Posted on Thursday, 11ᵗʰ November, 2021
Emerging from two years of uncertainty, consumers are keen to splurge on themselves as 2021 comes to a close. For food venues, this bodes well for a lucrative festive season.
In a recent report from investment firm UBS, research says Australian households have put away $120 billion in the past two years, with eating out topping the list of things people intend to do in the weeks and months to come.
So, what’s likely to drive menu creativity this Christmas? We’ve scoured the globe to identify the trends that will bring good cheer to diners as they look forward to eating at their favourite venues once more.
Grandma’s Christmas recipes are getting a modern makeover, with traditional favourites re-emerging in new and intriguing guises.
Festive staples are undergoing a reinvention—think ham in a calzone or as part of an indulgent crepe. Turkey is also set for a creative shake up, with sausage rolls on the menu and zesty, fruit-based stuffing growing in popularity.
Glazes provide opportunities for exciting twists, with immunity-boosting ingredients such as ginger and lime underpinning a flavour shift for Christmas meats.
Chefs are also playing with evolving diner palates and bringing the heat to a range of festive dishes by spicing up summer salad dressings, seafood sauces and roasted veggie seasonings. Even the humble cranberry, a Christmas classic, is being redeployed in everything from bite-sized appetisers to casseroles for a hint of sweetness.
Creativity in vegetarian cooking is going to new levels to deliver Christmas meals with no hint of compromise.
This year, make sure your vegetarian diners get into the festive spirit with seitan or stuffed tofu-based loaves, both of which make great ‘centre-of-table’ substitutes to traditional ham and turkey roasts. Whether bulked up with the likes of mushrooms and nuts or seasoned with a vegetarian gravy or liquid smoke, these protein replacements offer bulky blank canvases for your favourite Christmas flavours.
Christmas pies, galettes and tarts are also great for accommodating a vegetarian twist. Curry, garam masala, caramelised onion and cumin add a flavoursome kick to any veggie-based pastry. Cauliflower steaks and potato gratin offer vegetarians a substantial meal and can be prepared with a range of deliciously complex flavours.
Christmas day can be busy for many people, particularly those who may have multiple family groups to visit or events to attend. Not surprisingly, dining out for breakfast on Christmas Day is becoming a new tradition for many. For chefs, breakfast and brunch are another way to bring the festive spirit to life.
This year, popular South Melbourne coffee joint St Ali begins Christmas Day celebrations at 7am to serve its famous self-roasted coffee with festive fare including oysters, pork belly with apple and an indulgent Eton mess dessert.
Overlooking Adelaide’s famous Glenelg Beach, the Stamford Grand Hotel will be serving its Christmas-inspired buffet breakfast over two early morning sittings, while the bistro at Sydney’s historic Bathers’ Pavilion in Balmoral will offer early brunch slots that conclude mid-morning, freeing up the remainder of the day for festive revellers.
After a long time away from in-venue dining, comfort foods such as soups, stews, roasts and schnitzels will enjoy a surge in popularity during the festive season as diners get back into the swing of things.
The trick for kitchens is to find interesting ways to riff on familiar flavours. Slow-cooked dahl, smoked ribs and coq au vin in white wine are just a hint of the twists we’re seeing on comfort foods. For brekkie and brunch joints, classic sweet and baked goods also look set to be embraced by eager diners.
The key is to deliver the sort of flavours your customers have been missing, while continuing to put your own unique spin on dishes.
Given venues in many areas continue to operate under social distancing rules, it is expected outdoor dining will thrive this festive season. For operators, many of whom may be servicing an outdoor space for the first time, menu adjustments that work for this format are a must.
Dishes that complement outdoor dining are an easy win—think burger sliders, gourmet toasties and salad bowls. You can even swing to modern Australian festive foods, such as citrus flavoured prawn skewers or a crispy lamb salad.
But to really capture the outdoor spirit, consider installing a barbeque or smoker in your courtyard or beer garden. Not only will you add to the ambience of these spaces, but you’ll also be harnessing the popular shift towards smoked and BBQ foods.