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Don’t forget salads are always a good bet this time of year.

Summer Dining Tips and Must-Have Menu Items

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Here are some tips to increase margin throughout the rest of the summer.
By Andrea Kayal August 2018 Expert Insights

We’re only halfway through summer, and already some parts of the country are seeing record-breaking numbers when it comes to the amount of tourists—great news for restaurants, who are experiencing an uptick in sales for the season. While restaurants are sure to see organic growth during the summer months, there are also several ways in which restaurateurs can increase their margins, whether it be through the foods and drinks they offer.

When it comes to drinks:

While the Fourth of July holiday brings in a fair amount of business for restaurants (liquor sales are historically 12 percent higher on Independence Day when compared to the rest of the year), tourist season is far from over, so restaurants should be mindful of which drinks are on the way out, and which ones will continue to soar, to ensure their bar is appropriately stocked. 

In recent years, thanks in large part to millennials, rosé has emerged as the drink of choice during the early part of the summer, but restaurants should prepare to see wine sales decline slightly come August. Average wine sales during the last few days of August are 6 percent lower than the rest of the year. In the meantime however, there is still a lot of runway for restaurants to make some good money off of a drink list, especially when it comes to restaurants in top vacation spots. Here are some things to consider when it comes to which drinks to have on hand:

Miami is the place for a boozed-up bash, pulling in an average of $3,096 in daily liquor sales–42 percent more in than the Hamptons, which has the next highest liquor sales at $2,011, and 86 percent higher than the total average sales ($1,225) for all vacation towns studied.

Lake Ozark loves its liquor, outpacing all other vacation spots, selling the highest volume of liquor-based drinks–restaurants here sell an average of 30 percent more liquor items than the next highest city, Myrtle Beach.

Beer rules Los Angeles: The city of angels is the place to be for beer in the summer, with $1,539 in average daily brew sales—the highest of any other top vacation spot and a stark contrast to Miami’s average beer sales of $315 per day.

Refresh the food menu:

Despite the fact that liquor, beer and wine sales are higher during the summertime, especially at restaurants that offer outdoor seating, restaurants should also be prepared for a spike in food sales, particularly in the Northeast. Restaurants in this region reported average food sales were 14 percent higher than the rest of the country. In order to bring in new and returning customers, restaurants should look at adding seasonal items to their menu:

Utilize fresh fruits and vegetables: Gazpacho incorporates cucumber and pepper which makes for a melody of summer-y flavors, and watermelon, delicious on its own or muddled into a cocktail, is a summer must-have.

Light appetizers and summer salads: Bruschetta is a great option for lunch or dinner, especially if restaurants can incorporate fresh bread and tomatoes to round out this fan-favorite that won’t leave guests hungry. Ceviche, made with local fish or seafood that’s been cured in lime, is another great option because it includes elements often found in main dishes, without the hassle of a full meal. Pair it with Elote, a Latin American corn on the cob (made with mayo, chili, cilantro and lime juice), and guests have the perfect light meal. Lastly, don’t forget salads are always a good bet this time of year—whether a peach and avocado salad or a more traditional cucumber salad with creamy dressing, guests will look to salads as a way to cool down and eat healthy.

A caffeine pick-me-up: While iced coffee is a summer staple, consider offering affogato—a scoop of ice cream plopped into a shot of espresso—as an alternative option. Take it one step further and offer it as a boozy dessert by adding a shot of coffee liqueur.

Restaurants across the country, especially those near the ocean or lakes regions, experience a surge in business from June through August, when people from near and far are looking for a refreshing meal and libations. Because of this, summer is great time for restaurants to experiment with seasonal menu items and make sure their bar is fully stocked to guarantee repeat business.

Andrea is the Chief Marketing Officer at Upserve. She brings over 15 years of Marketing experience and a track record of driving growth and scale. Prior to joining Upserve, Andrea led marketing teams at Sailthru and Signpost. Before transitioning into the tech industry Andrea also worked at Octagon where she managed global marketing initiatives for BMW of North America and MasterCard. Andrea studied Communications at The University of Michigan and received her MBA from American University.