Restaurants Innovate & Diversify Menus Amid COVID-19
June 15, 2020
Restaurants have been deeply affected by COVID-19. Stay at home orders are changing the industry right before our eyes, and potentially for years to come. Knowing how to stay afloat and maintain profits can seem challenging during the pandemic.
If there is one thing that restaurateurs know, however, is how to innovate and fight against the odds. Right now, innovation and customer appeal are key. Want to know how to increase restaurant sales during COVID-19? Interested in learning strategies from other establishments? Smart Foodservice shares some unique ideas from restaurateurs.
3 Ways Restaurants Have Adapted to Serve Their Customers
Facing unprecedented challenges, restaurant owners are pivoting their business models to meet the current demand for “shelter in place” eating experiences. Shifting your menu concept and offerings can help meet customer demand.
1. Turn Your Customers into Home Chefs
Even before COVID-19 made home cooks of us all, meal kits were a growing trend across the U.S. In fact, 14.3 million meal kits were purchased in 2018 alone. With stay-at-home orders there has been a significant uptick in the sales of prepare-at-home-meals. The current market demand is exploding and restaurants have already begun to jump on the meal kit train. How do you stand out as a brand and increase sales?
Here are a few ideas for your customers:
- DIY Pizza Night: Have some of the best pizza in town? Instead of take-and-bake create a take-and-make kit complete with dough, house made sauce, and your most popular toppings. You can even incorporate some clever packaging.
- Meatless Mondays: Plant-based cuisine has been gaining popularity over the years. Why not highlight fresh veggies and simple cooking techniques for your meal kit? Push it further and offer a monthly, Meatless Monday subscription.
- Virtual Master Class: You don’t have to only provide ingredients for a great meal, you can also provide training through a virtual class. Own a steakhouse? Create a kit with choice beef, classic sauces, and sides, then teach your customers how to cook your signature dishes. Set an online date and a time and get cooking.
2. Promote Food Safety
If there is one thing on most customers' minds, it’s safety. People want to know that their food is cooked to a safe temperature and that restaurant staff is following all COVID-19 food safety protocols. To help ease some of your community’s concerns, think creatively to give them safe, yet enticing food.
For example, take Bamboo Asia in San Francisco. They created a complete sous vide to-go menu. Sous vide is a cooking process in which food is vacuum sealed in a bag, cooked in a water bath, and brought to the perfect internal temperature. There is limited prep, the use of ovens is not required, and the process can protect against bacteria and viruses. Since the packaging itself has also been “cooked,” it’s more sanitized than a normal to-go container. Guests can eat the meals right away or freeze them to enjoy later.
3. Give People What They Want
There are multiple reasons why pizza delivery sales have soared during COVID-19. The delivery business model was already in place and customers were accustomed to the process. While some consumers miss dining out at high-end and haute cuisine establishments, many others are embracing and gravitating toward simple, comforting, and accessible meals.
If your restaurant is known for complicated cuisine, you might want to simplify your offerings and innovate your menu for take-out. Check out what some high-end restaurants have done to diversify:
- Canlis in Seattle, WA went from upscale eatery to drive-through burger joint.
- In Saint Paul, MN, Saint Dinette switched from fine dining to comfort food.
- Molecular gastronomy dynamo Alinea in Chicago, IL has stepped back from their fanciful cuisine, and is now offering more accessible family style meals to go.
When planning a new menu for your area, be sure to research your community’s go-to, to-go foods.
Innovate Your Menu with Smart Foodservice’s Wholesale Meat, Seafood, Produce and More
At Smart Foodservice, our customers are our partners. We provide choice meats, exceptional produce, and more to help you design outstanding menus at affordable price-points. To help keep our customers safe and save them time shopping, we’ve designed Click&Carry. We also offer delivery via Instacart and Shipt. Set up an account, place your order online and pick-up at your convenience.