Whilst consumers may still be reminiscing over summer holidays, with less than three months to go chefs are already looking ahead to the Christmas season. Planning the perfect festive feast takes time and effort as chefs must understand consumers’ needs and wants. The Premier Foods Foodservice team has shared some insight from its latest consumer survey designed to inspire chefs and help them to promote their seasonal menus.

Food plays an important part in the festivities for eight in ten adults who believe that it brings people together and adds to the social experience. Eating out at least once over the Christmas period is important for 56% of diners which provides pubs and restaurateurs with an exciting opportunity to drive sales.

As 79% of respondents said they prefer to eat traditional dishes on Christmas Day, chefs shouldn’t ignore the classics such as roast turkey or Christmas pudding when menu planning. Consumers were asked which food item they would be most upset about if it was forgotten on Christmas Day and the top five were roast potatoes, gravy, meat, pigs in blankets and stuffing.

When thinking about the key element of the main course the most popular three choices were turkey followed by chicken and then a plant-based option. For dessert, Christmas pudding followed jointly by trifle and yule Christmas log hit the top spots.

It is not just Christmas Day that provides an opportunity to drive sales for pubs and restaurants, as more than half of the respondents (52%) agreed that food plays an important part in their Christmas party too. More than half (55%) also agreed they would enjoy a Christmas food and drink pairing experience providing an additional marketing opportunity for pubs and restaurants to drive festive bookings. Premier Foods Foodservice has a Christmas pairing recipe book which is freely available from their website.

Offering a festive themed menu or takeaway items provides another option to drive sales and the most popular purchases are a mince pie followed by a Christmas sandwich and then a Christmas themed hot chocolate.

Catering for everyone’s needs should be a top priority on Christmas Day as over a third of respondents (35%) said if eating out the choice of Christmas food is frustrating when you have a special diet. When thinking about a group Christmas dinner, the dietary requirements people consider most are vegetarian followed by low sugar and vegan. Dietary requirements determine where to eat out for almost a quarter of respondents.

It’s important to include some healthier and lighter options on menus, as almost half of respondents (49%) said they have become more mindful of how much food they consume over the Christmas period. Premier Foods Foodservice has a number of lighter festive dessert recipes available using Ambrosia Light which has 30% less sugar and fat.

Sarah Robb, marketing manager at Premier Foods Foodservice said: “We know what a busy time the festive season is for chefs in all areas of foodservice, so we wanted to provide as much insight as possible to help our customers to drive sales. With gravy, stuffing and Yorkshire Puddings being some of the most popular elements of Christmas Dinner we know our Bisto, Paxo and McDougalls products will play a vital role in ensuring chefs meet their diners’ demands. We have created some new recipes to help chefs save time in the kitchen and over the coming weeks and months will be providing plenty of inspiration on our social media channels.”

When marketing menus and festive events, chefs need to remember what the festive season is all about. When people were asked to describe the perfect Christmas in one word, it was all about family for 76%; food was mentioned by 45% and fun by 17%. Almost a quarter prefer a more relaxing Christmas Day by eating out so this key selling point should be promoted in your marketing activity.

Chefs can discover more advice for Christmas menus as well as a wide range of recipes at www.premierfoodservice.co.uk.

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