Trend watch: Capitalize on the convenience craze
Convenience continues to be king. From rotisserie chickens and ready-made salads to the food delivery service du jour, consumers are looking for more ways to squeeze delicious, healthy (most days) meals into their time-starved schedules – and it makes solid financial sense that the foodservice E&S industry continues to innovate new ways to accommodate them. Convenience comes with a profitable price tag, often commanding a premium price point that consumers have proven they are more than willing to pay for. And in the long term, foodservice operations that offer quality convenience options to their customers who are busy have an even better chance of retaining those same customers when they’re not busy.
Meal kit mania
The National Restaurant Association found that 49 percent of customers would buy meal kits from their favorite restaurants if they were offered. While a full-scale, meal-kit delivery operation might not be practical, offering a limited selection of popular, simple menu items as meal kits can keep your restaurant’s name top of mind, even when dining out isn’t.
A staggering 61 percent of millennials look for delivery options when choosing a table service restaurant. Partner up with third-party services like Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash to make sure your restaurant is on their list of delivery options.
Grab & go
According to Foodservice Equipment & Supplies, operators who display easy-to-access, grab-and-go options may boost sales by as much as 50 percent. The key to winning the grab-and-go game is freshness. According to Technomic, grab-and-go sales can improve as much as 35 percent if retailers guarantee that items are made fresh that day. This tactic is a smart move employed by a growing number of independent restaurants – offering selections of salads, sandwiches and more to reduce wait times and keep diner satisfaction high.
Reheat & eat
In 2017, Datassential reported that at 4 p.m. on any given day, 81 percent of consumers still don’t know what they’re having for dinner – which is why you’ll find so many flocking to the grocery deli counter after work. Whether they’re looking for complete healthy (or healthy-ish) meals or a few side dishes they can incorporate into a speedy meal at home, grocery-prepared foods offer all the convenience and ease with the “home-cooked” feeling consumers crave.
Meeting the demand with equipment and supplies
The biggest challenge for many operators is deciding how to meet the needs of convenience customers without interfering with their ability to meet the needs of their traditional customers. Though needs vary with the size of your operation, the right equipment strategy can help your business thrive.
Separate prep space
Especially important for busy restaurants, having a designated area and equipment for convenience tasks – preparing grab-n-go items, assembling meal kits, and packaging up delivery items, etc. – will help maintain kitchen efficiency and keep customers satisfied both in and out of the restaurant.
Separate holding area
Invest in separate holding and cooling areas for your delivery items to eliminate confusion and boost efficiency. Look for high-quality insulation and temperature controls to ensure a quality delivery experience.
A must-have for Reheat & Eat options, blast chillers quickly cool cooked food to limit bacterial growth and preserve food quality.
Whether you’re offering take-home meal kits or ready-made meals and snacks, keep your pre-made food options fresh and appealing with refrigerated displays that enable attractive presentation and provide quick, easy access – but won’t kill you on energy costs.