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Easter is on its way, and the colour is coming back into the world. This is the festival that has its roots in ancient traditions which celebrated spring and rebirth, going back to the pagan celebration of the spring equinox and the worship of the spring goddess Eostre or Ostara (depending on which part of Europe you lived in). When Christianity arrived and spread, it seemed natural to attach the commemoration of the death and rebirth of Christ to this ancient celebration of new life.

For Christians this is a very special time for worship and for reflection. This sacred side of Easter has been combined with ancient fertility symbols such as eggs and rabbits to create the Easter that we know today. Egg-painting traditions go back many centuries, while the first chocolate Easter eggs were created in the early years of the 19th century.

For people in the restaurant trade, it’s an opportunity to freshen things up, to bring in new customers, or to encourage people to bring their families in for a special Easter celebration. Start planning and advertising now, and it could be a fertile time for your business.

How restaurants can prepare for Easter

Perhaps the first thing to think about will be your sittings. Statistics show that although our eating habits are changing, we still like to eat with our families at least once a week. Easter weekend is a time when families will want eat out together: it’s a good, long break, with many people having four days off work or even more, so they’ll be in a relaxed frame of mind and in no mood to rush, or be rushed. And while not everyone gives something up for Lent, it’s likely that some of your customers will have been saving themselves for Easter and will be in a mood to indulge themselves.

Today’s family mealtimes are often more flexible than they used to be: people eat lunch at 3pm, or brunch at midday. So you might want to offer a brunch menu that continues through to mid-afternoon, and a lunch menu that extends into the early evening – perhaps even a carvery. Seasonal favourites are of course roast lamb, or roast beef, with plenty of fresh seasonal vegetables. Your brunch menu could focus on eggs: poached, scrambled, eggs benedict, eggs florentine, with smoked salmon, toasted bagels, rolls, scones, muffins, hot cross buns and so on.

Desserts should of course accentuate chocolate, and this is a chance for your kitchen to come up with some special creations served in nests or baskets and decorated with little eggs. Remember that today’s consumers are sophisticated chocolate-eaters: they like their chocolate in all its variety – dark, or chili, or salty, and high in cocoa; this is a chance for your kitchen to have some fun with different combinations. A bread-and-butter pudding made with hot cross buns is a clever twist on a traditional recipe. A nice touch, especially if you serve afternoon tea or coffee, would be to offer slices of simnel cake – a special Easter cake that’s been served since medieval times.

Making your restaurant seasonal with the right Easter decor

Decoration is something that’s important across your whole restaurant. Fresh flowers and perhaps table linen in seasonal pastel colours will breathe new life into your dining room. Spring blooms such as tulips, daffodils or lilies inject colour and fragrance. Tables can be decorated with little straw nests containing chocolate mini-eggs. Whatever you choose, the theme of Easter is brightness, light, colour and freshness.

Easter restaurant tips – happy dining, whatever the weather

This year, Easter falls on the weekend of March 25-28 - a little earlier than usual, so the weather may still be chilly. NeverthlessNevertheless, if your restaurant has a garden or an outdoor area, you might consider holding an Easter egg hunt that could also help turn a family meal into an event. Bear in mind that there may be children of different age groups, so you could make some of the eggs more difficult to find for the older children. If the weather is cold or wet, you could place a number of Easter eggs in locations around the interior of your restaurant; rather than running around collecting the eggs, which would of course be disruptive, youngsters could count up how many eggs they can see, and their locations, from where they are sitting, with prizes to those who can locate the most (give them a pen and paper to list them).

Restaurant table tips for entertaining the family

At the table, children could be offered colouring-in paper or books to keep them amused; if these are Easter-themed, with, say, rabbits or Easter chicks or spring flowers, all the better. Or you could get really creative and run an Easter egg painting competition for the youngsters: give them a free hard-boiled egg (no great cost to your budget) and coloured pens, with perhaps a prize to be awarded to each day’s winning design. Let them take the eggs home with them afterwards. Talking of which: your reception area should have a big jar of small colourful chocolate eggs; on the way out, these could be handed out to your customers, both large and small. Gestures such as this cost almost nothing, but generate a great deal of goodwill.

Don't forget...

Bear in mind that this year the clocks go forward on Easter Sunday, March 27, so on Sunday and Monday people may want to enjoy the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon.

Oh, and one more thing: given that many of your customers may be young, sensitive children with a fondness for the Easter bunny, it would probably be best to avoid putting rabbit stew on the menu.

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