How to Make Your Menu More Takeout Friendly

To-go is the new dine-in for restaurants! With the COVID-19 outbreak rocking the status quo for Americans, one aspect that remains mostly intact is the ritual of eating out. It just looks different. 

With many states enforcing stay-at-home orders, takeout and delivery programs are the only way your restaurant can exist right now, making having the right menu crucial. This does not mean you need to add a crazy amount of new entrees, fancy gimmicks, or redesign your whole concept, you just need some good food that is priced right, easily orderable, and maybe some added extras to sweeten the deal.

So grab a pencil and your thinking cap, it’s time to create or enhance your takeout menu!

Deciding on Food Offerings

This seems like the best place to start, right? 

The hardest part of choosing what you’ll offer for takeout is basing your menu off of ingredients you know you can continue to have available. There’s no crystal ball that will tell you how long you won’t be able to import your truffles or Chilean sea bass. Don’t put these items on your new takeout menu! Stick with offering dishes that have accessible and similar ingredients to each other, that won’t throw a wrench into your ordering plan. If you haven’t already made contacts with local food sources, now is the time to help ease the blow in case national supply chains become disrupted. 

Be concise with your choices. This takeout menu should revolve around your best food that makes sense for now and you know people will order. Now is not the time to let food expire on your shelves or in your coldfreezer if you can help it. 

Many restaurants have shifted their takeout programs to focus on comfort food, something many customers are craving right now. 

If you have a tried and true takeout menu, try supplementing it by offering family meal kits for a flat fee. This not only can relieve some of the customers’ “guilt” of ordering takeout, but they may buy more often if they can see it as a family activity. Plus, this is very easy for your employees to prepare. You’re basically gathering ingredients you already had and packaging them!

Deciding on Prices

Consumers are being more price-conscious than ever, so keep that in mind when you’re assigning value to your menu. 

As of April 23, 2020, the unemployment rate is upwards of 20% in the United States for the first time since 1934. Even if the majority of your customer base is still employed, people are being fiscally-conservative with less discretionary income and uncertain times ahead. That being said, many Americans still want to patronize restaurants not only for a good meal or to support, but for normalcy. 

There’s a fantastic article on the Harvard Business Review that delves into detail why restaurateurs should lower their takeout prices during COVID-19, but what it boils down to is customers are being thriftier with their money, the experience is less, and you need quantity. It especially comes down to order quantity. You need more customers to be ordering to stay afloat than normal, therefore, you need to lower your prices. Takeout might not be a huge profit generator for your restaurant, but it might pay the rent, keep some employees paid, and have your restaurant front of mind for your customers when better days return. 

Take into consideration food costs, essential labor, and operational expenses when you make your pricing (like you did with your regular menu when you started) but don’t forget about your customers’ situation.

Deciding on How Your Takeout Menu Will Look

We’re sure you have a beautiful regular menu. Great fonts, a huge selection, and maybe even no prices…

For takeout, that just isn’t going to fly. Here are few things your takeout menu needs to have to get the orders flowing:

  • A simple, but effective layout. Stick to basic fonts that customers will have no trouble reading. 
  • Highlighted specials. Big bold letters, a circle, stars, you name it, as long as you call attention to it. 
  • Prices. Make it easy for customers to make decisions with simple pricing right in front of their eyes. 
  • Contact information. Need them to call the order in? Do you deliver to their door? Spell out to your customers how and where they can get their food order rolling. 
  • Shareability. Make sure to upload a version of your new menu to your website and social media for your customers to share.

Looks aren’t everything when it comes to your takeout menu, but conveying the information to your customers effectively is!

Deciding on Extras

Did you get a little uneasy when you pared down your menu’s offerings in the beginning because you’re used to giving customers a world of choices? Spice up your takeout menu with some extras! 

Don’t want to invest in breakfast pastries or desserts? Partner with your local bakery and put their items on your menu! This could attract new clientele and give more choices to those who were going to order anyway. Now is the time to band together with your fellow local businesses!

If it’s allowed in your city/state, offer a discount on alcohol with purchase and create your own happy hour promotion. Another option could be to provide takeout drinks such as alcoholic slushies or margarita mixes. Make your restaurant their one-stop shop for dinner and drinks (to-go).

You never know, the right extras on your menu could incentivize a customer to order from you versus a competitor. 

Your customers want to support you during this time and creating the right takeout menu can help them do that. Having a tailored takeout menu not only keeps your business running during times of uncertainty, it keeps your employees working and supporting your community’s needs. 

How have you made changes to your menu during the COVID-19 outbreak?

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