Before you can set up a delivery service for your restaurant, you need to make sure that you have a menu suitable for take out. With meal kit options booming and more customers choosing to order out rather than dining in, having a delivery-friendly menu is essential for your bottom line. As the coronavirus continues to force business closures, you can keep your restaurant running by offering a delivery option to your customers.
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Take Out Menu Considerations
Whether you use a third-party delivery service or your own in-house delivery fleet, picking the right menu items for your take-out menu is essential for ensuring successful deliveries. It is important to understand that not every meal on your restaurant menu is delivery friendly. You’ll want to choose meals that capture the essence of your business but that can still be thoroughly enjoyed in a home setting.
Here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself when deciding on a delivery menu:
- Does the meal travel well?
- Will the meal get soggy or watered down with time?
- Will the meal be presentable when it's delivered?
- Do you have the right packaging for the meal?
- Will the profit margin for the dish cover the delivery costs?
- Will the prep time make total time for delivery too long?
- Can your staff handle an influx of delivery meals?
How to Build a Menu for Delivery
Many restaurants add delivery services in efforts to increase restaurant sales but can end up losing income by not properly adapting their menu for delivery. To ensure that your delivery service is successful, you can choose to modify your menu dishes for delivery, specifically add delivery-friendly meals to your menu, or create a completely separate take out menu. Use the following guidelines to build your delivery menu:
1. Get Your Timing Right
When it comes to food delivery, timing is everything. With most customers agreeing that speed of delivering is one of their top priorities for ordering out, a speedy delivery can mean a positive customer review for your business.
These are just a few timing elements that need to be factored in when creating a delivery menu:
Before you add an item to your take out menu, be sure that it does not require extensive prep time on top of drive times. A customer may be willing to wait 20 minutes for a meal to be prepared when dining in your location, but if there is a 30-minute drive time to their home on top of prep time, this can result in excessive delivery times and a negative review.
Temperatures and Textures
Some foods will continue to cook even after they are packaged. For example, a steak’s internal temperature may continue to rise while in transit, causing it to arrive at a different steak doneness level than the customer requested or with a different texture than desired. It is important to factor total cook time into your delivery time to know when an item should be headed out the door.
Create a mapped-out radius around your restaurant that your drivers can reach in an appropriate delivery time after factoring in the prep time required for your take out menu items. This way, you can ensure that all of your delivery customers have a good experience with your delivery service.
Ensure that you have enough drivers in your delivery fleet to keep up with the demands of your delivery orders. It can hurt your average delivery times if you need to wait for a single driver to return from their route. You may want to hire a third-party delivery team for busier times of the year.
2. Pick the Proper Packaging
You may not be able to pack up your signature dishes the same way you would plate them. Using the proper take-out containers and packing up a meal correctly can ensure that your dishes arrive to your customers safely.
The following are just a few ways to properly pack meals for successful deliveries:
Choose the Right Size Containers
It's important that your meals still look presentable after they are transported. Choose to-go containers that aren’t too much larger than the item you’re packing up. For example, pizza boxes should only be a few inches wider than the pizza placed inside.
If you have options like nachos, salads, or loaded fries on your delivery menu, you may want to pack the sauces and condiments separately to prevent a mess when they are delivered. Keeping sauces off your dishes also keeps them from getting soggy in transit. These items can then be assembled when they arrive to your customer.
Use the Proper Insulation
It's important to use packaging that helps your foods retain their moisture and temperature. Hot foods that are not packaged correctly can end up releasing condensation into their containers, making your customer’s meals soggy. You can prevent that by using hot food bags for items like hot sandwiches and package them away from cold items like drinks to keep them from “sweating.” Be sure to also use insulated food bags while your orders are in transit to help them maintain the proper temperature.
3. Make Your Food Presentable
The way your food arrives to your customer will be the statement you make about your business. You want to make sure it looks appetizing and professional.
If you plate it all together, make sure it doesn’t shift around too much in transit or else it will end up looking like a mess. If you plate it separately, make sure the sauces and condiments can be easily identified so that your customer can put it together to their liking. You may need to make adaptations to the recipes of your signature dishes so they arrive in a presentable fashion.
Adding your restaurant’s logo to your packaging is also a great way to provide a professional final touch to your customer’s order. Having your logo or slogan on your boxes and bags can help create a memorable experience for your customers, encouraging repeat sales.
Picking Your Delivery Menu Items
Your best-selling menu options may not be the best choices for delivery. You can either tailor those best sellers to make them more transportable or make a delivery version of those fan favorites.
Here are some delivery-friendly meals:
- Finger foods
- Chinese take out
- Sushi rolls
- Fried chicken
Some food items require some tweaking. These are some suggestions on how you can adapt your menu:
- Instead of fresh lobster, serve lobster rolls
- Instead of pancakes and eggs, serve a breakfast sandwich with pancakes as buns
- Instead of bread bowls, serve soup with a roll of bread on the side
- Instead of pho that is all assembled in a bowl, send the ingredients in separate containers
You may want to avoid foods that are prone to melting entirely. That cake and ice cream dessert on your in-house menu should probably not come with ice cream on your delivery menu, unless you have the proper insulated containers to send it.
How to Make a User-Friendly Delivery Menu
Once you choose the items that are going on your delivery menu, make sure that your ordering process is simple and easy to use.
1. Put Your Menu Online
Most customers who are interested in ordering food for delivery will begin their search online. They will be looking for the following:
- If your menu is available to view online
- If they can order and pay directly online
- If there are any reviews for your business before they commit to the order
In anticipation of your customers’ searches, try adding your delivery menu and ordering capabilities either through your restaurant’s website or by using a third-party delivery company’s site, Uber Eats, or DoorDash.
2. Keep Your Menu Short
Hungry customers typically won't have the patience to skim through a long menu of options, so it’s important to keep your delivery menu short and to the point. That means selecting a maximum of 15 to 20 of your best-selling, easily transportable dishes for your take out menu. Once you have picked your offerings, break them up into categories to make your menu easy to navigate.
3. Make Your Menu Visually Appealing
If your online menu is the only interaction your customer is going to have with your business, you’ll want to make sure that menu is a good representation of your restaurant. Here are some menu design ideas to spruce up your delivery menu:
- Add professional photos
- Use short and accurate food descriptions
- Use enticing colors and eye-catching designs
4. Update Your Menu In Real Time
Nothing is more disappointing for a customer than finding out the food item they set their heart on is no longer available. This can cost you an entire sale. To prevent disappointment, designate a staff member to monitor the online menu and update it in real time depending on your supplies. If you run out of ingredients to make a menu item, immediately pull it from the menu so customers can’t accidentally order it.
If you have recently added a delivery service to your restaurant or are looking to add one as the foodservice industry adapts to the coronavirus, you can use these tips as a guide to structure your menu during these uncertain times.