Let’s make this unusual festive season a special one. Follow our tips from chefs and bar owners to create a real celebration
What do your customers want for Christmas?
Your customers expect a classic feast. This doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels though – even the humble turkey can be improved with some simple tricks. Competition is stiff for the traditional offering, which means yours has to be special. Read our six ways to ensure your dishes stand out over the festive period.
Boost your turkey
It’s THE quintessential Christmas meal so make sure yours is the best it can be. The big bird can easily dry out. To avoid this, remove the legs from the breast and cook separately. Or, use crowns – they’re more expensive but you’ll have less waste. Try this brine to make the meat more succulent: brws.it/turkey
Out on a veggie dish with a difference
The turkey may be the main event but more and more customers are looking for a quality vegetarian option. Nut roasts are fantastic for a traditional menu. We’d also recommend Wellingtons. They can be made in large quantities and portioned out for service.
To put a tempting twist on a Wellington, add a Portobello mushroom along with the packed filling. It looks impressive and tastes so good!
Go classic flavours with a bit of luxury
As well as the all-important Christmas pudding, think about how you can incorporate some tried and tested flavour combinations into your dessert menu in a new way.
Think mince pie ice cream, apple and cinnamon cheesecake or chocolate and cherry brandy snaps. Presentation is everything for sweets – a little smear of sauce, neatly placed fruit, and a dusting of icing sugar or cocoa really elevate a dish.
Clever revamps for your dessert menu
Whether you’re cooking in a pub, school kitchen or care home, it’s likely you’ll end up with some extra portions of desserts. You might even want to order extra to spread out the festive menu over the week. Christmas pudding, mincemeat and panettone can all be transformed into gorgeous new dishes. Stir mincemeat into an apple crumble or surround with pastry for a delicious slice; layer up panettone or Christmas pudding with custard for a baked delight: brws.it/bakedpudding
Transform Turkey for lunchtime
The Boxing Day spread of turkey leftovers is often many people’s Christmas food highlight Carry this into your menu with lunch specials through the season. Turkey, bacon, brie and cranberry toasties are a must. Spices and turkey pair well – try Mexican-style wraps with fajita flavourings.
Convert the cheeseboard
Cheese is one of the best leftovers to have in your kitchen. The possibilities are endless – quiches and tarts with meat or veggies, butternut squash, Wensleydale and chutney would be delicious. Cheddar and gruyère macaroni cheese or a stilton-spiked cauliflower cheese are calling to go on your specials menu.
Christmas with a difference
Customers visit your venue for something truly unique. No run of the mill Christmas here. We speak to Chef and Owner at Fish & Forest in York, Steve Andrews, to find out why there will be no turkey or beef on his festive menu. Get inspired by Steve’s sustainability ethos this Christmas and beyond.
How do you use everything?
We buy the best produce from suppliers we know and trust. That comes at a cost if you’re looking at a 22kg halibut almost as big as me, which then has to be broken down. That can take two hours, so we make sure everything is used for stock or a bouillabaisse or chowder. We won’t freeze or microwave and instead ferment, dry cure, pickle and then sometimes purée the meat and vegetables most places throw away. Leftover cabbage that’s vacuum-sealed and left in salt or sugar tastes incredible.
How important is looking local?
It’s critical. Traceability is everything. Our fish is caught using specific and targeted methods and our game is wild and sourced from local and regional estates that have smaller shoots to maintain the population balance. We support local growers who come in with fresh, interesting veg and we add it to that day’s menu. I also walk my dog in the woods and find brambles, sorrel, elderberries or a flower that might be edible and we try it out in the kitchen, find it tastes unbelievable and we use it.
“Nothing goes to waste at Fish & Forest, where ethically sourced, sustainable game and fish is proving to be a huge hit with customers.”
Why did you choose this route?
I’m self-taught and learnt a lot from travelling to places around the world where the food is fresh that day and every bit of the fish, including the tail and bones, get used. Guests want to know the story behind their meal and I can tell them how and where their halibut was caught, who by, even how it was scaled or filleted. We break down all the produce here, which is labour-intensive but nothing is wasted.
Is it a good business model?
It might not be the best but since lockdown, there’s greater awareness of the environment, ethical farming and fishing. Around 70% of our guests ask about provenance because it’s what we’re known for and they accept there’s a premium on that. We are a small kitchen and take around 30 covers a night, but we keep the menu very small to ensure we can use only the best, freshest produce every day. It’s hard work but the right way to go for us.
Your go-to foods for this Christmas?
We don’t offer turkey and the traditional roast because boar, venison, pigeon and partridge, duck and rabbit are great seasonal variations that are more sustainable. Instead of the Christmas classics like smoked salmon, we’ll use Whitby crab along with monkfish tails and sea trout – all delicious alternatives. We’ll be using fermented vegetables, purées and cured meats to elevate the festive dishes.
“65% of consumers are concerned about the environment and 63% say they would be more likely to try a restaurant's most sustainable dish over their regular favourite.”
The big night out
Your venue is all about the drinks, atmosphere and up-tempo beats, plus some tasty party food thrown in to keep customers well fuelled. Whether you’re putting on work Christmas parties or group gatherings for friends, make sure you’ve got an exciting food and drink menu to tempt in more bookings.
Drinks at the ready
Nearly half of consumers plan to trade up their drinks in December, according to CGA. That’s 16% higher than at Christmas 2019. So, there’s an opportunity to capture more trade in premium lines, from beer, cider and spirits, to wine, fizz and cocktails. Ask your regular customers what they’d like to see on the bar this year.
The landscape is likely to be competitive after last year’s no-show. Offer festive happy hours on weekdays. For parties, entice people by throwing in a free bottle of bubbly or spirits for early bookings, or give a set number of free drinks on arrival.
Try JD with a spin
Not just any sausage rolls
They’re popular for a reason
but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve a good thing. Spread pickle or pesto over the pastry before adding a meat or veggie filling for a new taste sensation.
The sweetest of freis
Chips are the ultimate snack food so can’t be missing from your menu. Scatter sweet potato fries with finely chopped thyme or rosemary and a drizzle of garlic or chilli oil before cooking.
Extra special spuds
Mini jacket potatoes are simple
to batch bake and are endlessly versatile. Top with a spoon of meat or veggie chilli, feta and sour cream, or BBQ beans, grated cheddar and optional crispy bacon bits.
For a sweet party food, make
large trays of different flavoured brownies (try orange, white choc chunk and hazelnut). Once cool, cut into small triangles, top with melted chocolate and sprinkles, then add a lollipop stick!
And don't forget
You’ve got your menu planned out and supplier orders in. The drinks selection is decided and bartenders are practising the new cocktails. But what about the rest? Do you have enough glassware? Are playlists made or DJs and live music booked? Have you got the Christmas crackers on order? Here are some other essentials.