Dine-in restaurants are taking a serious look at, or due to circumstances, being forced to pivot toward, take-out and delivery as a primary service for their business. This change in strategy often includes developing unique to-go menu options, as well as getting creative with existing take-out and delivery solutions.
Perhaps this was always a part of your plans to expand your offering. Maybe this is a first step into uncharted territory. Either way, offering customers the option to pick up their meals – quickly and conveniently – is a service that continues to gain traction, especially during difficult times.
Adjusting Your Menu
For starters, carefully review your current menu. Consider every recipe. Determine the level of effort needed to maintain consistent food quality, and whether or not new ingredients are required. It’s likely that not every item on your menu will make the cut, for one reason or another.
Don’t be discouraged. And don’t limit your entire menu. Rather, focus on what makes the most sense for your business. Be creative and look into the possibility of developing new, unique and manageable menu options that won’t damage your budget.
Be aware that additional ingredients for new recipes may not be readily available. Similarly, having the staff, training and expertise to reinvent your menu to accommodate for delivery and take-out will pose its own set of constraints. Necessity continues to be the mother of invention. Lean on your experience to find the solution that best meets your needs.
Keep Your Customers Top of Mind
Restaurants are offering both standard and modified menus as a part of their take-out service, with varying degrees of success. Don’t become overwhelmed with this decision. Keep your menu focused and avoid overextending yourself. This is probably the best way to start. Sticking with a more casual version of your existing menu is a safe bet and what your regular customers may be expecting.
However, it’s also important to be flexible and adapt to your customers’ unique situations. Considering that a large percentage of those same customers fall into the “family” category, think about how your restaurant can meet their needs. A modified take-out menu could include family-sized portions and freezer-friendly options, like trays of macaroni and cheese or other casserole-like meals.
Offering meal kits is another opportunity worth exploring. Assemble the main meal, ingredients for simple sides and a bottle of wine, all boxed together and ready for delivery. Rotate between a variety of meats, vegetables and dry pastas, and consider including simple-to-prepare and interesting recipe ideas. Options like this cut back on overall prep time and offer your customers a new and unique experience.
Be aware of what will benefit the community, at the current time. This can go a long way to maintaining a solid reputation and has the potential to result in repeat business and an increase in the number and frequency of orders placed.
Spread the Word – You’re Open for Business!
Whatever changes or updates you make to your menu, verify that it’s mobile friendly. An easy-to-read menu is a key ingredient to promoting your take-out and delivery service. It’s also helpful to clearly identify how many people each of your recipes will serve. As stated above, this speaks to orders placed by families, with an opportunity for tasty leftovers.
Check that your menu has also been accurately updated on all of the available delivery services you may be using – DoorDash, Uber Eats or Grubhub. These delivery services have become a staple within the restaurant industry. Aligning your menu changes with these services will help to avoid any future missteps.
Incentivize your customers by offering coupons for takeout orders as a means to help generate interest and kick-start this service. Take advantage of social media and utilize every resource available to you. Partner with other, nearby businesses to help promote your individual brands and coordinate in ways that generate business opportunities for everyone involved.
The Last Mile
One of the biggest challenges with take-out and delivery is keeping hot foods hot, cold foods cold and preventing cross-contamination; while also avoiding soggy bread, wilted vegetables and spilled drinks. All of which leave a bad taste in the mouths of your customers.
When reviewing your current menu, make note of those items that will be most conducive to being packed and transported. Limiting your take-out options to those menu items that only travel well might be a good decision if you are new to this space.
Make sure that the packaging you select will maintain the quality and integrity of your food. Durable, leak prevention and resistance to breaking are all terms that should bubble to the top of your to-go packaging decisions.
It’s unlikely that everything on your regular menu will be a good addition to your take-out menu; and that’s perfectly acceptable. If there is the possibility that a particular dish is likely to be delivered to your customer in an unappetizing way, don’t include it. Making these initial decisions now will help to ensure your customers get the best possible experience and will go a long way with building up and sustaining this part of your business moving forward.