winter menu ideas for restaurants
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Winter is coming, and for you, that means fewer customers visiting your brick-and-mortar location and more people looking for restaurants that sell food online. Your goal should be to attract both of these segments with unique winter dishes and promotions available online and offline.

In winter, people usually crave comfort food that will warm them from the inside out and bring a smile to their faces. That’s why, if you want to draw people in, we recommend crafting a seasonal menu for the cold season. Below, we look at a couple of winter menu ideas for restaurants that want to stand out in the crowd.

P.S.: Look out for our festive winter menu template at the end of the article.

15 Winter Menu Ideas for Restaurants to Try This Cold Season

1. Soup up!

Hot soups are a staple of any winter menu. They are easy to cook, even easier to serve, and one of the surefire ways of getting warmed up when the weather outside is frightful. Ask someone what is the best food for cold weather, and they are likely to say soup. Anyone appreciates a nice, steaming bowl of soup, believe us. If you don’t have any on your menu, now is the time to add some.

And while any hot soup can be served in the winter, some soups are more suitable than others for the cold season. Here are some winter soup ideas that are bound to be a hit with your restaurant customers:

  • Spiced lentil and butternut squash soup
  • Mushroom soup with cream and garlic
  • Cauliflower cheese soup
  • Pumpkin and bacon soup
  • Beef goulash soup
  • Peppered potato soup
  • French onion soup
  • Creamy spinach soup
  • Cajun chicken noodle soup
  • Cheesy tomato soup with basil and garlic

2. Embrace comfort food

Everyone craves winter comfort foods when the days are shorter, the nights are longer, and the temperatures are colder. Think dishes that most people know and love, maybe something their grandma used to make or something that reminds them of home. Warm and rich foods baked to perfection is what it’s all about.

Don’t be afraid to include carbs in your menu this winter, and focus on curries, stews, and casseroles. Use versatile and homey ingredients that can be cooked in different ways and enjoyed in many dishes like potatoes. Bake them, mash them, turn them into soup, and sprinkle them throughout your winter menu.

3. Don’t shy away from winter vegetables

Looking for healthy winter recipes? Look no further than winter vegetables. They make excellent side dishes and are usually colorful additions to any plate. Roasted in the oven, they can bring flavor to any wintery meal or even be a standalone meal themselves. Check out these winter menu ideas for restaurants that want to incorporate winter vegetables:

  • Potato and celery root gratin
  • Garlic grilled broccoli
  • Honey balsamic glazed brussels sprouts
  • Grilled sweet potatoes with lemon-herb sauce
  • Maple-roasted carrots
  • Roasted beets with goat cheese and walnuts

4. Keep it hearty

‘Tis the season to eat food that makes us happy, and what can be better at that job than hearty food? Few people prefer dishes that are refreshing in the winter, leaning toward ones that feel wholesome and abundant. Salads will have to take a back seat and let dishes like stews shine.

Here are some hearty winter recipes to inspire your winter restaurant menu:

  • Beef stroganoff
  • Baked coconut curry meatballs
  • Garlic herb butter roast turkey
  • Classic French bouillabaisse
  • Roast leg of lamb
  • Chicken and mushroom risotto
  • Creamy mac and cheese
  • Chicken and chorizo paella
  • Honey-mustard salmon in foil
  • Beef ragù-stuffed cannelloni

5. Turn up the heat

As the temperature outside decreases, the temperature of the dishes you serve on your menu should increase. Ideally, that means rethinking every menu category so that it contains at least one warm dish.

As appetizers, you can serve bacon-wrapped sweet potato bites. For the main course, you can’t go wrong with curried beef with winter vegetables. Finally, for dessert, a carrot and walnut pudding will leave everyone mouthwatering. Don’t forget to also turn up the heat on the beverages with hot tea, hot chocolate, and boozy hot drinks.

6. Bring in winter tastes and smells

Usually, using seasonal ingredients to make your winter food ideas come true means the tastes and smells are a given. So, what flavors should you be focusing on when crafting your restaurant’s winter menu? Here are some of them:

  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Pumpkin spice
  • Gingerbread
  • Cranberries
  • Chestnuts
  • Eggnog
  • Mulling spices
  • Fudge

7. Create unique winter restaurant promotions & offers

To raise interest in your winter menu, come up with promotions and offers exclusive to it, which will entice customers to visit your restaurant or place an order online. One thing you could do is create winter family meal bundles that the entire family can enjoy.

Meal kits are also popular, especially now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so you might want to consider selling DIY dishes to families as well.

Are you able to organize a winter party this year? Then you definitely need a to-die-for winter dinner party menu. Offer 20% off to people who buy the full course menu and/or throw in a freebie like a free drink.

Here are some more winter restaurant promotions you can use:

  • Free warm appetizer if you purchase two wintery drinks
  • $5 off the entire winter drinks menu the whole month of December
  • Add winter flavors (gingerbread, peppermint) to regular coffee for $0.50 extra
  • Cook your favorite holiday meal, post it on Instagram tagging us, and the photo with the most likes will win a free holiday dinner
  • Get a free drink whenever the temperature drops below [temp of your choice depending on where your restaurant is located]

Related: 15 Unique Restaurant Promotion Ideas that Will Increase Loyalty in 2020

Don’t let your customers go out in the cold to get food, offer them the option to have it delivered? Deliver some cheer along with your menu items.

