Customers search for simple and affordable takeout and delivery options because with each passing generation, consumers are less proficient when it comes to cooking from scratch. Diners order through a meal delivery service about 4 times per month and purchase takeout approximately 5 times per month. With the booming carry-out and delivery industry, operators must take into consideration both in-restaurant dining and at-home dining when developing menu items.
Identify Menu Items that Travel Well
Takeout and delivery menus should represent daily offerings at Fast Casual restaurants; however, operators can offer featured to-go menu items that hold up well to the commute home. Tim Soufan, Consultant for Nestlé Professional, stresses the importance of limiting takeout and delivery options and optimizing the choices offered.
“The key to optimization is to conduct experiments in transporting food – take the food’s temperature and evaluate the items after 30 minutes to an hour.”
– Tim Soufan, Nestlé Professional, Consultant
Package for Food Integrity
Mike Ganino, Speaker and Foodservice Consultant, asserts food integrity can make or break a takeout or delivery experience. He uses pasta as an example – “Pasta is probably going to break down a little bit because it continues to cook in the sauce while it’s being delivered or as the customer drives home.” With pasta and other difficult-to-transport meals, restaurants have become creative with packaging. “I’ve seen restaurants separate the pasta and the sauce in two separate dishes for takeout. Approaches like this demonstrate that restaurants are starting to think critically about how the food holds up to travel.” Guest satisfaction is typically lower when food is consumed off-premise, so sturdy packaging to maintain freshness, prevent temperature loss, and stop leaking could lead to more favorable food opinions.
Brand Eco-Friendly Boxes
In addition to packaging that keeps food fresh, customers also want operators to develop sustainability initiatives. Diners prefer plastic to-go packaging with sealable tops, which tends to maintain food quality most effectively. Plastic containers are recyclable and also have other sought-after packaging attributes such as the ability to store leftovers within the original packaging and eat food directly from the container. For the 83% of customers who prefer to reheat their meal or their leftovers in the microwave, they also request that operators avoid Styrofoam packaging and instead use microwave-safe to-go containers such as biodegradable boxes.
“Be intentional about what the packaging looks like. I’ve seen companies buy packaging that has the manufacturer’s brand on it or some kind of advertisement. If it’s sitting on someone’s desk or in someone’s kitchen, you want it to have your logo on it.”
– Mike Ganino, Speaker and Foodservice Consultant
Ganino offers a suggestion for operators to save money through an eco-friendly delivery option – “Give customers the option to say ‘don’t deliver silverware, napkins, sauces, or takeout menus.’ They typically have all of that at home. It’s like when you’re in a hotel and they give you the option to hang your towel on the door because it helps save the earth.”
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SOURCES: Datassential, CPP – Generations, 2015 | Datassential, CPP – Foodservice at Home, 2015 | Technomic, The Takeout & Off-Premise Dining Consumer Trend Report, 2016