Whether you have been offering delivery and takeout for years, or have had to make a recent pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know which food travels best for delivery—and how to change up your menu to stay profitable while dine-in isn't an option. Food delivery offers accessible food to people who are unable to leave their home and offices, while increasing your restaurant's profits by reaching a potentially new or wider audience.
Let’s run through a little scenario. You just ordered a burger, a side of fries, and a drink. They arrive at your door in a large paper bag, where the burger and fries are in their own respective bags, and the cold drink is snug against those bags with condensation dripping down. You dig into the bag holding the burger and it’s all fresh, ready to devour. You dig a little further until you find the bag holding the fries. The bag is wet from the steam and condensation, and the fries have lost that crispiness you were expecting when you ordered them.
Does that ring a bell? Did you know that french fries get soggy after 5 minutes?
Fries are a unique challenge in the food delivery space, however there are ways around these challenges with proper packaging and slight tweaks to your menu to provide the best experience for your customers.
Here are some things to consider when making a pivot towards delivery during this time of uncertainty.
Things to consider with food delivery
Packaging is just as important as the food when it comes to delivery and takeout. Organizing the food to keep it fresh, hot, and delicious can be a bit trickier than you think.
There are three food delivery best practices that you need to keep in mind when packaging for delivery:
1. Separate hot & cold foods
Similar to our french fries example above, you do not want to mix food temperatures so your food keeps as fresh (and crispy) as possible. Simply put, leaving the warm and cold foods in the same container can leave you with a cold burger and wilted salad. Try to keep those hot and cold items in their respective containers and bags.
2. Leave sauce on the side
This one is simple: leave the sauce on the side and let the customer mix it in. This avoids mess on bumpy roads and prevents food from getting unnecessarily soggy upon arrival. Throw any sauces in an extra container and let your diners choose how much or how little they want on their dish!
3. Choose proper packaging
Do not be afraid to invest a little bit more on the right packaging. This will keep your food fresh and your customers happy, which means repeat purchases. There are plenty of options out there (i.e. styrofoam containers, cardboard boxes, paper bags, etc), and each has its own suitability. Look for packaging that seals properly, insulates when needed, perhaps is microwavable if reheating is needed, and breathable if steam is an issue (poke holes if you have to).
If you’ve got branded packaging, it’s even better. If not? Throw some stickers of your logo on the bag to further that brand recognition with your diners.
Food travel distance
While there may be an opportunity for your restaurant to deliver to as many homes as possible, keep in mind that distance can have a strong impact on customer satisfaction and the integrity and safety of your food.
Make sure that you keep the radius small enough so that:
- You don’t leave your customers’ stomachs growling for too long
- The food stays hot and cold as it needs to, and
- The food doesn’t become unsafe to eat if it sits within the “danger zone” for too long
A good rule of thumb is to keep the distance from your restaurant to the customer within an hour—which can vary in distance if the carrier is driving a car or riding a bike.
A trend that’s been emerging since the wider adoption of food delivery is family-style dining. Why worry about delivering small dishes to individuals when you can offer larger packages for groups and families? This allows for restaurateurs to go through food surplus quicker, reducing waste, and for customers to have leftovers if they can’t get around to meal prepping.
Not to mention, average order values are much higher for family-style meals, which means more sales. A win, win, win!
Food that travels well for delivery
Now, whether or not you offer the following foods in your menu, some food items travel much better than others, and it’s never too late to adjust your menu for delivery. In fact, it’s an opportunity for you to experiment and perhaps create a new line of dishes to increase your revenue.
Here are some of the delivery classics.
If you love meat, this is right up your alley. Barbecue meats, such as pork ribs, beef brisket, and chicken wings are perfect for delivery travel. Not only do these travel well, but they won’t lose points for presentation and they don’t need to stay crispy.
Depending on your type of restaurant, try:
- Pork ribs
- Beef brisket
- Chicken wings
- Grilled BBQ veggies (for your veggie diners!)
Pizza is arguably the most popular delivery food in North America because it travels so well. It’s no secret Domino’s was crowned #9 on QSR’s list of America's 25 Most Lucrative Fast-Food Chains. With the majority of Domino’s probably coming from delivery, it’s a proven fact that Pizza is a delivery favorite.
Cover the pizza basics with pepperoni, cheese, and hawaiian, and consider adding a few veggie options for your veg diners.
With the right packaging, fried chicken is right up there with the top delivery foods. It is a great comfort food and ideal for ordering in large quantities if you have a big group or family. You can throw in some extra sauces for an upcharge to really boost your revenue, and offer a few different flavors for your diners to choose from.
Pasta, noodles, and rice
Next on the list are carbs! If packed properly, pasta, noodles, and rice are a great option for delivery. Plus they can easily be beefed up with proteins (chicken, beef, fish, tofu) for an upcharge and to suit your diners varying tastes.
The packaging factor is essential here if the noodles are part of a soup (i.e. Ramen) to keep the dish fresh and tasty.
Grilled meats and vegetables
This one is a no-brainer. As stated by Taylor Tobin from Insider, “Anything that comes off the grill is a solid bet for delivery.” We couldn’t agree more! Grilled meats and vegetables are another one of those foods that you can order in large quantities, provide lots of leftovers, it’s great for reheating, and also very easy to make for restaurants.
Desserts, pastries, and coffee
Oftentimes, when we think of food delivery, the first thing that comes to mind are those savoury foods we just mentioned. However, we can’t forget about the sweeter things in life.
Cakes, brownies, croissants, donuts, cookies—the list goes on! Savoury goods are in high supply through delivery, but there’s a huge audience of sweet-toothed diners who are looking to get their fix in quarantine, too.
Baked goods and desserts are perfect for delivery as they rarely have temperature requirements and, if packaged securely, it’s also a food that travels well in a car.
Another thing to note is all the coffeeshops who not only offer desserts and pastries, but are also there for your caffeinated needs. Support your local coffee shops and treat yourself every now and then for breakfast.
Signed, sealed, and delivered
If you’re already delivering some or most of these foods, then you probably know a thing or two about the food delivery business. In these times where restaurants are struggling to stay open and having to pivot to delivery and takeout, lend a hand and share those tips and best practices with industry peers who could use it.
As for restaurants who are wondering how to best adjust their business for delivery and takeout, explore ways you can re-engineer your menu and don’t be afraid to sacrifice things from your menu in order to best optimize your kitchen efforts for delivery. Every delivery helps in these unprecedented times.
If you need more advice during the weeks ahead, we’re here to help. Visit our growing delivery and take out channels at your restaurant article for more tips on food delivery, follow us on instagram, or reach out if you need assistance, as we are dedicated to supporting you and your restaurant during this time.
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Bonjour! I’m Vince, the Performance Marketing Manager here at 7shifts. When I’m not deep in the digital marketing weeds, I help research, coordinate, and write content for our awesome blog.