Innovation for the sake of convenience was already playing out in the foodservice industry long before this pandemic developed. Over the last few years, we saw more restaurants offer curbside pickup. We also witnessed the food delivery industry take off with such services as UberEats and DoorDash.
With the restaurant industry making such strides to keep up with food delivery trends and expand service outside the dining room, they now reap the benefit of continuous sales during dining room closures. Creative maneuvers are keeping restaurants in operation.
While the effects on the restaurant industry have been dire, businesses are thinking on their feet and coming up with novel solutions. These ventures signal hope over despair as they carve out ways to continue service in any way they can. Let’s explore some ways you can be scrappy and make the most of your resources.
Offer Pre-Made Meals of Your Most Popular Dishes
Back in 2003, Papa Murphy’s took the “take and bake” concept nationwide. It turns out that consumers are quite alright with cooking their own pizza.
Restaurants such as Boston Market and BJ’s Brewhouse now offer “heat and eat” meals allowing customers to treat themselves to delicious entrees at their leisure.
Which of your menu items has consistently sold well in the past? Can your cooks modify dishes for make-ahead packaging?
Be a Makeshift Market
A main appeal of restaurants is having someone else do the cooking, but now customers can opt for cooking for themselves. Meal subscription services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh have been assembling meal kits for nearly a decade now.
Packaging quality ingredients together saves people the hassle of searching for recipes, making a grocery list, and having to hunt down all the items. Texas-based H-E-B grocery stores packaged their own meal kits to offer this convenience to their shoppers.
Shake Shack is one such chain that adopted the meal kit concept. They offer burger kits with buns, cheese, beef patties, and their signature sauce.
With people stocking up on groceries to cut down on public outings, some grocery stores are experiencing shortages of some items. Restaurants are stepping up by setting up their own little shops to sell items usually purchased at a supermarket.
Modern Market is now selling grocery boxes with fresh produce, meat, dairy, bread, etc. They’ll even throw in a roll of toilet paper.
Some Subway locations are selling individual grocery items such as bread, egg patties, cheese, meat, veggies, soups, as well as their usual bagged chips and baked cookies.
1431 Cafe (a family-owned restaurant in Cedar Park, TX) also started selling grocery items including the usual dairy case selection, flour, a variety of different bread products, meats, fish, etc. They even sell household items like paper towels, toilet paper, and bleach.
Repurposing your inventory creates a grocery store alternative for customers. You can sell ingredients individually or package them together as a meal kit. If your customer ever wondered if they could create the same tasty meal at home, this is their chance to try it out.
Partner With Your Local Grocery Store
H-E-B is offering to market in its stores ready-made meals sourced from local restaurants. This expands sales opportunities for struggling restaurants. The retailer will not keep the revenue as all proceeds go directly to the restaurant of origin.
Communicate with your local stores about selling your dishes in their stores. They may be quite eager to assist you.
Share One of Your Most Popular Recipes
One way to stay connected with your customers is through continued marketing. Posting resources on your social media or website lets them know that while you may be closed, you are still in the game.
For example, the movie theater and eatery Alamo Drafthouse started the campaign “Alamo at Home” with fun activities and even recipes!
Read More: Restaurant Culture Tips for Increased Sales
Help Customers Celebrate Birthdays
Shelter in place put a moratorium on our traditionally social birthday celebrations. Chuck E Cheese has been a children’s birthday party hub for decades. While they can’t host birthday parties at the moment, they want to bring the party to you!
Chuck E Cheese’s family package is available for pick up or delivery and includes pizza, cake, and even treat bags!
Texas suspended its policy on alcohol not being allowed to leave the premises of a restaurant. Now customers can have booze with their take out order as long as a food item is ordered with it. This allows Taco Cabana to have a drive-through Happy Hour and serve frozen margaritas through the window.
If you are currently selling alcohol with orders, you might consider marketing this in the context of birthday celebrations.
Has your restaurant been a favorite place to celebrate birthdays? Brainstorm ways to continue celebrating birthdays with your loyal customers.
Optimize Delivery Opportunities
Contactless delivery is catching on lately. People are doing their part to fight the spread of Coronavirus by staying home as much as possible. Restaurants are encouraging online food delivery by offering free delivery and such other promotions.
With the food delivery business model, what has been a side hustle in recent years is now a lifeline as food delivery enables restaurants to continue food service.
DoorDash has rolled up its sleeves to best leverage a thriving food delivery market for its current restaurant partners. Such relief measures are suspending commissions on pick up orders, nixing delivery fees, and allowing up to $20 million in marketing programs.
Through the end of April, DoorDash is offering new independent restaurant customers free sign up and no commission fees for 30 days.
With so much of a restaurant’s business now relying on take-out orders, the time to expand delivery operations is now. Sign up for as many delivery services as you feasibly can and mobilize your staff to make deliveries if possible.
It’s Your Time to Shine
With business being anything but usual lately, it’s not only okay to be unconventional now – it’s a must.
Be open to inspiration from trends and by watching what others are doing. Adopt the ideas that are compatible with your situation and make them your own by putting your own spin on it.
Seek support from others. Gather your staff together for brainstorm sessions. What once may have sounded like a kooky or impractical idea may end up being your next big hook. Reach out to your community. Network with other businesses such as food retailers and see if they’d be open to arrangements.
Let your social media followers know what you’re up to and give your bold new idea a chance to gain traction and generate buzz.
Recognizing Our Restaurateurs
RCG (rcsuppliesonline.com) understands that our restaurants are facing many big challenges. However, we are also inspired by witnessing what businesses are doing across our country to help their workers, their partners, and their community. We’re impressed by the various ways the foodservice industry is adapting to food delivery trends and what promised to be debilitating change.
We salute the employers who provide sick leave for their people, companies who provide relief for their franchises, and the restaurants who continue to feed their communities.
Because of your willingness to serve, those who struggle to get what they need from the grocery store have a shopping alternative. Because of your dedication, we can still enjoy our favorite comfort foods. Thank you!