Bidfresh is advising chefs and operators that meals with genuine provenance will have the strongest appeal, with the added advantage of making the most of availability.
The advice comes as its Christmas 2021 Consumer Survey of 2,000 UK respondents, found that 59% of them plan to stay local and support local businesses; and a similar number expect to out to eat and drink several times in the run up to Christmas
Festive bookings will start to ramp up from September onwards, so operators should have reservation systems in place, but 15% will wait until December – favouring businesses that can keep menu options and table availability flexible, the survey showed.
A third (33%) of consumers said they would definitely expect a higher quality of food when eating out than pre-pandemic; and 44% would expect to be offered “something a bit different” when they eat out.
While 47% expect to eat a traditional Christmas dinner when they eat out, 27% will be looking for dishes they wouldn’t traditionally cook at home, and 21% want something new and interesting to try.
Bidfresh is highlighting the menu planning benefits of working closely with all three of its specialist businesses: meat supplier Campbell Brothers, Direct Seafoods, and fresh produce experts Oliver Kay.
Martin Eshelby development support chef with Bidfresh’s fresh produce experts Oliver Kay said: “Festive menus can be fairly rigid, but building in some flexibility will be a real competitive advantage this year. That could mean offering roast duck or partridge as well as the more familiar turkey; having smoked mackerel or trout as a starter, or serving premium twists on accompaniments, such as a sprout slaw or roasted sweet potatoes.”
He advised that to accompany the main event, a root vegetable gratin with truffle infused cream would add a little luxury to plain root veg, while roasting squash and sweet potato wedges with maple syrup, cumin and fennel seeds is a delicious aromatic twist.
“Equally, 25% want to see unique starters on menus, and 23% want desserts they wouldn’t make at home. Offering alternative choices alongside the familiar smoked salmon and Christmas pud will have strong customer appeal, as well as helping to “spread the load” for the supply chain,” he said.
“Overall, a more diverse festive menu, making full use of the range of produce and ingredients available from suppliers give operators the broadest possible appeal to consumers, as well as reducing the pressure points that affect the supply chain when everybody is trying to order the same products.”