LOOK OUTSIDE AND IN FOR HOLIDAY LTOS
The holiday season is underway! Diners are feeling the buzz of winter celebrations like Christmas and New Year’s, and they want celebratory menu items to match. Thinking up LTOs that fit both the spirit and the strengths of your operation can be tricky. To beat this mental block, you need as many sources of inspiration as you can get. Fortunately, the season’s full of them. Mix the mood outside (both festive and wintry) with joyful traditions from your cultural and personal life. The result: a bounty of holiday LTO ideas that will boost business and brighten your customers’ day.
Draw on the season’s festive energy to build LTOs that are colorful, sweet, and bright. People connect Christmas with the colors green and red, especially in bright and shiny forms reminiscent of Christmas trees, ornaments, and colored lights. Greens-loaded salads are already halfway there — add jewel-like red fruits like pomegranate or red navel orange (which happens to be in season in Florida), and you’ve got a healthy LTO fit for Christmas. Sweet treats are another, contrasting favorite, fulfilling people’s desire to indulge a little around the holidays. Lean into this impulse with a sweet seasonal version of your standard coffee or hot cocoa, topped with whipped cream to show the flavor visually. You can also take a cue from the lights going up around town, and serve foods that show off with fire. This works best for operations where diners can see what’s going on in the kitchen. If that’s you, consider serving a dessert like creme brûlée. Chefs finish this delicacy with a culinary torch, delighting waiting customers with a touch of flame, perfect for a dark winter’s night.
Cold Meets Cozy
Dark and winter come with cold, even in Florida — but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Turn cooling temperatures into an idea engine for warming LTOs. Hot drinks are a must (just think of your diners’ freezing hands!), and a great spot on the menu to deploy LTOs. Hot cider, with a seasonal vibe and an appeal that cuts across age groups, is a great option. For the rest of your menu, think about foods with a warming reputation. Soups are a clear first choice for LTOs. Add one with a nice aroma, such as pumpkin soup, to draw people’s attention when they smell other diners’ orders wafting by. Turning to the main course, look for dishes that hold heat and signal it (like soups do) with delicious steam. A savory pie — chicken pot pie is a natural choice — is a solid way to present these qualities.
Look to your restaurant’s home cuisine for celebratory foods you can present in LTO form. Black-eyed peas provide a tasty traditional dish for restaurants serving Southern or general American cuisine. Originating in West Africa, carried forward by African American communities, and now widespread throughout the Southeast, black-eyed peas symbolize hope for prosperity, and call up fond family memories for those who grew up eating them on New Year’s Eve. Drawing on Christmas traditions, Italian restaurants have a versatile option in foods from the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This traditional Christmas Eve meal features seven different seafood dishes, but the choice of fish and shellfish is yours. Pick one recipe that matches your staff’s skills and your customers’ tastes, from classic seafood pasta to adventurous squid pie. Moving to dessert, restaurants serving any of a number of Hispanic cuisines can tap into the buñuelo, a fried dough eaten on Christmas and other holidays all over the Spanish-speaking world. Different regions put different spins on this item, which makes it great as an LTO — and you can even customize it with local Florida flavors in the dough, glaze, or filling. The above foods are just a few examples from a wide world of holiday cuisine. If your home culture’s holiday meals fit a different season, don’t fret. Highlight generally celebratory foods, instead, and your customers will happily celebrate with you.
Going more specific than culture, you can also spin holiday traditions from your home life into LTOs with a personal touch. Maybe there’s a specific breakfast your parents always made Christmas morning: an enticing plate of pancakes, bacon, and eggs to bring you out of bed for food and presents. That combo is fairly standard in food service, but it’s special to you. With an evocative name and a tiny story in the description, you can share that specialness with your patrons, turning humble ingredients into an emotionally impactful LTO. In contrast, more oddball home traditions offer the thrill of trying a new food, backed up by the knowledge that it’s something the restaurant owner loves, personally. Offer gingerbread pancakes in that breakfast, instead, and you appeal to a whole different group of LTO-seekers. Finally, you can use your informal knowledge of crowd-pleasing fare to offer LTOs that are likely to boost sales. If you can throw a party each year to drink a pot of your famous mulled wine, chances are you could sell that to large tables, with similarly joyous results.
Wherever you look for ideas this season, you can count on us to help make them a success. Florida Food Service has ingredients to supply your whole menu, holiday LTOs included. Get your kitchen ready to celebrate — contact your sales rep today.