In the previous articles of our staycation series, we looked at how to make your restaurant, bar or cafe stand out to customers and bring them an experience they won’t forget. We also took a deeper dive into how you can transport your customers to an exotic location, looking at holiday hotspots like France, Italy, Spain and Mexico. This article is going to be much the same, as we look at how you can create an ambiance in your restaurant through food, drink, music and decorations, that will delight and excite customers, making them feel like they’re on holiday without even leaving the country. 

One thing that’s important to consider too, is making your offering child-friendly. The summer holidays are well and truly underway and families will be coming in their thousands, complete with the grandparents and two dogs. Here are a few things you can do to keep the children entertained: Provide colouring sheets or even postcards that the children can colour in, write and then take with them to post. Create a competition for a child to draw a picture of the favourite thing they’ve done on their holiday, the winner gets a free meal (an incentive to come back). If you have a garden, maybe provide a box of games – something like boules is great for everyone. And if you allow dogs, it’s always a good idea to provide a few bowls of water. 

It’s easy to combine these things into your ‘vacation’ experience, games could be synonymous with a country and even colouring pictures too. But now, let’s look at some more popular spots that will have the customers battling to get through the doors.


Turkish food is a fusion of many different cuisines, largely influenced by the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Eastern European. They use a real mixture of spices in their food to create a delicate flavour. Things like allspice, fenugreek, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, saffron and sumac are very popular in many dishes. 

The ambiance:

  • Plain white tablecloths
  • Turkish music playing softly in the background
  • Simple candles in glass pots
  • Blackboards with the menu or specials on

The food:

  • Start with a mezze of Turkish appetizers: Pide (a Turkish bread), Borek (a savoury pie with cheese and herbs), Karniyarik (Turkish stuffed eggplant), Muhammara, humous, tzatziki and baba ghanoush
  • For the main go for kebabs, they are simple, versatile and can easily be made vegan. Marinade your meats and then skewer and grill them, for the non-meat eaters do aubergine or roasted cauliflower. Serve them on a flatbread with yoghurt and fresh herbs. Add a fresh crunchy salad of lettuce and tomatoes
  • Turkey has quite the sweet tooth when it comes to pudding and there’s a few typical ones you just can’t avoid: Baklava, a traditional sweet nutty dessert; Kazandibi, which is basically burnt milk pudding, and Turkish delight

The drink:

  • Ayran (made by mixing water and plain yoghurt – a great one for kids)
  • Efes beer or for wine, here are a few favourites: Turasan Grande Reserve, La Wines Meandros, Lucien Arkas Consensus Chardonnay
  • Finish in true Turkish style with a short measure of Raki


Thai food is all about sharing. Often, groups will order multiple dishes: one rice, one noodle, some grilled fish, and share them all. A typical Thai meal includes five main flavours: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy, and it’s balancing these just right that makes the perfect dish.

The ambiance: 

  • Chopsticks alongside and deep spoons for drinking up the soups
  • Thai food can get a little messy with everyone reaching over to share, use paper table clothes to keep it authentic
  • Play Thai music in the background or have a live act
  • Place printed menus on the table with the evening’s dishes

The food:

  • Start with some sharing plates like chicken satay, supreme spiced Thai ribs, summer rolls and chicken lettuce wraps
  • Keep it easy for yourself. Make four Thai dishes and serve them in a sharing style. Something like a Pad Thai, whole BBQ fish in Thai spices, Tom Kha Kai (chicken in coconut soup), raw crunchy Thai salad
  • Desserts in Thailand are very much based on what they have available, so rice, mango and coconut feature heavily. Some favourites are: Mango sticky rice, coconut ice cream, custard-filled bread

The drinks:

  • Start with Cha Yen, a Thai iced tea (add a little gin or vodka for something stronger)
  • Thai wine may be a little hard to get hold of but if you can find some go for it. Otherwise, a couple of beers to try are Singha and Chang, or cocktails are always a good idea – go fruity, mango, pineapple, coconut, lychee
  • Finish with Thai whiskeys like Mekhong and Sangsom

South Africa

South Africans love a BBQ or a Braai as they call it. They cook as much food as they can outside, using different cuts of exotic meats, accompanied by salads, cornbread and roasted vegetables. Marinades are a big part of how they add flavour to their meat too, and one of the secret ingredients is a little coca-cola, which helps to tenderise the meat.

The ambiance:

  • Wooden sharing boards, with meat, sliced
  • Serve food on plates or trays with a beige paper under it – it’s about sharing
  • South African music playing in the background
  • If you can, cook outside on a BBQ for the full experience!

The food:

  • Skip the starters and get straight to the main meal, you could put out a few standard nibbles or freshly baked cornbread for people to nibble 
  • We mentioned that South African’s have a lot of exotic meats, like Ostrich, Kudu or buffalo. This could make things a little pricey though, so just getting a nice cut of steak, rack of ribs or even whole chicken (cooked on the weber) would work. It’s best to cook whole cuts of meat and slice them for people to help themselves. Make a good marinade and make sure the meat sits in it for a solid 12 hours, basting it as you cook it
  • Also on the BBQ, throw butternut squash (cut them in half, season, add a clove of garlic peeled, cover them in foil and put them into the coals or wood for an hour – you can do the same with beetroot). When you serve, either mash the inside and serve in the skin (combining the garlic) and let people help themselves with a spoon. Put some other vegetables on the BBQ too: char corn on the cob (or mielie as they call it) sliced aubergine and courgette. A standard salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber will do too 
  • Make sure there is chutney on the table – they love chutney. Something like Mrs HS Balls, which is easy to find in the UK
  • For vegans, offer a meat-free burger or BBQ’d cauliflower steak
  • The best South African pudding is a Melktert (milk tart), a bit like a custard tart, serve it with ice cream and you’re onto a winner

The drinks:

  • South Africa is known for its wines and they’re easy to get hold of. Take your pick from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir or Shiraz
  • They also make some wonderful gins such as Bloedlemoen, a blood orange gin, or Inverroche
  • Beer: Carling Black Label, Hansa Pilsner, Castle Lager and Castle Lite


13 Limberline Road,
Hilsea Industrial Estate Hilsea, Portsmouth,
Hampshire PO3 5JF

© Dennis Edwards for Foodservice 2022