Restaurant Menu Modification: How Flexibility is Crucial to Survive COVID-19
Social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak make it necessary for restaurants to innovate. Online ordering and delivery, already growing in popularity, are now keeping the restaurant industry alive as dine-in options are halted. The good news is that consumer demand for easy, quick, and delicious meals isn’t diminishing, even if dine-in traffic has. But implementation of these options requires adjustments.
Restaurant Flexibility Is Imperative
Pandemic policies, guidelines, and predictions are changing by the week, if not the day. Restaurants must evolve practices to keep business healthy and customers safe. Many restaurants are taking control of the situation rather than relinquishing it. They are developing their business in ways they didn’t expect—and seeing success as a result. Changes to their business model, marketing efforts, scheduling and labor management, and community outreach are necessary to survive the pandemic and come out ahead. Your menu also requires flexibility because takeout and delivery conditions and requirements are different from dining in. In a recent webinar, Sean Rowe owner of Saint Angelo’s Pizza, shared marketing strategies and unique menu additions that have helped his business thrive during COVID-19. View webinar recording now.
Benefits of a Modified Restaurant Menu
You want to remain open for online ordering and delivery in order to keep your business going; but you also want to maximize profitability as much as possible. Restaurant menu modification helps you strike the right balance. Tailoring your offerings has several benefits:
- Optimized Restaurant Inventory Costs. Because food is one of the biggest expenses for a restaurant, it’s crucial to reduce and streamline those costs. The fewer options on your menu, the less inventory required. Reducing the number of ingredients you use overall may lead to higher profitability by cutting out some purchasing requirements. Offering meals that share many of the same ingredients can optimize your inventory even more. Needing fewer ingredients will also help you weather any changes or disruptions in your supply chain.
- Optimized Restaurant Labor Costs. A reduced menu allows the restaurant to fulfill orders with a lighter staff than before. This especially helps when rearranging roles, as staff can more easily move around from food prep to front of the house as needed. This optimization is highly beneficial to your bottom line, since labor is another one of the costliest restaurant expenses, along with inventory.
- Providing New and Exciting Offers to Your Customers. Instead of promoting it as a “reduced” menu, think of it more as a “specialized” menu. Many restaurants are switching up their menu each week to keep things interesting for their customers. Specials of the day or week, bundle deals, and more will keep your customers excited and engaged.
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Tips for Optimal Restaurant Menu Modification
Creating an ideal takeout and delivery menu takes some thought and planning. You want to focus on your best sellers and signature dishes, but not everything will transfer well from dine-in to delivery options. One consideration is prep time: if a dish requires a lot of prep, and then delivery time is added onto that, it will take longer than the customer is willing to wait. You’ll also need to calculate a delivery radius your drivers can reach efficiently so that prep time + delivery time = a reasonable order time for the customer.
Also consider which items will travel well, and which won’t. In part, that will depend on the quality of your packaging. You’ll want containers that are the appropriate size to keep food from sliding around in transit; separate containers for toppings, sauces, or condiments that could get messy or let the food get soggy, and insulated travel bags to keep hot foods warm enough (without excess condensation) and cold foods cold.
Pizza and Chinese takeout have long been delivery staples. Other travel-friendly items include burgers, sandwiches and wraps; finger foods, such as fried chicken or wings; and simple sides and desserts such as breadsticks and cookies. Again, dishes that have common ingredients will optimize inventory costs.
If you’re concerned about how well a fully cooked dish would travel, consider packaging the ingredients for a 1-2 serving meal and allowing the customer to assemble and cook it themselves for maximum freshness. Creating bundled deals and family packs (for example, spaghetti, salad, and garlic rolls for four) works well for parents that are looking for an easy way to feed an entire family.
For really outside-the-box thinking, some restaurants are including non-food items on their delivery menus. They have surplus items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies that aren’t currently being used in their dine-in facilities—and that are increasingly hard to find in grocery stores—so they’re offering them to customers. A bonus “side” of toilet paper or hand sanitizer certainly adds novelty as well as convenience. No matter what’s on your modified restaurant menu, promote your offers through digital marketing to maximize exposure and engagement.
Technology That Makes It Easy
With all of the unpredictabilities of the restaurant industry, especially under current conditions, it’s essential to have technology that can change with your business needs. An innovative, integrated restaurant management system including point of sale (POS), online ordering and delivery support, and loyalty programs can help your restaurant stay efficient and profitable no matter the needs of the current market. Look for a system that has easy-to-use restaurant menu modification features so you can make changes as needed, whether you are changing your menu, pricing, or item availability (if you run out of an ingredient). An integrated system will allow changes to be reflected on all ordering platforms immediately for a seamless customer experience.
Also look for tech providers that are listening to client needs and responding to the latest industry issues—for example, developing features such as curbside pickup and no-contact delivery options, or remote software installation, as necessitated by the pandemic. HungerRush has years of industry experience and a team of experts creating solutions such as HungerRush Online Ordering that can set your business up for success during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond. Learn more about the latest tools and features of our integrated systems by requesting a personalized demo today.