Before March, to-go business for most operators was a distant concern as well as a small part of overall income.

We all understand why that has changed and now the to-go segment is making up a very large part of foodservice income.

A friend of mine who operates a restaurant said, “You can minimize my seating capacity inside my restaurant or outside on my patio. But you cannot minimize the food I serve to go.” This insightful statement reflects the new normal in the industry.

Making sure your brand is known as a viable to-go establishment is a must. Use social media and consider redesigning your website to inform potential customers you are the go-to for the best to-go service. Designate parking spots outside for curbside. Set up a POS system and designate an employee to deal only with to-go orders to optimize efficiency.

Many operators have also decided to venture into new waters to generate to-go sales beyond their menus. Here are some ideas I have seen at restaurants, clubs, hotels, and bars that have found success:To Go, Today – A Chef’s Update

  • Themed meals – Examples include build your own pizza, spaghetti, or pasta dinner, meatloaf night, weekend southern BBQ feast, fish fry Friday kits, Taco Tuesday fiesta, poke bowls, and fried chicken baskets. These are being served as prepared, hot-n-ready, or kits to create at home (recipes included).
  • Retail items to go — You already have the product, so where else can you capture the sale? Families in need of items such as milk, eggs, sugar, cut fruit and vegetables may be looking for an easier, contactless source.
  • Grab-n-go items including sandwiches, salads, snacks, and beverages.
  • Boxed lunches for work and/or school.
  • Drink packages with recipes, depending on state laws.
  • Food trucks — Expand your off-premises operation and bring your food to the consumers.
  • Pick-up window — Allows you to maintain social distancing, efficiency.
  • Butcher programs — Sell your proteins, from steak to fish and poultry.
  • Soup offerings including gumbo, chilis, and chowder for a bowl of warm comfort.
  • Off-site catering services and delivery — Add your services to any local outdoor events that may be occurring. The public misses seeing you and enjoying your product.
  • Dine-in gift certificates with to-go meals to engage return visits.

Embracing to go has become such a large part of our industry. Now’s the time to be creative in the way you define your to-go brand to customers.

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