Ideas for comfort food menu
I'm not a professional, just a dude who loves to cook. I don't know what kind of food ur restaurant cooks normally but 2 of my favorite winter dishes r shepherds pie and clam chowder in a bread bowl. From what I under stand is they r both very easy to do in a restaurant setting. The chowder, well its soup, enough said. The shepherds pie, make the filling ahead of time then when ordered fill a ramikin top with mashed potatoes, broil then serve. Again I'm not a professional but I'm pretty sure a trained monkey could do that have fun
Homemade veggie or regular chili
It depends on the demographic in the area.
Ur target is locals in the winter months.
How old are they?
How rich are they?
Go around to the other successful restaurants see what they do.
Dont copy , get inspired.
If it is as slow as you say you can do a lot more scratch cooking.
And cleaning.; )
Comfort food is such a wide category that deals a lot with where you are from / grew up, etc... Comfort food to me is some super heavy, super rich roux based mac n cheese that wants to instantly clog your arteries. Comfort food to someone who grew up with more money may be steak and potatoes, regardless; here are a few comfort food choices that you can easily "sex" up, either with ingredients or presentation options to make them as glamorous, or as "at-home" as you want them to be.
Pot pies - easy easy, about 10 oz of cooked chicken, a full .237 ladle of your veg/sauce mix, and top with a pastry crust. Wrap and store in walk in, pull out to order and give about 8-10 mins at 475 to toast the crust and get the mix nice and hot.
Meatloaf - I know someone else said this but yeah.. so damn delicious.
Shrimp (or chicken) and grits - Another dish that's super easy to sex up or dumb down, whichever way you want to go with it.
Mac n cheese - You can either go gourmet, roux based, multiple cheese mixture topped with panko, or just simple shells n melted cheese to make it as simple or elegant as you want it.
Cottage Pie - Effing delicious
Something that a lot of restaurants in my area, including the one I work at, do in the slower months is, introduce weekly special(s). If it's easy to get fish, then on day x do a fish special, and then on day y do a meat special. Specials are a great way to introduce items that you normally wouldn't put on your menu and see how they are received.
Edit, as far as the hot sandwiches go, You can make almost any favorite into an open face, cover with gravy or a sauce and serve it hot, honestly the ideas are limitless there. Good luck man, hope you do well. Personally I'd love for you post back with what your final winter menu is, I'd love to check it out.
Anything in the Fanny Farmer cookbook
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume).
Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...
We do our fried chicken to order, toss it in a batter then into the deep fryer, when it comes out it gets tossed in bbq sauce (optional of course) it is an under 10 minute item, depending on volume of course. If you have 80 open menus and 40 people order fried chicken, that 10 minute statement goes out the window.
Bangers and mash with onion gravy, Jam Roly Poly, Snake and Pigmy Pudding,Spotted Dick,Toad in the Hole with onion gravy, Welsh Rarebit, Queen of Puds, Treacle tart with cornflake and custard. Cauliflower Cheese, Cornish Pasties with baked beans.
Playing devil's advocate here...
In my limited experience, trying to serve a menu heavy on comfort/soul dishes is a bit dicey.
The love for these dishes lie in the subconscious of adults trying to relive or capture a certain feeling from their unique childhood experiences.
IMO each dish should have a spin on it so your diners aren't grumbling "this is not how my mom made it" or whatever, (unless maybe their mom's cook like my DD, in which case they are all over it, ;-)
Just a small distraction...like you are re-creating the whole comfort thing (which you are).
Like bacon crispies to garnish the mac n chz (or whatever, you get my drift...)
Except, for some reason chicken soup.
When I have a head cold and my pantry is low and no one will come 'round to see me and provide some take out, even Campbell's will do in a pinch.
* Just a thought... please, please no more chicken ceasar salads.....
When I think of comfort foods I think of the following
Roast poultry w/ mash
Pot roast w/ roasted veg
Mac and cheese w/ garlic bread
Open faced hot turkey w/ mash
Ham w/ yams
Roasted beet soup
Winter squash soup
Your issue however doesn't seem to be your menu ideas. You don't even have one cook you can trust to rock out a veg scampi or do fried chicken to order. You need cooks with a skill set, or you need cooks that want to learn. Seems like more and more people are looking at this as general labor and not a trade/craft its sad really.