Restaurants usually focus solely on the month of December for their marketing strategy which has them missing out on profit. Afterall, potential customers are also hungry after New Year’s Eve. Here are a couple of deals you can implement for the rest of the winter months:

  • January restaurant promotions: this is the time when everybody tries bettering themselves by sticking to New Year’s resolutions. Therefore, you can attract clients by adding more health-focus winter restaurant specials to your menu such as low-calorie mains or even vegetable-based juices. Afterward, promote them with deals like: “Get a free green juice for every order over $60” or “Free delivery if you order two dishes from our “New Year, new meals” category”;
  • February restaurant promotions: this is the month of love, when everybody will be on the lookout for Valentine’s themed promotions. Give clients what they want with deals like 1+1, a free dessert for any meal over $60 or a combo meal fit for a romantic dinner.

8. BYOB (Bake your own bread)

Few things are better and tastier than a steaming loaf of bread that’s just been taken out of the oven. That is especially true in winter when customers would do anything to warm up. If you can, start baking your own bread to serve with a bowl of soup or a hearty stew.

If you typically serve breakfast, you can add various spreads to the menu that will pair lovely with the fresh bread. Mix and match from this list of bread types and spreads:

  • Bread: sourdough, pumpkin, whole wheat, zucchini, baguette, ciabatta, cornbread, multigrain, pumpernickel, banana bread, focaccia
  • Sweet spreads: jam, jelly, cookie butter, chocolate, marmalade, lemon curd
  • Savory spreads: peanut butter, almond butter, pâté, garlic butter, cream cheese, avocado, hummus

9. Up your game

If you can source it locally, game will complete a fine dining winter menu like none other. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also filling and nourishing. From venison to quail and pheasant, your winter menu will attract people looking for a unique experience.

To complete the fine dining experience, decorate your tables with candles, silver Christmas centerpieces, and winter-themed napkins.

10. Serve vegetarian winter menu options

A hearty winter meal doesn’t necessarily have to contain meat. Cater to your vegetarian customers by adding vegetable-only alternatives to your most popular dishes or creating entirely new vegetarian dishes suitable for the cold season. These vegetarian menu options might just spark up your sales:

  • Mushroom moussaka with halloumi bechamel
  • Eggplant, tomato, and pine nut roast
  • Broccolini and parmesan risotto
  • Whole roasted cauliflower
  • Pumpkin rosemary truffle ricotta lasagne bake

11. Warm that belly with a hot drink

After your guests have feasted on all of the delicious winter dishes you’ve prepared for them, they’ll also want to enjoy a festive drink. While you should keep the classics when it comes to your drinks menu, more people will prefer a hot drink or one with a particularly wintery flavor.

A peppermint or gingerbread hot chocolate might do the trick for customers who don’t want to consume alcohol. For cider lovers, offer varieties like spiked maple cider or the classic apple cider. Finally, for guests who don’t mind cold drinks in winter but who still want to feel the Christmas spirit, a cranberry margarita or mulled gin could be the perfect option.

If you’re looking for winter menu ideas for cafes, here are some that will have customers coming back again and again:

  • Pumpkin spiced latte
  • Eggnog latte
  • Chestnut Praline mocha
  • English toffee macchiato
  • Winter spiced banana bread
  • Pumpkin and cardamom swirls

12. Offer cozy sweet treats

In winter, even your desserts should be cozier. Not many people will want to order ice cream when the temperature outside is below 0. Encourage customers to end a winter meal in style with a decadent, warm dessert. Here are just a couple of winter menu dessert ideas for restaurants:

  • Cinnamon baked apples
  • Sticky date, banana, and walnut loaf
  • Carrot and walnut pudding
  • Winter-spiced molten chocolate cake
  • Butterscotch pudding
  • Condensed milk teacake
  • Lemon custard pie maker doughnuts
  • Warm chocolate brownies with salted caramel sauce and custard
  • Chocolate souffle
  • Banana brown sugar dumplings

13. Borrow from international cuisines

Winter-looking, winter-tasting menu ideas don’t have to come from the same zip code. You know your target audience better than anyone. Would they enjoy a dish that reminds them of home? Do you usually cater to tourists? Then you’re probably no stranger to an international menu.

This winter, spice up your menu with dishes from all around the world. If your restaurant is near office buildings, you can brainstorm some unique, international winter lunch ideas that change every week. That way, you can have a Spanish Week, Italian Week, or Greek Week, all featuring traditional winter dishes from those countries.

Clients will be surely impressed with your winter tasting menu ideas from different places. To grow your community and persuade clients to come back, involve them in choosing the next winter restaurant menu.

Post on your social media asking them to rate their favorite type of cuisine, favorite dishes and what other countries would they like to visit through the food at your restaurant.

14. Cater to the little ones

Especially if your restaurant typically caters to families, you’re going to want to include some kid-friendly meals for cold weather into your menu as well. Make the portions smaller and draw their attention with pancakes shaped like their favorite cartoon characters, heart-shaped quiches, or ladybug cupcakes.

15. Target winter holidays

Luckily for you, the cold season brings with it everyone’s favorite holidays. From Christmas to Valentine’s Day, get ready to introduce holiday-themed menu items in your winter menu.

For Christmas, organize a traditional dinner with turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. For Valentine’s Day, serve dark chocolate pudding decorated with red hearts and red velvet cookies.

Check out our holiday dedicated articles for more ideas on how to spruce up your restaurant and boost your sales on Christmas and Valentine’s Day:

Use Our Winter Menu Template for Extra Holiday Magic

Because all of these winter menu ideas for restaurants deserve their own dedicated menu, we’ve designed a template that you can download, customize, and print to add some extra cheer to your holiday table.

winter menu template

~ Download ~

Before You Go…

Help people forget about the cold weather by implementing all of the above winter menu ideas for restaurants. You will soon notice that involving seasonality in your marketing strategy will help you attract more new and returning customers and increase your profit.

Rely on our free online ordering system to change your menu as many times as you want and implement impossible to say no to restaurant promotions.

Deliver Your Winter Menu Items to Boost Profits This Cold Season Sign up for the GloriaFood online ordering system for free.
photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.