Posted on Thursday, 14ᵗʰ October, 2021
While the pandemic has had an enormous effect on the hospitality industry, we can at least be grateful there was a plan B: delivery and takeaway. Without doubt, it’s kept many businesses alive over the past two years.
The silver lining in the so-called pivot to out-of-venue dining is that it has fast-tracked our understanding of how to operate a successful takeaway and delivery business. The habits & home dining preferences formed by our diners are expected to persist. So, what’s next in the evolution of takeaway and delivery? Let’s look at how the new landscape is shaping up.
Once upon a time, takeaway meals were dominated by a narrow set of fast foods. But rising consumer demand for healthier food choices and exciting global flavours will inevitably be reflected in takeaway orders. Research bureau ibisWorld predicts the rise of nutritious fast food in the near term as diners seek to limit unhealthy meals in their diets. The fastest growing segment are Gen Z and Millennials, who order more often, but are also more adventurous & health conscious when they do so.
Upshot for chefs: Young adults tend to be more adventurous, value new experiences and have more discretionary income. Finding ways to keep your menu fresh with clever twists, healthier options and interesting flavours could be the key to unlocking orders from this lucrative diner group.
Some venues already appear to be reimagining their business to include multiple revenue streams with an eye to a café and restaurant landscape that will be forever changed. Some intriguing new ideas include:
The magic of meal kits
The access commercial kitchens and chefs have to niche producers and the best ingredients is something that fills home cooks with envy. Venues including hatted Victorian restaurant Atlas Dining and Adelaide taco joint Masa have created a lucrative channel in boxing up prized ingredients for home diners to enjoy.
New takeaway experiences
Venues are expanding the relevant takeaway occasions with event-themed kits … think a date night pack with wine, candles and a playlist or a sports pack with beer and finger food. For example, Sydney restaurant Fred’s is doing a winning trade in ready-to-go picnic packs that include champagne, caviar, cheese, charcuterie, dips, bread, prawns and more.
Brand your wares
Your core business will always be food, but door-to-door delivery gives you the chance to diversify your offer. From publishing cookbooks to establishing retail lines, venues are spreading their wings by branching into areas that promote their businesses and provide much-needed profitability. Ideas range from the expected, such as Auckland chef Al Brown’s Federal Delicatessen t-shirts, condiments and cookbooks, to the eccentric, such as Melbourne coffee empire Padre’s madcap table tennis set and showy socks.
The way your food is presented is an essential part of the overall experience and is something that is often forgotten in the context of home delivery & takeaway. Branded craft paper bags or custom printed cardboard boxes make an excellent first impression, and they demonstrate a deeper level of pride in your food. Use your packaging as a chance to tell your story and, even better, ensure it’s reusable, biodegradable or recyclable—sustainable operating is set to become a non-negotiable for businesses.
Upshot for chefs: The way you package your food can set your venue apart and is a golden opportunity to reinforce your venue’s story and sustainability credentials.
Third-party delivery apps often publish or share data about emerging trends with their restaurants. Savvy operators can use this information to keep their menu on trend, or perhaps even create entirely new opportunities.
The virtual venue
Chef Neil Perry has created his ‘At Home’ brand that operates virtually—there is no dine-in venue. As a dedicated business at arm’s length to his bricks and mortar restaurants, At Home has been designed to meet the specific needs of the home diner. Some restaurants in the US have taken this concept a step further by creating completely separate online restaurant brands in order to cater to gaps in the local dining market as well as increase revenues while maximising fixed costs & overheads. For example, US based Italian restaurant chain Fazoli’s created Wingville, a virtual restaurant brand selling an on-trend & easy to prepare menu, with positive results.
Upshot for chefs: The rise of delivery apps offer new and unexpected opportunities to develop or expand beyond the traditional restaurant operation.
The pandemic and localised lockdowns have fostered a renewed sense of community as people endeavour to support businesses in their immediate area that have struggled to survive. Given a shift to local, organic and sustainable food sourcing was already in motion, this sentiment will likely persist in the years to come as people seek to maximise their support of their favourite venues and sustainable producers.
Upshot for chefs: Where your menu includes ingredients sourced from local producers or nearby farms, ensure this detail is available to customers, who are more willing than ever to support those in their local area who might be doing it tough.
The pandemic has been particularly painful for the hospitality industry, but at the same time it has been a period of considerable innovation and experimentation. Some operators will use the lessons they have learned during this difficult time to create new & lasting opportunities that could make their business stronger in the long run.