Operators are looking for trends that can help them increase revenue while in-house dining is down.

Operators are looking for trends that can help them increase revenue while in-house dining is down. One concept that continues to gain traction with foodies is the meal kit. Services like Blue Apron offer complete meals that customers can reproduce at home. The meal kit supplies some of, if not all of the ingredients, as well as step-by-step instructions to help the guest become the chef.

Creating a meal kit from your most popular menu items can be a good way to engage with customers while they are still hesitant to dine in. Many restaurant goers are looking for ways to support their favorite restaurants safely, and a meal kit can provide that opportunity, plus a little bit of fun for folks who might be going stir crazy. Here’s how to do it...

Identify Your Signature Dish(es)

To get started, you’ll want to analyze your menu to identify the dishes that can truly be considered your “signatures.” What about your menu is specific to your restaurant? What dishes tell the story of your cuisine best? Once you have a few candidates in mind, determine which among them are better suited to home chefs.

You can pretty safely assume that customers who are interested in meal plans come equipped with some knowledge of the kitchen, but for customer satisfaction, you’ll want to pick a dish that’s achievable for an untrained home cook. Avoid dishes that require intricate knife work and ones that have many steps and/or complicated techniques. The best dishes will be aspirational but achievable.

Break it Down into Steps

Once you’ve chosen a dish, take a look at its component parts. Usually dishes will have several mini-recipes within them. Think about the different recipes that make up this dish and begin to map out the steps, working with your chef to hone the details. Ask your chef how they train their cooks to execute the dish, and use that as a jumping off point for creating your recipe and instructions.

Before you send your meal kit off with customers, have a few beta testers -- friends, family, and employees -- give it a try and provide feedback for you to further clarify the recipe and instructions based on their experiences.

Price it to Sell (and Upsell!)

Keep in mind that the meal kit is a novelty, but it’s not an exact substitute for dining in a restaurant with ambiance and service. The meal kit should not cost as much as the menu item, especially if the customer is required to add ingredients to what you’ve provided. Price accordingly, and look at the meal kit as an opportunity to upsell. Encourage customers to make it a complete experience by adding wine, beer, cocktails, or a pre-made dessert.

Package Thoughtfully

Packaging is a marriage between form and function. Your meal kit should keep the ingredients and other components separate from one another and should prevent any breakage or damage. It should also represent your brand and have visual appeal. The meal kit is as much a marketing tool as a revenue generator, so treat it that way by making sure it looks like a product of your brand. Give thought to the unboxing experience that your customers will have when they open the meal kit. You want to create a little of the same magic they feel when they’re guests in your dining room, so think of creative ways you can connect with these guests from a distance.

Connect with the Guest

Your meal kit’s printed materials should point back to your website. If you have videos of your cooks preparing the meal kit dishes, share them on your website and drive traffic back there. If you have an e-newsletter, use the meal kit as an opportunity to get new subscribers, by pointing customers to the newsletter for tips and tricks.

Encourage customers to share their creations online and offer specific tags and hashtags for them to use so that you can track the results. You can incentivize sharing with a social media contest or simply by reposting and thanking customers when they share online.

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