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How popular are fall trends? Pumpkin-flavored products pulled in a jaw-dropping $511 million in revenue in 2019, and as of 2021, Starbucks had sold over 600 million of its highly anticipated Pumpkin Spice Lattes (roughly 31.5 belly-warming drinks each year).

Pumpkin spice is now every bit as tied to fall as other iconic autumnal things like changing leaves, sweater weather, and apple cider. So how can restaurants take advantage of those trends, giving diners what they crave and bolstering profits at the same time?

From introducing or increasing takeout and delivery services during cold-weather months to preparing your restaurant for the changing seasons, here are some ways you can adjust to the demand and make waves with your own takes on fall flavors and charm.

The return of cold weather is one of the most obvious changes associated with the onset of fall, but this new season also marks the return to school and normal work schedules after a summer spent at play.

Many restaurants see a surge in business during summer, with April through August often bringing in extra diners. Some of those sales are thanks to increases in tourism and the fact that people tend to have more free time during the summer. The holiday season (think post-Thanksgiving through the beginning of January) is busy too, but that leaves fall as a potential slump that could easily affect your bottom line.

One easy way for restaurants to adapt is to optimize menus and operations with fall trends and habits in mind. This idea is backed up by data, including statistics showing seasonal menus are linked to a 26% jump in orders from diners. Designing your own fall menu (or having your chef and their team spearhead the project) can be the launching pad for a plethora of ideas that can drive everything from your social media posts to cold-weather catering.

Like most things in the restaurant world, planning ahead is typically the key to success. Here are some ideas on how you can incorporate fall trends into your blueprint for autumn.

1. Capture fall flavors in a seasonal menu

Create a seasonal menu and you’ve automatically crafted a limited-time offering that will help entice guests to visit your restaurant (or place a to-go/delivery order). Restricting your menu to fall flavors indicates that these dishes have a shorter lifespan in terms of availability. Perhaps that built-in sense of urgency is why 59% of consumers say they’re more likely to purchase an item on a restaurant menu if it’s described as seasonal.

Start by asking your vendors what seasonal ingredients are available locally. You’ll be able to call out local sourcing on your menu and save on both food preservation and transportation costs in the process. 

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, start with this list of fall fruits and veggies:

  • Pumpkin
  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cranberries
  • Sweet potatoes/yams
  • Mushrooms
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Ginger

Be sure to update your menu listings on your website and on your Grubhub merchant portal — and that includes uploading some tasty food pics, too!

Check out our tips for crafting the perfect seasonal menu for more ideas.

2. Don’t forget the fall drinks

You can’t toast a flag football win or a great day at your neighborhood fall block party without a tasty beverage. Create a fall drink menu to complement your autumnal dishes. Include a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic options like:

  • Your own version of a pumpkin spice latte (the top drink ordered on Grubhub in 2021)
  • Apple sangria
  • Bourbon-based cocktails
  • An apple cider mimosa
  • Mulled wine
  • Pecan pie martini

Keep in mind that regulations regarding alcohol and takeout/delivery differ from area to area. Restaurants who join Grubhub in select markets can add alcohol delivery to their to-go menus, boosting check averages and overall sales numbers. 

Drink delivery requires a little extra foresight; you’ll need cups, mason jars, or some other type of vessel to transport liquor and mixers, plus packaging for any garnishes. You may also want to put together an instruction sheet if the way the drink is prepared will impact the customer’s enjoyment of the drink.

3. Run a fall promotion

Now it’s time to get the word out about your seasonal offerings. The best way to do this is to generate buzz using promotions that highlight fall features.

  • Use National Food Holidays and other celebratory occasions (e.g., Oktoberfest, Halloween, and Thanksgiving) as a jumping-off point for menu additions and promotional ideas
  • Offer incentives like a free fall appetizer with the purchase of a seasonal menu entrée or 2-for-1 mocktails on your slowest night of the week to introduce people to your fall features and increase orders.
  • Share your menu and promotions on social media. Post a mix of straightforward offers, like graphics displaying your evening fall-themed specials, with soft-sell content like a behind-the-scenes look at the chef shopping for fall produce at the farmer’s market or whipping up her famous butternut squash bisque

Restaurants on Grubhub Marketplace can access personalized Promotions and Loyalty tools designed to help reach customers, increase ROI, and achieve key marketing goals.

4. Prepare for indoor dining

For many parts of the U.S., fall means colder weather. For restaurants, that colder weather could mean a shift in dine preferences when it comes to where they choose to sit and eat.

In other words, it may be time to pack up your patio seating, dismantle your awnings, and welcome customers inside. Here are some other things you should keep in mind as you prepare for indoor dining:

  • Assess your current indoor table configuration with a critical eye. Have you maximized floor space without crowding guests? Is there adequate space for your FOH team to get where they need to go efficiently and safely? Are there are enough POS stations? Are those POS stations easy to access?
  • Dress up your dining room with fall-themed décor. Even temporary decorations should be in line with your concept and overall aesthetic, but generally speaking, fall leaf garlands and warm twinkle lights work almost anywhere. If you have room for a fall-inspired display, use natural elements like a burlap runner, mini pumpkins, gourds, and pillar candles in earthy colors to make your masterpiece.
  • Throw a fall-themed event! This is a fantastic way to draw in new guests and encourage regulars to stop by an extra night. It’s also an opportunity to build and connect with your community while also reminding guests that you have a beautiful indoor space that’s ready to host diners for the next few months (and beyond). Use the fall holidays and food celebration lists mentioned above as springboards — a Halloween karaoke bash or pre-Thanksgiving canned-food-for-cocktails drive, perhaps? Serve your new menu full of fall trends or transform your favorite fall dishes into tasty little canapés.

5. Amp up delivery for cozy nights in

In addition to fueling your customers’ migration from your patio to your main dining room, cold weather could also mean more people staying home altogether. Adding takeout and delivery options to your business plan can help you reach customers who feel less inclined to travel for a meal.

You’d also be staying competitive at a time when delivery orders are more popular than ever. Some 75% of restaurant visits were off-premises in fall of 2020, which means customers were either ordering delivery or grabbing food curbside to enjoy away from their eatery of choice. Fall also brings football season, which can lead to a hike in delivery demand over the weekend. Make sure you brush up on your game day delivery strategy to reach these customers.

To get prepped for high delivery demand, run through the following checklist:

  • Check your seasonal menu for logistical issues. Can the entire menu translate to delivery? Are there any items that might be difficult to package and send to-go without sacrificing quality?
  • Stock up on containers, ensuring there are the proper sizes and types to accommodate your new menu.
  • Set up a separate to-go/delivery/pickup area so the influx of off-premise orders doesn’t disrupt your restaurant’s atmosphere or derail on-premise dining.
  • Make sure you have a reliable online ordering system in place for takeout and delivery. The system you choose will reflect on your brand, so look for a platform that’s reliable, that already has an audience you can leverage to increase your own visibility, and that has the features you need to take your business to the next level.

Reach more customers this fall with Grubhub

Preparing your restaurant physically and strategically for fall can help bring in new customers and give loyal fans more reasons to drop by or spring for delivery. As you start planning your seasonal menu and promotions, use your relationship with Grubhub to pave the way for improved delivery, greater customer reach, and so much more.

Ready for your most impactful fall yet? Join the Grubhub Marketplace today and enjoy all the perks of a Grubhub partnership with no up-front cost or hidden fees.