Restaurant Take-out Innovations

May 22, 2020 | Contactless Dining, Insights

Through this article we will look at a few interesting examples of how restaurants have transformed their take-out offerings to stay efficient during this period of reduced sales and satisfy customers through innovative technologies.

We will also look at some general guidelines for optimizing take-out menu and operations within your restaurant’s distribution model.

Take-out has been steadily growing as a major revenue stream for restaurants

Since the pandemic related restrictions were set in place earlier this year, restaurant and hospitality businesses have been forced into rethinking how they manage sales and leverage a contactless business model to keep operations viable.

We are gradually seeing restaurants reopen on-premise dining, but for the most part, take-out and delivery sales continue to be the major source of revenue and profits for restaurant businesses.

Although the need to provide take-out options have been highlighted over the last couple of months, the trend towards favoring off-premise dining has been consistently growing over the years. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 70% of restaurant traffic will be from off-premise dining.

But how do you embrace take-out in a unique way that garners the attention of diners thereby cementing its contribution towards your restaurant’s revenue in a sustainable way?

Creative ways restaurants have adapted to a take-out and delivery first model

Virtual cooking classes

With all this newfound time that has been added to our lives as the pandemic has forced us to stay indoors for our safety and the safety of our community – there has been a surge in interest for activities that are enriching, liking learning a new skill perhaps.

Fable Kitchen, a Vancouver-based farm-to-table restaurant, decided to respond to this trend by offering virtual cooking classes through their website. Upon signing up, customers get a fresh ingredient box delivered to them which they will use to prepare dishes by following a live stream cooking class.

Celebrating special occasions

Though our current reality has been defined by the new ‘stay-at-home’ situation, where days seem to blend seamlessly into each other, the one thing that hasn’t seized to affect us all is the special days and moments in our lives – birthdays, Mother’s Day, graduation, and so forth.

This pandemic has certainly put limits on how we would typically celebrate these special occasions, especially in our ability to share them with close friends or extended family.

The Keg, a popular Canadian steakhouse, which has been the go-to for all kinds of celebrations, has been offering up their signature ‘Celebration Kit’ meal kit to help customers celebrate these special moments. Their make-at-home kits come in elegant packaging, with a two-course steak dinner and complimentary condiments. With raw ingredients being delivered, the Keg prioritizes safety and freshness by speaking to their rigorous sanitation protocols and packaging quality.

Bulk take-out

Take-out offerings are helping restaurants effectively manage inventory of products that would otherwise spoil because of irregular sales or reduced sales. Products like cheese, eggs, milk, and fruits that have a limited shelf-life are being transformed into exciting dishes like DIY omelets, fondue, charcuterie boards, and healthy BYO smoothies.

Such is the case for California native Nekter Juice bar that is transforming the idea of make-at-home by serving frozen and pre-portioned fruits with a base liquid of your choice ready to blend and drink.

Bring the bar home

With liquor laws temporarily adjusted to allow restaurants to sell alcohol via delivery, many restaurants are looking at ways to boost sales through interesting beverage offers, such as pre-mixed cocktails, mixers, to-do beer flights, and local selection of wines and spirits.

Alinea, a Chicago based fine dining restaurant surprised patrons and dining enthusiasts when it decided to offer margarita kits which instantly became a success for the restaurant generating about $5,600 in sales


How can I optimize take-out at my restaurant?

Develop a suitable take-out menu

Depending on what type of food you sell, packaging and transportation can have a huge bearing on what might make sense to offer through a take-out or delivery service. Weigh the cost and effort required to prepare and pack dishes before deciding whether they should be offered for take-out.

Another important consideration is the formatting and quality of your menu. A take-out menu displayed through your website should be mobile-friendly and consider including pictures if it fits within your restaurant’s brand.

Think of your packaging as more of a plate than a bag

The packaging you serve your food in is an extension of your attention to detail, branding, and the promise of your restaurant’s dining standard. It hardly makes sense to package a $35 dish in aluminum foil. Take-out packaging is an extension of your on-premise experience, make sure it reflects your brand the same way your plating and furnishing does on site.

Especially if your take-out menu offers bulk or raw make-at home items, you need to think critically about how you’re going to deliver the same while preserving quality and freshness and stressing food safety. This handy list by US Foods can certainly help with packaging decisions.

Diversify take-out technology to support multiple-takeout streams

With most restaurants now serving customers through third-party delivery apps, there have been challenges in the form of overcrowding on these apps leading to poor visibility for some more than others. In addition, as the weather in North America warms up and foot traffic starts to resume guests may return to purchasing on impulse rather than online.

Virtual kiosks are helping restaurants effectively mitigate the challenge of poor visibility on third delivery app, by offering an alternate on-premise self-service contactless option for customers. Acting as a pos system for take-out, virtual kiosks allow customers to read a menu, place an order, and pay through their mobile phone by simply scanning a QR code.

With no upfront hardware investment on behalf of the restaurants, they provide a flexible, fast, and convenient option for customers and a cheap and creative way for restaurants to attract customers to their storefront while maintaining social distancing mandates. self-service contactless option for customers.

Have suitable food quality and sanitary assessment measures

The last thing you could hope for during this time is for customers to be left with a bad taste in their mouth for your restaurant precisely because of bad tasting food or inaccurate delivery. Delivery orders should be treated just like dine-in orders, with careful attention to order accuracy, food quality, and hygienic preparation and packaging methods.

The best way to ensure this is maintained always is to formalize a system for processing delivery orders and communicating it to your staff.

Visit our Take-out solutions area to learn more about how Squirrel and our partners can help deliver innovative take-out experiences.