s something special about the smell of food sizzling on the grill, especially on a warm summer day. Grilling gives dishes that smoky, charred flavor that reminds us of backyard barbecues and family gatherings. Bring that outdoor cooking vibe into your restaurant with these grilled favorites because they’re not just delicious—they capture the essence of summer. Here are some ideas to get started: 

  • Get creative with burgers: Put your spin on an old classic with toppings like creamy avocado, grilled pineapple for a hint of sweetness, or a tangy slaw that adds crunch. These additions not only amp up the flavor but also give your guests a taste of summer’s best.  
  • Skewer up some kabobs: Who doesn’t love skewers loaded with juicy meats and colorful veggies? Offer a variety—from savory chicken and beef to fresh vegetarian combos packed with seasonal veggies. They’re a satisfying, healthy choice that brings the spirit of summer grilling right to the table. 
  • Offer a rack of ribs: They’re a summer favorite that brings people together, perfect for sharing and enjoying with friends. Ribs are all about that indulgent, finger-licking goodness that makes any summer meal feel like a celebration. 
  • Lighten up with grilled fish: Light, flavorful, and perfect for summer dining. Grilled fish is a refreshing option, whether served with crisp veggies or wrapped in a soft taco shell. 

Seasonal veggie pastas

Summer is the season when fresh produce really shines. Think vibrant colors and bold flavors from vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Incorporating veggie-packed pasta dishes not only makes your menu stand out with fresh, seasonal flavors but also helps keep your costs down. Here are some pasta ideas that are hearty yet refreshing: 

  • Zucchini noodles with pesto: Light and refreshing, try spiralizing zucchini as a base and topping it with a pesto sauce. It’s a healthy and flavorful alternative to traditional pasta that’s perfect for hot summer days. 
  • Bell pepper pasta primavera: A colorful mix of bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and fresh herbs tossed with pasta—bringing together the crispness of fresh veggies with the comfort of pasta. 
  • Tomato basil pasta: Simple yet so incredibly delicious, this dish highlights the sweet, juicy flavor of ripe summer tomatoes paired with fresh basil. It’s a classic combination that never fails to impress. 
  • Summer squash and ricotta pasta: Creamy ricotta cheese paired with sautéed summer squash and a hint of lemon zest makes this dish a delightful mix of creamy and fresh. It’s a perfect example of how summer veggies can elevate a pasta dish. 

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Fruity desserts

Summer fruits are not just refreshing but also incredibly versatile for creating delicious desserts. From peaches to berries, these ingredients add a natural sweetness and vibrant color to your dessert menu. Offering seasonal fruit-based desserts can be a delightful end to a meal, leaving your guests satisfied and coming back for more. Here are some simple yet delightful options: 

  • Peach cobbler: This classic dessert screams summer, highlighting the best of the season’s fruit. It’s rich in flavor and comforting making it a perfect end to a summer meal.  
  • Strawberry lavender panna cotta: Think of a creamy panna cotta with a hint of lavender, topped with fresh strawberries. This elegant dessert isn’t just beautiful—it’s light and refreshing, perfect for warm summer nights.  
  • Blueberry pie: Another summer classic that’s always a hit. Add some whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream to make it even more special. 

Don’t forget about happy hour

Summer and happy hour go hand in hand. As the days get longer and the evenings warmer, people are looking for the perfect spot to unwind with a cool drink in hand. A well-crafted happy hour can draw in crowds who are likely to stick around for dinner, boosting your evening sales. Offering a variety of refreshing cocktails and mocktails can set your restaurant apart, making it the go-to spot for after-work drinks or weekend gatherings. Here are some cocktails that are making waves this summer: 

  • Aperol spritz: This Italian classic is a refreshing mix of Aperol, prosecco, and a splash of soda water, perfect for sipping on a warm evening. 
  • Hugo spritz: Light and floral, this drink combines elderflower liqueur, prosecco, and soda water with a hint of mint and lime. 
  • Batanga: A simple yet flavorful cocktail made with tequila, cola, and lime, served over ice. Rumor has it, Martha Stewart thinks it’s the cocktail of the summer.  
  • Mocktails: Many people are opting not to drink these days, so it’s important to offer fun, non-alcoholic options. Think fruity and refreshing, like a watermelon mint cooler or a virgin mojito. 

Promoting your new summer dishes

Introducing new summer dishes is just the first step—getting the word out is equally important. Effective promotion can draw in crowds eager to try your fresh, seasonal items. Here are some strategies to ensure your dishes get the attention they deserve: 

  • Use social media: Take advantage of platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to showcase your exciting new summer items. Share enticing photos of your seasonal dishes with engaging captions and relevant hashtags to increase visibility. 
  • Offer special promotions: Create excitement with limited-time deals or exclusive discounts for your new summer items. Whether it’s a “buy one, get one free” offer or a special tasting event, these promotions can entice guests to try your new dishes and boost foot traffic.  
  • Try email marketing: Reach out directly to your customers through personalized email campaigns. Design visually appealing newsletters that showcase your new summer dishes with tempting images and compelling descriptions. Tailor your messages based on customer preferences and purchase history to make the promotions more relevant.  
  • In-house advertising: Maximize your restaurant’s space to highlight your seasonal offerings. Utilize strategically placed table displays, eye-catching posters, and updated menus to draw attention to your summer items.  

How to get staff ready to sell new summer dishes

Preparing your staff for new summer dishes is crucial for ensuring a smooth transition and maximizing sales opportunities. Start with training sessions to familiarize them with the additions to your summer menu. Encourage staff to taste each new dish and cocktail so they can confidently describe and recommend them to guests. 

Highlight the importance of upselling by emphasizing the unique features and flavors of the new menu items. Be sure they have the knowledge of ideal food and beverage pairings to enhance the dining experience further. Consider incorporating a training module specifically focused on the new summer items to ensure your staff is well-prepared to upsell and promote them effectively. 

Savoring summer

By updating your menu with summer-inspired dishes, you can create an inviting atmosphere that keeps guests coming back for more. Whether you’re introducing new dishes that celebrate summer flavors or giving your entire menu a seasonal makeover, these ideas are perfect for giving your customers what they want throughout the summer months.  

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