The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the way restaurants operate, including how they write menus. Many restaurants have scaled-back their menus to account for having fewer kitchen staff and to reduce waste.
While there is no certainty surrounding when the pandemic will end and what the new “normal” for restaurant service will look like, there are some definite signs that the restaurant menu itself will be forever changed.
Here are five ways restauranteurs can reimagine their menus in order to survive in the post-pandemic market.
Focus on what the staff can execute quickly
Time is of the essence for restaurant service nowadays. Customers are afraid to be outside for too long, and those that brave the restaurant dining rooms want to order and be fed as quickly as possible. Moreover, restaurants need to increase the time it takes to turn a table in order to maintain a level of business that pays the bills.
For these reasons, restaurants need to focus on serving dishes their kitchen staff can execute quickly. Romano’s Macaroni Grill cut nearly 30 percent of its menu items including fan favorites like pizza, calzones, and spinach artichoke dip for this very reason.
“Right now for us, it’s survival mode,” Chief Executive Officer Nishant Machado told The Independence Tribune. “There’s less prep time for the chefs and the cooks. It’s really rationalizing the menu, focusing on products we know our teams can execute on quickly.”
Stick to what’s familiar
While it may be tempting to slice and dice your menu to focus on the most profitable dishes, restauranteurs need to remember the bigger picture: their brand.
For the popular Hispanic and southern food chain Torchy’s Tacos, this idea led the company to develop new menu items during the pandemic while simultaneously paring down their existing one to reduce waste and overhead costs. Torchy’s recently released their Family Packs, a deal that allows between four and five customers to customize their own tacos for just $25.
This deal gives customers the ability to have their favorite tacos from home as Torchy’s locations remain closed for dine-in service around the country.
Similarly, Taco John’s planned to incorporate enchiladas into its menu this year, but decided to put off the addition until after the market settles down. They’re reasoning is simple, people want what’s familiar right now and restaurants have a duty to offer their customers that satisfaction during uncertain times.
Sell more family packs and sharable options
Other restaurants around the country have begun selling family meals to both help their communities and regenerate some lost revenue.
Chick N Max, a quick service restaurant chain from Kansas, recently began offering family meal menu with offerings like 12 signature tenders, two sides and two breads for just $12. Customers can also get BOGO chicken sandwiches for $4.99.
“We wanted to create an affordable meal featuring our signature menu items for families during these challenging times,” Zaxby’s CEO and co-founder Zach McLeroy said in a press release. “Zaxby’s is always focused on bringing people together with flavorful comfort food made with uncompromising quality. Now more than ever, we’re all family.”
Offer more takeout-friendly options
If there’s just one lesson restauranteurs can learn from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that takeout is king.
From upgrading takeout containers to streamlining online ordering processes, there are plenty of ways for restauranteurs to ensure their business survives should another pandemic or similar event occur in the future. Epic Burger, a limited-service restaurant in Chicago, has already taken this lesson to heart.
“Our goal is for takeout and delivery to account for over 50% of revenue, and the health crisis is expediting the process,” Kyle Welch, the company’s CEO told Restaurant Business Online.
Epic Burger also has plans to launch its own app within the coming weeks, allowing the restaurant to exponentially grow its online and delivery sales. Other restaurants struggling to regain their in-house footing would be remiss to not consider ways to boost digital sales.
Wellness inspired dishes
Wellness is on the forefront of everyone’s mind nowadays, and it’s already filtering down into consumer behavior.
In response, Chipotle Mexican Grill began developing new “lifestyle bowls” alongside a few select social media influencers to capitalize on the growing wellness trend.
Actress Lexi Atkins recently opened an organic juice bar, Tely Organics, in Los Angeles that serves gluten-free, superfood, and GMO-free options. The bar also serves the same quality food for those who need a healthy snack to get them through the day.
It’s no surprise that customers want healthy food options from their favorite neighborhood spots, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Even traditionally unhealthy fast food restaurants are catching on to this trend. McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King all currently serve alternative meat patties for customers who don’t want beef. Soon, restaurants of all kinds will need to develop a wellness menu in order to survive in the post-pandemic market.