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Takeout: Comfort Food and Family Meal to Go

January 1, 2018

Comfort and convenience are top trends. Leverage the momentum with family-size meals and comfort foods to-go for off-premise dining. We have some great ideas to get you started.

When it comes to takeout, there’s more to menus than pizza and Chinese food. While these tried-and-true specialties remain top sellers, familiar favorites like fried or rotisserie chicken, ribs, burgers, steak, rice bowls, pot roast, macaroni and cheese, and other comfort foods are just as popular for takeout as they are for dine-in. And fortunately, all these items travel well.

That’s not surprising, since comfort foods, by their nature, are generally foods that are cooked low and slow, creating deep flavors and tender results—the kind of recipes many customers no longer have time to cook at home. This does not preclude exciting ethnic specialties and global flavors, either, which can be as comforting as an all-American specialty.

For more ideas, see below.

Here are some comfort foods available for takeout from one casual restaurant chain that is moving vigorously into carryout, as well as delivery through local third-party vendors:

  • Grilled Cheese Sticks & Slow-Cooked Tomato Soup
  • Pork Noodle Bowl
  • Mac + Cheese
  • Thai Noodles
  • Braised Berkshire Pork Shank
  • Chicken Chile Verde Nachos
  • Turkey Meatballs
  • Garlic-Butter Flatiron Steak
  • BBQ Bison Meatloaf
  • Fried Chicken Dinner
  • Pot Roast Beef Dip Sandwich

All in the Family

Another opportunity for building takeout sales is family meals, curated selections that are sized and priced for groups of four to six or more: a choice of entrée, several side dishes including starch and vegetables, and bread or rolls. An enhanced family pack might also include an appetizer and/or salad and dessert. Homestyle choices like lasagna, family-size meatloaf, pot roast, and signature macaroni and cheese work well, and are popular enough to appeal to groups.

The point is to offer an entire meal that maximizes sales as well as customer satisfaction and convenience. For example, sandwiches might include a choice of side dishes such as potato salad or coleslaw, or a bag of chips, while pasta could include garlic bread and a salad. Entrées such as short ribs or Ginger Soy Salmon could include separately packaged side dishes such as mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli, and roasted vegetables.

Adding a shareable appetizer such as hummus with crudité and pita, chicken lettuce wraps, or an antipasto salad adds value. Travel-friendly desserts including brownies, cheesecake, or a cookie plate round out the meal.

Some additional tips:

  • Be sure to add gluten-sensitive options
  • Offer a mix-and-match choice of items that work well together
  • Package each component separately, putting hot and cold items in different bags if possible
  • Keep dressings and extra sauce to the side, to prevent sogginess and allow customers to tailor the food to their liking when it gets to their destination
  • Don’t forget beverage offerings that complement the food

Source: 2016 Technomic Inc., Takeout & Off-Premise Dining Consumer Trend Report

Get Started
  • Evaluate your menu for items that travel well
  • Create a separate takeout menu—online, at point of sale, and printed versions that customers can take with them—to promote carryout options, including hours of operation, phone number, pick-up location, and other details
  • Highlight takeout on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram  
  • Make sure on-premise service staff and anyone who answers the phone know your takeout procedures
Here are Some Ideas
  • Offer a takeout discount on slower nights, to encourage business
  • Investigate local third-party delivery services to see if delivery can work for you; test-order from them to see how the process works
  • Consider features such as online ordering or a separate takeout number to make it easier for patrons to choose your establishment for takeout
  • Pay particular attention to times when takeout may be most popular: big game nights, final exam week, stay-at-home occasions like Halloween, and so on
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