This is the year restaurants had to turn themselves inside-out, quite literally. As states barred diners from eating indoors, thousands upon thousands of restaurants had to pivot from their core mission of making quality food in a welcoming environment, and began packing every meal to-go simply to keep afloat.
Naturally, restaurateurs keep innovating. Nowhere has that been more apparent than in how operators have reimagined the flair and care they apply to carryout. As creative options have sprung up, they’ve opened a new dimension in food service that likely won’t ever go back to its original form. Done right, offering unconventional menu add-ons (toilet paper! dog treats!) can boost revenue. And this year every dollar counts. Here are a few ideas of how to put a twist on takeout.
Appeal to families
You know who could really use a treat right now? Parents. After surviving an infinite lockdown season with children at home, parents are willing to spring for takeout especially when it includes a unique takeout bonus to entertain their kids.
Play-Doh: Dave and Megan Miller, the owners of Chicago’s Baker Miller, took inspiration from their stir-crazy and added an option to buy homemade Play-Doh in to-go orders. Each batch was made with flour and scented with herbs and spices. At $10 for a pack of four, they made for an easy upsell.
Cookie decorating kits: Like Easter egg dye and gingerbread house kits stationed near grocery registers, these are shopper catnip. Savvy restaurants are getting into the kit game. Texas-based Cookies by Lori created “Cookie Quarantine Kits” customers order alongside her pre-iced cookie creations.
Dog treats: You probably already have ingredients for primo dog treats in your kitchen pantry. Some restaurants have gone so far as to make pooch products standalone menu items. See for instance the “Famous Dog Menu” offered by the Block in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
Make staples out of menu items
As many people avoid grocery stores, restaurateurs can become a one-stop shop. By evolving into something of an online mercantile you’ll increase sales and earn the goodwill of customers grateful to get groceries and other sundries delivered along with dinner. And the options for what you can sell are endless.
Pantry items: Eggs. Paper towels. Canned soup. A block of gruyere. This can be whatever you think people want right now. In Charleston, South Carolina, the restaurant Zero George began selling their Royale with Cheese Take-Out Experience complete with a roll of toilet paper.
Bonus dessert!: Here’s the dirty secret of desserts: They’re not just for after dinner anymore, if indeed they ever were. Consider offering bake-at-home dough or bulk bakery boxes like those at Mottley Kitchen, in the South Bronx.
DIY kits: Fall weekends are the perfect time to roll out do-it-yourself dinner kits. Give customers the option to take and make everything at home, whether it’s fixings for a Bloody Mary or a full barbecue dinner a la Crafted in Yakima, Washington.