Restaurant Trends 2020: Operators Adapt Menus, Processes to Support Communities Through Pandemic

May 18, 2020

Restaurant Trends 2020: Operators Adapt Menus, Processes to Support Communities Through Pandemic

Streamlined offerings include pop-up groceries, takeout, delivery, and family meals featuring ingredients with high versatility.

Promoting Delivery and Takeout

Operators deploy a range of tools, both modern and old-school, to showcase their off-premises offerings through delivery, takeout, family meals, and meal kits.

Restaurant operators are promoting their delivery and takeout options in a variety of ways that highlight their revised menus, introduce new offerings and show support for community healthcare workers.

“When it comes to promoting delivery and takeout, there are many channels that can be impactful for restaurant operators,” says Bianca Esmond, senior manager of brand marketing at SevenRoomsl. “Three very important ones are email, social media and third-party delivery bag inserts.”

The following are a few examples of delivery and takeout options that operators have deployed:

Family Favorites

Family Favorites

Bundled family meal deals have become an important part of operators’ off-premises advertising. Take a cue from Denny’s and its Grand Slam Pack of breakfast items, and leverage your operation’s signature items in shareable, delivery-friendly options. In addition to the Grand Slam Pack, which includes enough pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage to feed four people, Denny’s is also offering a Build Your Own Cheeseburger Pack, a Premium Chicken Tenders Pack, a Side Pack (red-skinned mashed potatoes, broccoli or corn), and a Beverage Pack.

Assemble at Home Meal Kits

Assemble at Home Meal Kits

Paisano’s Pizza marketed its recent Make-at-Home Pizza Contest by encouraging customers to share their pizza kit creations on social media using the hashtag #PaisanosMadeByMe. “Having fun in the kitchen and coming together with your family over pizza couldn’t be more important right now,” says Colleen Sisk, the chain’s chief operating officer. A portion of the proceeds from pizza kits, which were available for pick-up or via contactless delivery, were donated to charities in the Washington, D.C., area, where Paisano’s operates.

Expanding Into Grocery

Expanding Into Grocery

Taziki’s Mediterranean Café recently launched a grocery concept that sells staple items across five categories: produce, meats, dairy/breads/dry goods, deli sides/dressings and beverages. “Our customers expect freshness when they think of Taziki’s,” says CEO Dan Simpson. ‘That is why we’re rolling out new ways for them to conveniently get everything in one place.” Selling groceries in addition to their regular menu of prepared food items allows restaurant operators to move more of their inventory and offer one-stop shopping for their customers.

Creating a New Brand

Creating a New Brand

Panera Bread’s new Panera Grocery store lets consumers buy fresh bread, produce, dairy products and other items. Customers select “Panera Grocery” on the Panera Bread mobile app and add items to their orders for pick-up or contactless delivery. Creating a distinct brand for grocery gives operators a chance to reinforce their new products and services in the minds of consumers, says Mike Kostyo, senior managing editor and trendologist at Datassential.

Community Support

Community Support

Many operators have stepped up their support for frontline medical workers and others who are serving their communities. At Dunkin’, the Coffee Break promotion allows customers to make personalized donations through Dunkin’ e-gift cards “as a small token of appreciation to thank a doctor, nurse, first responder, teacher, grocery clerk, postal worker, neighbor or any hero in their life,” the company says. In addition, for every card purchased, Dunkin’ says it will donate $1 (up to $100,000) to the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which provides grants to nonprofits supporting families affected by the pandemic.

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Restaurateurs are simplifying menus for takeout and delivery, creating family meal options, offering grocery items for sale, and supporting communities as they weather the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have seen restaurants adapt their menus in several ways to make delivery and takeout more streamlined,” says Bianca Esmond, senior manager of brand marketing at SevenRooms, which supplies restaurants with digital operations and marketing services and recently added a delivery ordering tool.

