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How to Take Advantage of Delivery and Carryout Trends in Your Restaurant

According to a recent National Restaurant Association survey, 60% of U.S. consumers say they order delivery or carryout food at least once a week, with 31% saying they order from a third-party delivery service. So, unless your restaurant is completely rural, this is an opportunity that you can tap into to help grow your restaurant business. But before you jump into the carryout and delivery business, here are some things you can do to help you make it profitable, and keep your customers happy. In other words, here’s how to take advantage of delivery and carryout trends in your restaurant.

Start with the right products.

First, do some simple analytics on your current sales, and if you are already selling carryout and delivery, separate those sales reports so you know what people are already ordering. To do this, gather up a product sales report and break it down into a scatter graph for review. In this way, you will have a much better idea of what your customers are already buying from you. Look at least three months to get a good idea what’s working for you and what isn’t.

Part of this research should be to look at online reviews, especially any that pertain to carry out and delivery. What you are looking for are what people are saying about any of your carry out and delivery orders. Also, if you want to get deeper into the minds of your customers, do some surveys with anyone who has ordered delivery or carryout food from you to see what they thought. Oftentimes, it’s what people don’t say that should concern us the most because people think they are doing us a favor by being polite and not saying anything. When in fact, they simply stop ordering from us, and we never really know why.

Be Carryout & Delivery Selective

Next, don’t try to make everything on your menu available for carryout and delivery. Instead, focus on items you know will travel well, and items that are already popular with consumers. When I say travel well, what I’m referring to are items that can be packaged up, shipped across town, and will still taste good. Most consumers understand that products they order for carryout and delivery will not be as good as they are in the restaurant. But they also want what they order to make it home and be better than they would make for themselves.

Research To Find What Travels Well

When you’re deciding what to keep on your carryout and delivery menu, again, do a little research. Make the products up, package them as you would for your customers, and then take them on a ride home with you and taste test them. Get people you trust to do the same thing, and take their comments seriously. The last thing you want is to have unhappy customers commenting on social media and business review websites after it’s too late for you to do anything to make a better product. Many bad reviews can be avoided by simply trying out everything you sell before you sell it.

DoorDash and Grubhub Both Know What Sells

Based on the DoorDash State of Flavor Report and Grubhub’s list of the hottest dishes of 2020, here is a list of some of the top foods getting delivered nationwide. This list is based on the overall popularity and rising trends of food delivery items from both DoorDash and Grubhub. Keep in mind, your market may vary, but it does show what consumers like, and it also tells you the kinds of products that travel well. While not everything on this list will work for your restaurant, some of them will. And what I find most interesting is how simple the items are. There is nothing creative about anything on this list at all.

1 – Chicken Fingers

DoorDash reports chicken fingers and fries as the No. 1 ordered food item for 2020. This shouldn’t be a surprise at all, since fried chicken items travel well, and still taste good, especially when dipped in a sauce.

2 – Chicken Sandwich

Who would have guessed, another fried chicken item? When topped with pickles and some special sauce, you’ve got an item that will taste great after sitting for half an hour or longer. Best of all, it’s easy to make. Just make sure yours has something special to offer that will set it apart from everything else being offered by quick service restaurants nationwide.

3 – Mac N Cheese

Of course, comfort foods are king when times are great, and especially when times are tough. The thing about Mac N Cheese is that it’s a difficult product to make from scratch for most people, so they would prefer to order it out. That and the products in a box from a grocery store are not great when cooked at home. If you have a restaurant that serves anything close to American food, this is a must have item.

4 – Sushi

This was a bit of a surprise, and it’s not for everyone or every restaurant operator to make. But it does make sense, since carryout and delivery foods are eaten immediately, and fresh fish dipped in soy with wasabi will taste fantastic when it’s taken home. If your restaurant is a little more upscale, you could get away with adding sushi to your menu, but again, it’s not for everyone.

5 – Asian Food

Items like Pad Thai are very popular with both carryout and delivery. Something to consider here is nearly every restaurant style can offer an Asian fusion item on their menu. Rice and noodle bowls are relatively easy to make, and travel very well.

6 – Veggie Burgers

Plant-based products are in, and it looks like they’re here to stay. Grubhub orders for plant-based burgers have risen 291%, nearly catching the spicy chicken sandwich and its 299% growth. If you don’t have a vegetable based burger, you need to. Most distributors carry items already prepared for cooking, so this doesn’t need to be made from scratch. But it does need to find a place on your menu.

7 – Mexican Anything

Mexican food in general is a leading choice for food deliveries, with both tacos and burritos topping the charts. According to the Uber Eats 2020 Cravings Report, tacos and burritos were top recipients of both delivery and carryout food requests. Best of all, unless you are an Asian restaurant, you can offer some terrific tacos and burritos with a fusion flair.

8 – Breakfast Sandwiches

A simple egg, cheese and sausage biscuit was the top rising item on DoorDash deliveries, seeing a 2,872% increase in popularity. Easy to make, and fits nearly any restaurant style with a little creativity, putting take out breakfast on your menu makes perfect sense. Even if you only open for carryout and delivery breakfast at your restaurant.

9 – Cinnamon Rolls & Donuts

Food delivery orders for cinnamon rolls rose 205% on Grubhub and 1,450% on DoorDash, and donuts were right behind them. Of course, this isn’t for every restaurant style, but I offer it on this list because of the rise in popularity. If you have a fryer in your restaurant, carnival style sugar donut holes are easy to make, and even easier to sell.

10 – Pizza

Always a favorite, pizza travels well, tastes great and feeds a lot of people. The only downside is the amount of competition because of the number of restaurants that offer pizza delivery already. To make this work, you would need a strong point of difference, and a reason for being in the pizza business. We have seen a lot of sports bars, American restaurants, Greek restaurants and bars get into this business and do well with it. Just keep in mind, while pizza is very profitable, it is divided up among more than one person, so your plate contribution per person will go down when you sell pizza.

11 – Burgers

American’s love their burgers, especially from their favorite restaurant. Getting them home still fresh is key to success here. The best way to ship them off is with simple packaging. Wrap the burgers in a foil and paper wrapper, put the French fries in an open cup, stuff it all into a bag, toss in another handful of fries for good measure, and watch the 5-Star reviews come in.

About HotOperator

HotOperator is a foodservice marketing agency. We love restaurants. We want them to survive. But we can’t do that unless we work together. Hire us to help you romance your restaurant brand.

Mark and Kelly are a marketing team and managing partners of HotOperator. They have been working in the restaurant business since 1989. Contact them through the HotOperator website, or by calling 800-316-3198, or contact Laux here.