Look to the sweet side of the menu on Mother’s Day

Restaurant Menu Trends: Dessert Menu Offerings for Mother’s Day

Nostalgia, indulgence and twists on old favorites help to drive dessert sales on Mother’s Day.


Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for restaurants, and it is also a great opportunity for operators to showcase new, innovative dessert options and snack items, while reinforcing the restaurant’s branding.

According to the National Restaurant Association, last year 92 million American adults, or 37 percent of consumers, were expected to dine out on Mother’s Day. Whether at brunch, lunch or dinner, restaurant-goers are looking for a meal to celebrate Mom, and that includes a fun, delicious offering on the sweet side of the menu.

Chefs are drawing their inspiration from several different trends, and putting their own touches on select sweets on this special day.


Familiar with a twist

Flavor trends often reflect consumer confidence, the economy and other factors that might not seem related to foodservice, says Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, Inc., a Tualatin, Ore.-based think tank that recently released its 2018 Trends Forecast Report. During recessions, comfort foods are popular, and during economic booms, experimental fusion dishes take hold.

“Right now America is in a stall pattern,” Badaracco says. “Consumers are not feeling great, but there is no economic underpinning, no housing crisis.”

That means a return to nostalgic dessert options with what she calls “flirty elements.” For example:

  • Chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce, white chocolate drizzle or cinnamon.
  • Strawberry shortcake with mango or regional blackberries instead of strawberries.
  • Pineapple upside down cake with tart cherries or blood orange instead of pineapple.

For Mother’s Day, Badaracco expects to see hybrids of classic desserts and snacks with innovative updates, such as:

  • Cheesecake with fruit inside instead of on top.
  • Brownies and cookies combined, or brookies.
  • S’mores as mousse.

It’s a celebration

Some operators will showcase desserts which feature traditional ingredients in a new presentation. At Bird Café in Fort Worth, Texas, Chef Kyle Baker plans to offer several dessert options for Mother’s Day:

  • Lavender panna cotta with a chocolate tuile and mixed berry compote.
  • Chocolate cake with brown butter sea foam and bourbon vanilla/Mexican vanilla ice cream.
  • House cobbler with a biscuit topping and whipped cream.

Baker says the lavender panna cotta is light and seasonal. “It’s something refreshing that won’t be too heavy,” he says. The chocolate cake and cobbler lean more towards nostalgia. “Usually I go for dishes that are familiar and bring back a sense of childhood, while making them rich and indulgent.”

Another way to make a spring dessert light is with lemon. At Steuben’s in Denver, Executive Pastry Chef Nadine Donovan is planning to feature the Lemon Icebox Bar for Mother’s Day. She notes that the dessert is “light and bright and perfect for the May holiday,” and features frozen lemon mousse, ginger crumble and blackberry sauce.


Remembering when

Indulgence and nostalgia inspire the Mother’s Day dessert at Houston-based Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille. Perry’s Dessert Trio includes vanilla bean crème brûlée, praline cheesecake and chocolate crunch, which is crunchy milk chocolate covered in a dark chocolate ganache served with homemade whipped cream, toffee and peanut brittle.

“We wanted to allow our guests the opportunity to sample several desserts as a tasting flight,” says Chris Perry, founder and president of the 19-location Perry’s Restaurants. “It is one of our most popular dessert offerings and is perfect when a guest can’t decide between several favorite offerings or simply wants a little of each.”


Bringing the festive snacks home

Some consumers prefer to host Mother’s Day at home, so operators are making it easy to pick up a dessert or snack. Irene’s in Austin, Texas offers a heart-shaped red velvet whoopie pie. It contains cream cheese filling and has “Mom” written in tattoo style. “It’s eye-catching,” says Mary Catherine Curren, executive pastry chef for the ELM Restaurant Group, which includes Irene’s, 24 Diner and Italic. “Everyone loves red velvet, and it’s goofy like the retro big men with tattoos.” The eatery even offers whoopie pies with “Mom” written in various languages, which Curren says has helped drive sales.

In Milwaukee, Pie Incorporated, the parent company of Honeypie Cafe and other pie concepts, offers PieGrams, 6-inch mini pies delivered locally via courier, or nationwide through the U.S. Postal Service. Valeri Lucks, managing partner and chief executive pie maker for PIE Inc, says the Mother's Day PieGram selections are:

  • Double Dark Chocolate Cream
  • Key Lime
  • Black Bottom Banana
  • Door County Cherry Berry

To help the Mother’s Day experience last beyond the meal, Zazie San Francisco prepares truffles for the moms, as little gift bags. “Last year I made ghost chili nutmeg chocolate truffles and they were pretty damn good,” says Jennifer Bennett Piallat, owner.

On Mother’s Day, the key is to offer dessert options and snacks that are fun and delicious. “You’ll see single serve and shareables, and indulgence,” says Badaracco, from Culinary Tides. “Nobody is going to come out with something on the healthy side for Mother’s Day.”