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Summer is peak tourist season in the U.S., which means restaurants experience more foot traffic and higher order volumes. If you’ve been wanting to experiment with fresh dishes, now’s the perfect time — new restaurant summer menu ideas can keep locals and visitors coming back all season long.

Menu tips: 4 easy ways to make your summer menu stand out

A tantalizing summer menu appeals to loyal diners and new customers alike. To make it a success, try these tips:

  • Go with lighter fare. When it’s hot outside, many customers prefer meals that aren’t too heavy. Look for ingredients that feel refreshing and healthy, including fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and lean meats.
  • Offer more kid-friendly options. Summer is a big time for family travel; to bring in larger, high-value groups, make sure your menu has a few kid-approved meals. Grilled cheese, cookies, corn dogs and chicken strips are always crowd-pleasers for younger diners.
  • Tempt your diners with summer menu promotions. Combo meals, buy-one-get-one offers and afternoon happy hour promotions encourage customers to choose your restaurant over a competitor. For people who are deciding between ordering delivery and cooking at home in the heat, a great promo can be the deciding factor.
  • Showcase your most refreshing summer drinks. Complement your light, fresh food items with a special summer drink menu.
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8 summer menu ideas to inspire your restaurant

Ready to get started? Use these menu ideas to refresh your restaurant’s menu for the warmer months.

1. Use fresh, local ingredients

Have you ever noticed that locally grown, seasonal food tends to taste better? That’s because it doesn’t have to travel far to reach you. Short transit times mean farmers can harvest at peak ripeness, when flavors are at their best. Use this to your advantage by incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your summer menu. Sourcing local ingredients can both cut costs and highlight local flavors.

The foods you choose will depend on your location and climate, but some summer favorites include:

  • Fruits like watermelon, mangoes, peaches and berries
  • Vegetables like cherry tomatoes, avocados, bell peppers, arugula, sugar snap peas, cabbage and zucchini
  • Herbs like basil, dill, mint, rosemary, oregano and cilantro

2. Grill meat and vegetables

For many Americans, summer is the most popular grilling season. Tap into that traditional experience by adding grilled, charbroiled or smoked foods to your menu. After all, what says summer better than a freshly charred hamburger with lettuce, cheddar cheese, pickles, red onion and crispy bacon?

Start with classics such as grilled burgers, pork chops and barbecued chicken and add in a few vegan-friendly options such as mushroom caps, sweet potatoes, vegetables and corn on the cob. If your location allows, set up a grill outside so the delicious aromas can tempt diners in from the street.

3. Cook up cold sides to refresh your guests

Too many hot foods can feel overwhelming when the temperature is high. To help your guests cool off, pair your entrees with a choice of cold sides. Options to consider include:

  • Pasta salad
  • Fresh fruit
  • Coleslaw
  • Side salads with mixed greens
  • Cold potato salad

The best part? You can prepare most cold sides in advance, which streamlines food preparation during the lunch or dinner rush. Just make sure to keep them refrigerated to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

4. Offer seafood delights

Light and flavorful, seafood is a popular summer food — especially when you pair it with fresh herb or citrus sauces or marinades. To appeal to health-conscious diners, add a few menu items that feature seafood options such as grilled fish, shrimp, crab cakes or scallops. If your business is located near water, use locally caught products for maximum flavor and freshness.

5. Serve chilled soup

Cold soup is the perfect starter for summer. Gazpacho, cucumber soup and vichyssoise satisfy customers without making them sweat. For extra appeal, choose soup recipes that include fresh herbs, colorful vegetable garnishes, goat cheese or a dollop of sour cream.

6. Sweeten your guests with fresh dessert

Dessert is one of the trickiest parts of a warm-weather menu; your goal is to offer sweet treats that won’t feel heavy or loaded with sugar. The solution? Select desserts that feature fruit as a main ingredient. Consider dishes such as strawberry shortcake, cherry pie, and parfaits, or keep it cool with sorbet, granitas and ice cream. Frozen lemonade pie, gourmet ice cream sandwiches, flaky pastries and lemon tarts also feel fresh and summery.

7. Take the edge off with cool beverages

Help guests start and end their meals on a refreshing note with a lineup of cold beverages. Cater to the cocktail crowd with seasonal beverages including margaritas, strawberry daiquiris, mojitos and Palomas. Don’t forget to add a few mocktails and iced refreshers — sweet, frozen drinks made with fruit, sparkling soda, and fresh herbs make any meal feel special.

Add a lime wedge or fruit garnish to make the drink more appealing; colorful cocktails photograph beautifully, so you can promote them on social media during the summer holidays.

8. Highlight your seasonal specials

Some ingredients, such as ramps, are only available during certain times of the year. Make things more interesting this summer by incorporating these delicious foods into a seasonal menu. It’s a fun way to get creative while keeping your menu more dynamic and engaging for new and repeat customers.

Spice up your summer with Grubhub

A seasonal menu is an effective way to bring in more customers during the busy summer season. To get the most from your new food items, make sure to add them to your delivery menu — after all, summer is one of the most high-demand ordering times.

Grubhub makes it easy to promote your summer menu items and reach hungry diners. When you join the Grubhub Marketplace, your restaurant is available to both locals and tourists. The platform also comes with promotional tools to help you offer deals and appeal to budget-conscious customers. If local laws and regulations allow, you can even add beverage delivery to your Grubhub menu to increase the average order value by up to $15.

To prepare your restaurant for the summer season, join Grubhub today.