The restaurant industry has changed during the pandemic. As operators fight to remain profitable, they’ve found it necessary to adapt. Portability has become a priority, not just a buzzword, and it’s vital for survival.
Operators in the hospitality business have been forced to rethink their business models, and that includes exploring alternative options for income. There are lots of ideas that involve your portability program.
Meal kits and to-go options
Meal kits and grab-and-go offerings have quickly risen as top options for restaurants. These can include:
- Trays of take-and-bake items.
- Ready-to-eat sandwiches.
- Personal-sized heat-and-eat meals.
The off-premise options are unlimited for operators willing to adapt current menu items or introduce new items they may have been considering in the past.
The shareables opportunity
Themed shareables are also gaining popularity as many states are starting to ease social restrictions. People are gathering in small groups in backyards or public parks, and they’re looking for easy food ideas. Here are three fun options:
- Seafood boils in a ready to go “steamer pot.”
- Charcuterie boards in a box with all the accoutrements.
- DIY “lunch and learn” concepts, such as a package with sushi roll ingredients.
Any of these ideas can include a link to a “how to” video on your operation’s web page. Highlighting your chef in this video is a great way to boost morale with staff and create a special connection with customers.
Branding and beyond
Marketing retail items inside the restaurant provides an income stream that also increases branding strength. Packaging take-alongs of signature items with your restaurant’s logo is a great way to create visibility inside a customer’s home to encourage repeat business. Consider adding your brand to items like:
- Dipping sauces.
- Spice blends.
- Cocktail mixers.
If your restaurant is known for signature menu items, these also can be placed into branded packaging for retail. Some options:
- A quart of your marinara sauce.
- A pint of your housemade pickles.
- A pound of your smoked pork.
Adaptation takes many forms
One thing that’s crystal clear to restaurateurs in this pandemic is that there’s no cookie cutter solution. Every business and demographic is unique, and finding your sweet spot for success can be a challenge.
It’s imperative to watch what’s working for other operators, consult with experts and, above all, listen to customers’ needs. And don’t overlook messaging. Social media is highly effective for communicating your unique offerings.
— Written by Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist Rachel Mazur