It has been over a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and businesses are still struggling to adapt to new market demands and recoup losses.
Restaurants and foodservice operations were some of the most impacted. Initial lockdowns and regulations made it nearly impossible to make profits.
Now that there are promising vaccines in distribution and the economy is opening back up, you may be looking for ways to double down and increase sales to make up for losses last year.
While more people are willing to venture out, restaurants and other foodservice operations still face many challenges. There are numerous governmental and state regulations still in place. For example, in many areas, bars, and self-service food areas remain closed.
The consumer mindset continues to evolve, and the COVID-19 situation remains extremely dynamic.
The key to gaining back lost sales during such unprecedented times is innovation and the ability to adapt.
In this article and video, we’ll provide 6 ideas to boost sales to help make sure your operation’s top line continues to grow.
First, it’s important to understand that despite the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the country, the return to normalcy will take time.
The ideas below are designed to help you boost sales while still managing state guidelines and social distancing restrictions that remain present in many areas today.
1. Offer Contactless Pickup Options
If you haven’t already, it might be a good idea to consider offering contactless takeout options.
Contactless pickup options streamline the takeout experience and reduce contact.
An easy, inexpensive way to do this may be numbering the tables in your establishment. Then, once an order is placed and paid for either online, over the phone, or via an app, provide the guest with the table number from which they can pick up their order from.
Other newer, more expensive ways include building shelving, purchasing lockers, and kiosks.
Shelving offers a designated area so that you don’t have to use your food tables if you are not affected by indoor dining restrictions.
Lockers and kiosks with heated or cooled compartments help preserve the quality of the takeout meal.
Additionally, these utilize software that can connect with existing point of sale (POS), allowing customers to receive clear, real-time insights on order status. Lockers and secure shelving also increases safety and reduces the chance of guests picking up the wrong meal.
2. Utilize Delivery Services
Food delivery lets customers enjoy your food from the comfort of their homes. It will be a slow return to indoor dining in many areas. And even after restrictions on indoor capacity are lifted, customers will be nervous and prioritize their safety.
When offering on-the-go meals, whether you are delivering it yourself or using third party delivery services, ensure you make the right packaging choices.
Your food items should arrive at its final destination at the right temperature, without a mess, and sealed for safety.
The timing and the delivery experience are often out of your hands once the food leaves your premises when using third-party services. Given that, it is even more important to select a container that is sure to keep your food looking great, at the desired temperature, and safe from tampering.
To ensure your patrons get the best off-premise dining experience, your to-go packaging should preserve food quality and promote the appearance of the meal.
Your guests expect their hot meals to be hot and their cold drinks to be cold. And, they don’t want their fries to be soggy on arrival.
For hot foods, vented plastic containers allow for the release of steam, helping to preserve the quality of the meal. Other packaging options, like styrofoam hinged containers, often don’t have venting. As a result, if your patron orders a medium-rare burger, by the time it arrives, the burger may be overcooked and their fries soggy.
Safety has never been more important, and with tamper-evident packaging, your guests will know that you have their safety in mind.
Tamper-proof or tamper-evident food packaging has a secure barrier or barriers that, when opened, clearly display to consumers that tampering has occurred or that the product has been altered in some way.
Tamper-evident packaging will help keep your products and your customers safe, avoid harm to your business’ reputation, and reduce costs associated with tampering and product replacement.
This is especially important if you choose to outsource delivery to third-party operations like UberEats or Doordash.
3. Offer DIY Meal Kits
This is a trend that has taken the foodservice world by storm. For many operations, this simply means breaking down your most popular dishes into a step-by-step, DIY kit.
Two common DIY (do it yourself) kits are DIY pizzas and build your own tacos. For pizzas, the dough, cheese, sauce, and various toppings are delivered unassembled, uncooked inside the pizza box. Upon arrival, the customer gets to roll the dough, top the pizza, and cook it themselves.
Similar to the pizza, for build-your-own tacos, all ingredients like rice, pico de gallo, choice of meat, cheese, and shells are stored individually and combined by the end consumer. This is a great option because it acts as a meal and an activity for families or small groups who are looking for things to do, especially during the cold winter months.
DIY kits don’t have to be limited to meals. Sell cocktail kits as well, especially if you are known for great hand-crafted drinks. While these DIY kits won’t replicate an on-premise dining experience exactly, it offers an appealing alternative for date night or family bonding – and most importantly helps you get more sales.
Now some of you may be saying, my meals are too fancy to be deconstructed and delivered in a box. And, if that’s the case, many upscale operations have been able to put their own spin on the DIY experience by hosting live, virtual cooking events.
4. Host LIVE, Online Cooking Classes, Tastings, or Other Events
Cooking classes led by your head chef allows you to promote the experience as an upscale event that attendees register and pay for. Once signed up, registrants receive a list of ingredients to purchase and prep before the virtual class starts.
Leveraging the right online software and event management technology helps your guests interact with staff and get a personalized experience, even when they’re not together. Most importantly, you’ll be able to secure increased sales from the event.
Similar to hosting online cooking classes, you may consider short cooking tutorials, wine tastings, or q&a sessions.
5. Cater Small, Private Events
Of many other ways to boost sales in the new environment, you can try catering to small parties.
We will likely not see large gatherings for quite some time, but catering services for small events, holidays, and other gatherings are still in high demand.
Adapt your menus to offer unique catering options for small groups.
You may not traditionally cater to large events or cater at all, but with less foot traffic at your facility, you may have more available resources.
When catering, prioritize the health and safety of your guests. Provide wrapped, disposable cutlery and individually packed portions to reduce the chance of cross-contamination and germ spread.
6. Offer a Large, To-Go Selection
Finally, make sure your operation has a grab-and-go section. Pre-package your food products and allow guests to grab them and go.
Grab and go items are fast and easy.
As a food provider, capitalizing on the rising demand for grab-and-go foods can help your business increase food sales.
However, it is important that your grab and go containers effectively merchandise your meals and maintain your food’s quality, ensuring it keeps your food fresh and looking great.
To grow your grab and go food sales, check out this article:
2020 was a tough year for many restaurants and foodservice operations. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, cutting costs and managing margins was key.
While you likely have been doing all you can to meet government regulations and new customer expectations and demands, it is important to continually search for ways to innovate.
We hope the ideas above provide a starting point to help you jumpstart your business in 2022.
EBP and other Imperial Dade locations keep up with the latest trends to ensure you’re prepared to keep your customers happy and to help you grow your food sales.
We offer a wide variety of food containers, disposable cutlery, and other packaging solutions that will meet your foodservice packaging needs.
Balancing the appearance, function, and cost of your packaging can be complicated, let one of our EBP Foodservice Specialists review your current foodservice operation and recommend products to best fit your budget and needs. Our specialists can help if you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean.
Check Out Some of These Related Articles:
- 5 Tips to Increase Your Grab and Go Food Sales [VIDEO]
- 3 Major Benefits of Tamper-Evident Food Packaging
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- Comparing Different Types of Disposable Cutlery
- How Will the Plastic Bag Ban Affect Your Business?
- The Best Alternatives To Single-Use Plastic Bags For Your Business