Tips for converting to a takeaway or delivery operation during COVID-19

With closures and restrictions taking place due to the coronavirus, the foodservice industry is now more challenging than ever.

Trading as a full-time takeaway and delivery business can be daunting, especially if you’re quite new to the game, so here are some tips to help your kitchen thrive.

1. Third party delivery services are eager for your business right now

The benefits of using third party delivery services such as Uber Eats are not only their ability to easily get your food into the hands of your customers, but they can also introduce you to new customers scrolling through their apps who may not have dined with you before. This highlights the importance of uploading quality photos to your delivery profile.

2. Think about what menu items will travel well

Many dishes on your current menu are perfect for dining-in, but may not translate to a pick-up and delivery environment. If a dish isn’t going to maintain quality after 20mins or more in a delivery container, take it off your menu. Consider offering meals that can be refrigerated and reheated by your customers, as well as those that can be eaten straight away. It also might be worth introducing value packs to entice the entire household and set yourself apart from your competitors.

3. Choose packaging that works for you, not against you

Good take-away and delivery packaging protects your food from crushing and contamination, but it’s critical in two more important ways: temperature regulation and moisture control. Proper packaging offers a good balance between keeping food warm (or cold) while allowing in enough air to mitigate condensation that can make the food soggy and customers unhappy.

Here are a few of the most common options:

Paper/cardboard: Paper containers offer a good combination of temperature retention, strength and ventilation options. They can also be branded easily to suit your operation. If you’re using paper cartons for hot items that need to stay crisp (like chips), use scissors to cut the two smaller flaps completely off to allow more air to circulate. Another option is to use packaging specifically designed for the delivery occasion, like the Keep Crunch Delivery Carton which Simplot designed in partnership with Detpak to ensure your customers never get soggy chips when used in conjunction with Edgell Supa Crunch Delivery Chip.

Plastic: Plastic containers are certainly strong enough for delivery, but don’t provide good ventilation. Avoid using plastic for items that need to remain crisp and fresh (like chips and burgers, and keep them for dishes like curries and pastas.

Styrofoam: It’s a great insulator but environmentally controversial and prone to making food soggy. To ventilate, twist the tip of a knife into the top and sides of the package so steam can escape.

When packing food for delivery, follow these tips:

• Package hot and cold items separately. Bag them separately, too.

• Pack chips in their own container— never in the same package as burgers and hot sandwiches—so they stay crisp.

• Place hot items at the bottom of a paper bag and insulate them by placing paper napkins around and between them. If the order includes chips, put them near the top of the bag.

• Seal the bag with a staple or sticker so your customer knows it has not been tampered with.

4. Let your customers know you’re still open

Keeping your marketing activity going is critical to success in these times. Start with the people who know you best, your existing customers, and work your way out.

Email: If you have one, your email list is gold at a time like this. It’s a direct line of communication to people who already like your restaurant. We recommended sending the announcement of your amended services and/or opening hours multiple times to ensure they get the message. Include personal remarks to let your best customers know how you’re doing and how much you appreciate their continued business (more on this below).

Website: Make mention of your updates prominently on your home page and include a link to your take-away and delivery menu. Make sure the announcement takes up enough real estate on-screen so it can’t be missed.

Social media: These are great channels to tell the story of how your restaurant is coping and innovating under these historic circumstances. Use photos and videos to show customers you’re making deliveries and filling takeout orders, using extra precautions to ensure their safety. Post short videos of your staff hustling to bring their favorite dishes to their door. Explicitly state that you need your customers to support you now more than ever and use hashtags such as #supportlocal #supporthospitality to inspire camaraderie with your community. If you’re familiar with Facebook’s Ads Manager, consider putting some budget behind your posts and take advantage of the ability to target people within your kitchen’s location.

Banners and decals: Promote your take-away and delivery services by putting up large banners or decals in your window. Make sure the lettering is big with strong contrast between the type and the background color. Include your phone number and web address.

Search engine marketing: If your digital marketing skills are more advanced, consider buying search keywords through Google related to delivery, your menu type and your location.

Overcommunicate to reassure patrons.

In a crisis like this, your customers are hungry for information, especially with regard to the steps you’re taking to keep them safe. Make sure you’re clear and transparent with regard to food safety and handling, and your policies for delivery and pickup.

Equally important, never miss an opportunity to tell your customers how much you appreciate their support. We’re seeing businesses write thank you notes on their delivery bags – this is an excellent way to remind your customers of the humans behind your business and show them how much you appreciate their support.

Above all, show them you understand their priorities: good food made and delivered safely.

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