Although I consider myself to be a “fun-in-the-sun” person, who considers summertime to be the best time of year, I have to say with fall upon us I have never been more ready. Mostly, this year I am ready for cooler weather, exchanging shorts and tees for sweatpants and sweaters, the time of year when I can smell fall in the air, where I can enjoy soup, hot cider, or a nice hot cup of coffee wherever I might be.

According to a recent report from SpotOn, a leading restaurant software and payments provider, it looks like I am not alone in my sentiments that fall can't come soon enough. 

Although big chains are announcing their fall special arrivals earlier than ever, SpotOn reports that independent restaurants have already beat them to it, citing more than 602 pumpkin menu items already added to their client’s SpotOn Restaurant point-of-sale menus across the United States, starting July 8.

SpotOn has seen a 2,200% increase in pumpkin menu items added since July 1, it says. With the hottest summer on record, the company projects that fall items have been in greater demand even earlier this year.

“Usually, we see pumpkin or fall-themed beverage offerings added to menus beginning in August,” says Kevin Bryla, chief marketing officer and head of customer experience at SpotOn. “This year, we saw restaurants begin adding pumpkin-themed beverages at the beginning of July.”

Bryla adds that the earlier arrival of fall flavors is an industry-wide trend. “I think it gives consumers something to look forward to, especially this year, as most of the country has heat fatigue,” he says. “For bars and restaurants, introducing the flavors earlier brings business to a typically slow end of summer and helps drive visits and sales.”

In terms of pumpkin items on menus, SpotOn reports that 65% are beverages (27% beer, wine, 20% cocktail, 13% coffee, and 4% tea) from July 8 to Aug. 7 reporting time. Although beer is the majority of the pumpkin additions, Bryla notes that cocktails and non-alcohol options are finding their place on menus.

“Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, has rolled out pumpkin versions of classics like the Martini, Mule, White Russian, and Old Fashioned,” he says.

Operators also are branching out beyond the standard pumpkin spice latte by putting their own spin on the seasonal favorite. 

“Cote Korean Steakhouse does a frozen pumpkin spice from their frozen cocktail machine in between their summer frose and winter friesling seasons,” Brylas says. “Arcade 2084 is an arcade bar in Hillsborough, Ore., influenced by ‘80s pop culture, including the Cold War with Russia, which serves as inspiration for their Pumpkin Russian, a twist on a classic White Russian using pumpkin spice creamer instead of regular cream topped with crushed cinnamon graham crackers.”

And for those who are against the pumpkin spice latte trend, SpotOn is reporting even more fall flavors popping up since July 8:

  • 401 Maple items added
  • 419 Pecan items added
  • 684 Pear items added 

“Urban Roast in DC is introducing an earl gray vanilla old fashion in addition to their Pumpkin spice espresso martini,” Bryla says. “In addition, other common fall flavors we’re seeing pop up include apple, maple, pecan and pear, as well as variations on hot chocolates and ciders. We are also starting to see Halloween-focused specials appear, including a selection of cocktails from R&R Prime in Georgia, such as a Poison Apple Manhattan and a Spooky Smores Martini.”

Bryla adds that operators that embrace fall flavor within their beverage menus are likely to see the effectiveness to enhance their sales, but also overall business performance and operations.

“Introducing a seasonal, limited-time offer can create a sense of excitement and anticipation, not only for your guest but also for your staff, and drive sales from late August well into November,” he says. “People love experiencing and sharing something new, and a fall-inspired beverage lineup can help operators tap into this. Remember, it’s not just about the menu items themselves, but the emotions and memories they evoke ― feelings of cozy sweater weather, fall gatherings, and comforting flavors.”

When crafting your own seasonal flavors menu, Bryla highlights the importance of getting an understanding of your concept and guest preferences, and taking your time to align your model with guests’ tastes and your business needs.

“Once you have a great idea, use it to reconnect with your guests,” Bryla says. “Communication is key, and your seasonal offerings provide an excellent opportunity to engage with your clientele. Email marketing and social media tools built into your point-of-sale can be powerful ways to spread the word about your fall beverages. By showcasing the offerings’ unique flavors and limited-time nature, you create a sense of urgency and anticipation that drives more customers through your doors.”