While I am only a cookbook author, I am a person who seeks favorite restuarants in many countries and states.
I think the criteria for your selections should be based on sustainable seasonable foods that your chefs can easily prepare. They need to be money makers.
The hamburger is the number one selling menu item in the United States, the second is French Fries. I would poll your customers or atleast have scheduled specials and see how customers take to a candidate menu item. A good restaurateur knows his customers! Take the time to know them and consider that the women eat differently than men, especially the heath conscious. Keep your menu no larger that your staff can handle. You cannot save the rain forest if you are starving to death so expand only once profitable.
Start a program to train your staff. Get rid of dead weight or those that will not or are not anxious to learn. This is a tough business and to survive everything matters.
Southern Smothered Fried chicken is usually served over rice and both rice and this dish can stand at 140 F in a warmer for considerable time, if covered. (Same goes for Macaroni and Cheese– don’t go cheap on the cheese brands there is enough profit in the low labor nature of the dish.
Any pasta can be prepared in under 15 minutes and heated in its sauce quickly via the saute pan.
Biscuits in Sawmill gravy is quick too. So are omletes. Dinner omelets a generally made with three eggs.
Grilled steak is easy. Top with garlic butter or parseley butter
Nothing is faster to cook or more profitable that thin crust pizza. A thin crust pizz cooks in under 7 minutes in a 600F pizza oven. Everybody loves pizza.
Love to see what you come up with, once you have decided what to start with. As an exercise, time your chefs to determine how long it takes them to prepare an item, and exactly how much it costs to prepare.
Offer good soups as a hearty soup sell well in the winter as do stews - these make good specials.
All that is fine, in the right place/style/type of restaurant.
In our restaurant if we tried to server our customers a thin crust pizza and call it comfort food, they would flip our tables over in fits of rage.Same with hamburgers. While I agree with you about these items being great sellers, I would disagree that either of them would be considered comfort food, but again, there are tons of variables regarding comfort food. To me (and the majority of people in my area) comfort food is my Mom's old school fried chicken with skin on mashed potatoes and cornbread with a touch of sugar with a big glass of sweetened sun tea. To someone from another area, that may years away from what they consider comfort food.
I guess I'm just saying that because someone sells good, doesn't mean it should be on every menu, especially specialized menus.
Chicken Noodle Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, hot baked apples with cinnamon sauce
Pinto Beans cooked with ham bone, bites of ham, cornbread AND/OR homemade white bread and butter,
Fresh hot Biscuits and sausage gravy served with finely chopped egg garnish
Boiled chicken and quartered potatoes, chopped onion, corn: the amount of broth makes it a plate or soup bowl.
Rice and bite size (beef, pork, chicken, fish) with Chinese vegetables.
Macaroni and Cheese served with beef links
It occurs to me that you could start with a basic seven comfort meals (one per day) -- menu would read "Comfort meal of the day" and your wait team would have to tell the diners. Request suggestions from your diners. Something like a suggestion box, but labeled "My favorite comfort food" ... then actually serve those items. It seems as though people would visit your establishment with a wider smile if they knew you were actually interested in making them happy. Plus, you might find diners coming out of curiosity. It could get popular enough to necessitate two per day, might spill over into the summer when your 'regular' are transient.
In my world grilled cheese is ALWAYS served with (canned) tomato soup.
An exception can be made if the cheese is not sliced American (on white bread) then you are allowed to serve a twisted type tomato with cream and herbs (see the La Madeline menu).
Also, whenever white bread is served it is soft, soft, soft Wonder Bread.
See what I mean about trying to recreate comfort food for the masses?
* I do, however, like your dish of the day suggestion.
What kind of seasonally available meats etc do you have?
We used to do 2 main dishes in our restuarant a " cheap plate " kind of a blue plate special I guess and a main that was a bit dearer besides the regular other dishes.
Cheap would be either stuffed hearts, or a kidney turbigo stew kind of thing maybe goulash. cheap cuts of meat slow braised served in a rich gravy with dumplings with one or 2 veg.
Or a roast, either beef lamb or pork.
Wee did on dish that was always popular called farmhouse cobbbler.
a sort of stew using potates carrots and peas with pork sausage balls in a gravy made from chicken and leek soup. it was topped with cheese scones ( hence the cobbler ) easy to make inexpensive to produce add the scone to precooked stew base and bake for 10-15 minutes to finish.