Part 2: Think Outside the To-Go Box
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Doesn’t June feel like forever ago?
 
Back then, we wrote an article about how COVID-19 was spurring restaurants to think outside the to-go box. Throughout the pandemic, restaurant innovation has gone far beyond ramping up off-premises business.
 
The coronavirus hasn’t gone away, but a lot has changed since summer. The foodservice industry has come up with more creative solutions to improve safety and customer service. Check out how restaurants continue to innovate.
 
More Safety Measures 
 
Setting tables six feet apart, using disposable menus, and requiring staff to wear masks have been common practice for a while. With more research coming out about the virus, foodservice operations have implemented new safety measures and technology to protect both their staff and consumers.
 
  • Air Circulation: Poorly ventilated, enclosed spaces increase the risk of the virus’s spread. If possible, open windows to get air circulating from outside. Air filters with high MERV ratings and UV-C devices are also recommended. Not an expert in HVAC? Work with certified professionals to assess ventilation needs.
 
  • More Distance: For several months, the CDC has defined “close contact” as 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of an infectious person. But recently, it’s been discovered that those 15 minutes don’t have to be consecutive, raising concerns for foodservice workers. In addition to requiring masks, try to have only one worker per food prep station to minimize contact. Limiting menu items can help decrease stations.
 
  • Visible Cleaning: A Technomic report found that consumers’ top expectation for restaurant cleanliness is to see the staff cleaning. Restaurants that are still offering in-house dining should make sure staff is disinfecting high-touch areas frequently to put diners at ease. In case a consumer misses someone wiping down a table, put hygiene products and safety signage at the front of the house.
 
Delivery Developments
 
As the coronavirus surges across the country, many places are tightening restrictions on indoor dining again. Outdoor dining will likely continue, particularly in warmer states. But even with fireplaces or heaters, it’ll be hard to convince diners to eat outside in colder areas. With winter approaching and COVID-19 cases climbing, restaurants need to focus on refining their delivery methods. Some areas restaurants can explore to improve their off-premises business include:
 
  • Ghost Kitchens: According to Spoonshot, ghost kitchens have increased a whopping 977.5 percent in the past 24 months. Known as ghost kitchens, dark kitchens, cloud kitchens, and virtual kitchens, these spaces prepare food for delivery only. That allows operators to focus on a smaller menu of travel-friendly items and cut labor and real estate costs.
 
  • Faster Service: In a recent study, 75 percent of consumers said they expect their delivery orders to arrive within 30 minutes. To meet these high standards, restaurants should develop a streamlined delivery menu that focuses on offerings that travel well and can be put together quickly using speed-scratch and prepared products. Coordinate with drivers to ensure food is delivered fresh and on time.
 
  • Higher Prices: While consumers are particular about delivery times, they are more lenient when it comes to pricing. Consumers are willing to pay a little more for convenience. Don’t be afraid to increase menu prices by a reasonable amount or upcharge for extra ingredients to offset delivery costs.
 
Your Sourcing Solution
 
Innovation means finding opportunity even under strange and difficult circumstances. Menu innovation can’t stop, but restaurants must also focus on opportunities to provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective ways to serve consumers.
 
At Dot Foods, we go beyond food to ensure restaurants have what they need to maintain health and hygiene. We have sanitizers, masks, thermometers, and signage available now.
 
Keep thinking outside the to-go box—stock up on restaurant safety supplies.