Restaurants are limiting their menus to items that are best suited for takeout and delivery, she says. They’re also streamlining their inventories to minimize ingredient costs.

Focusing on cross-utilizing versatile ingredients featuring familiar brand names, such as OREO and RITZ, can appeal to consumers’ interest in comfort foods. And it allows operators to offer more variety: for example, an OREO Granola, one week, an OREO milkshake the next.

Simplified takeout and delivery menus also enable restaurants to work with a reduced staff, as many operators have had to adjust their labor models either because of reduced revenues or social distancing.

Operators are adapting to restaurant trends in 2020 in several key ways. Here’s a closer look at a couple of them.

Getting Into the Grocery Game

In addition to their prepared foods, many restaurant operators around the country are now selling groceries. This strategy allows them to drive more sales of their inventories and offer a one-stop shop for customers trying to avoid trips to the grocery store.

Research from Datassential finds broad support for this concept: 72 percent of consumers say they are interested in buying bread and bakery items from their local restaurant, and 70 percent are interested both in fresh products and in fresh meats and seafood. Other categories with strong support include:

  • Deli or cured meat products (66 percent);
  • Dairy items (65 percent);
  • Pantry items and dry goods (64 percent);
  • Paper goods (63 percent);
  • Nonalcoholic beverages (59 percent);
  • Baking ingredients (58 percent);
  • Adult/alcoholic beverages (52 percent).

These items can be supplied through an operator’s website or other ordering platforms and via store displays near the ordering or takeout pick-up areas.

“Most restaurants have racks in the back,” Senior Publications Manager Renee Lee Wege said in a recent Datassential webinar. “Why not bring them out front and become a bodega?”

Many restaurants have even created new names and websites for their grocery operations. For instance, Panera Bread launched Panera Grocery. Consumers can order produce such as avocados, tomatoes and blueberries, as well as staples such as Greek yogurt, milk and bread, through the new service.

Creating Family Meals and Meal Kits

With entire families spending more time together at home, demand for family-meal bundles is only increasing. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of consumers surveyed by Datassential expressed interest in ordering full three- or four-course family to-go meals from restaurants.

Some operators are packaging entire meals. Panera Bread’s new Family Feast includes sandwiches, sides and salads for up to four people. Others are taking it to the next level with deals on a week’s worth of meals.

At Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles, for example, an Emergency Taco Kit contains ingredients for 60 tacos. It also includes 30 eggs—obtained from suppliers in the area with surpluses—and one roll of toilet paper from the restaurant’s own supply. The bulk offerings give Guerrilla Tacos the opportunity to boost sales of products that might otherwise go to waste, the company says.

The possibilities for pivoting are seemingly endless, as consumers told Datassential they’d love to see operators provide a variety of do-it-yourself meal kits and finish-at-home meals they can prepare with their families. The offerings they’d most like to see include:

  • Take-and-bake comfort foods (73 percent);
  • Build-your-own pizza kits (68 percent);
  • Build-your-own tacos or burritos kits (64 percent);
  • Ready-to-grill restaurant steaks (63 percent);
  • Take-and-bake desserts (63 percent).

Heat-and-serve meals also add a layer of security for consumers, who may be more confident in the safety of foods if they can heat them up at home. “People feel a lot safer if they can just pop something in the microwave,” Lee Wege told webinar attendees.

Another avenue for increased sales: family holiday meals. According to Datassential, 59 percent of consumers are interested in ordering a holiday feast from restaurants. “People want to keep those same traditions,” Datassential’s Mike Kostyo, senior managing editor and trendologist, told webinar attendees. “If anything, those traditions are more important than ever.”

Although staff reductions and operational constraints are forcing restaurants to radically rethink their menus and processes, they’re also driving innovation in ingredients, meal packages and even grocery items. More and more of them are finding creative new ways to serve their communities—and their staff—during these challenging times.

Mondelēz International Foodservice is here to help operators in any way we can. Find recipes, business advice and more on our website.

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