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How to create a festive Christmas menu

Posted by Ilona Wallace on Nov 22, 2016 8:20:00 AM

The silly season is fast approaching. Depending on where you are in the world, you may still be cleaning Halloween’s cobwebs off the walls as the baubles and tinsel start to go up.

Deciding how far your café will go to celebrate Christmas is an important, and sometimes personal, choice. Here are some tips for adapting your menu for Christmas, from the subtle to the extravagant.

Pick Your Christmas Flavor


Christmas has unique scents and tastes – “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, cinnamon, gingerbread, orange, rum. These are the hallmark flavors of Christmas.

An easy way to adapt your menu for the Christmas season is to add a drink special that incorporates some of these flavors. A Christmas hot chocolate has a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. A Christmas cocktail combines spiced rum with a twist of orange.

Simple, no fuss, easy to recreate.

Never Underestimate the Power of Nostalgia


The good thing is, if you hit a winner with your Christmas special, you’ll never have to think of another one again. The promise of the return of a limited release can tap into the nostalgia market – people who fondly remember an item are more likely to be repeat purchasers if they encounter the item again. This nostalgia is the driving force behind, for example, social media campaigns to get chain restaurants to bring back old menu options.

The bonus is, Christmas is a season absolutely steeped in nostalgia, so you’re likely to make a more memorable impression.

Keep it Relevant

If you’re a seafood restaurant, don’t dump turkey on your menu for two weeks. It’s obvious that you’re trying to “cash in” on the holiday spirit, and people don’t like knowing their emotions are being played with. Try to adapt your cuisine for the season.

Christmas is a global phenomenon, which means different cultures celebrate the season in different ways. If mulled wine and turkey aren’t how you celebrate Christmas, think about ways to make your menu reflect the local festivities. In Australia, this could mean adding summer fruits to more recipes, or experimenting with ham off the bone. Think about your environment. It’s the perfect time to be seasonal, in more than one sense of the word!


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Get Crafty


You might not want or be able to change the items on your menu. If you can’t make things taste like Christmas, you might be able to make them look like Christmas.

If you’re a big-budget operation, you might have special menus printed for the Christmas season, with holly and other motifs on the cards.

If you can’t lash out to that extent, you could add some fun Christmas detailing to your chalkboard menu or specials board. It doesn’t need to be much – it might be a cardboard cut out Rudolf, or a simple sketch of some holly.

Prepare for End of Year Parties


A photo posted by Geraldine (@littlebigbell) on


Many businesses host end of year/Christmas parties for their staff and clients. Get ahead of the game and design your Christmas events menu well in advance.

Pop this up on your website with your functions information. Potential clients will be able to quickly find what they’re looking for. Being prepared will put your client at ease – so everyone is happier all round!

By limiting function menus to set options, you will ease the logistical nightmare of catering at Christmas time. The earlier your clients know what’s in store, the earlier you can secure orders with your wholesalers.   

Make it a Side Dish


A photo posted by Marian Poirier (@sweetopia_) on


Your menu doesn’t have to scream “HO HO HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Many people don’t celebrate Christmas. Some people celebrate Christmas but hate the commercial frippery around the event. So, you may wish to make a subtle addition to your menu.

If you have a sweets cabinet with cakes and biscuits on display, incorporate Christmas quietly here. Perhaps some red and green icing on cupcakes. Maybe a spiced orange and poppyseed cake. Or a classic Christmas pudding!


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Topics: Hospitality marketing, Hospitality insights