COVID-19 has been the Australian foodservice industry’s greatest challenge. Although early indications across the country suggest that consumer demand is certainly rebounding, restaurants and cafes still need to plan ahead and remain nimble for whatever the ‘next normal’ may be.
There is no denying that the coming months will be challenging for the foodservice industry as many of our customers are trying to position themselves to bring back sales to pre-pandemic levels. After countless conversations with foodservice operators, we recommend two modes of operation: Firstly, consider actions that help you return to stability, and secondly, consider actions that will propel you to thrive in the ‘next normal’.
So, what does that look like? Instead of simply reverting to business as usual, we believe there is an opportunity to innovate and reshape your business (and the industry as a whole) in 2021, from restaurant layout to customer experience. But perhaps most importantly; rethinking your menu…
Where to start?
Consumers are obviously still concerned about health and safety, but many are excited to get back out and enjoy some sense of normalcy by dining out. You’ve probably started by reintroducing your pre-COVID-19 menu items, which makes sense, but now is the time to assess which are performing well. Are there any that lead to more upsells? Any that aren’t selling well? Any that could be offered as an entrée and a main?
Refreshing or reinventing your menu is one of the most powerful tools to change a venue’s performance. Diners’ behaviour is continuously evolving, and therefore so should your menu. Savvy restaurateurs should be monitoring trends such as plant-based proteins and gluten free diets. Introduce menu items to capitalise on these trends, price those items competitively and test them on your current market.
Say goodbye to share plates
Of course, share plates, which were once the norm for restaurants and caterers, are being rethought and often removed from menus. Although social distancing laws are gradually being lifted, sharing food may still turn diners off. If you, for example, had a lunch menu based on shareables, you may want to consider focusing on sandwiches, salads and mains to keep things separate. Lunch deals, like gourmet sandwiches that can be grabbed on the run, will be popular with business people returning to the office.
The restrictions on foodservice venues in 2020 forced many to rethink their menus already. Many of these changes will endure far beyond 2021. Takeaway and delivery, which was once an afterthought, is now vital to many venues’ business. If it’s here to stay for you, make sure you assess a few things. First up – take the time to think about your strategy for third party delivery apps. Consider things like your mark-ups, their rules about access to your customer’s data and cost-effective packaging. Then take a look at the longevity of your delivery menu items. This means preparing food that can travel easily. Are your burgers going soggy while waiting to be delivered? Or are they maintaining their shape and integrity (check out our potato bun, perfect for delivery here).
Uncomplicate your dishes
Something you should always consider when revamping your menu is how preparation is going to look when it gets busy. Especially if you are running on a skeleton staff to save costs. Of course you want to cut costs without sacrificing quality so perhaps you should consider less-complicated dishes that involve fewer of the kitchen staff in the preparation. If that isn’t up your alley, consider having guests pre-order their dinner as they book, so that the kitchen will know how much to prepare and minimise waste.
If your venue has never been open for breakfast, now is the time to consider rebranding for the morning. Brunch and breakfast can be a real profit-maker for savvy business owners. With a range of quality breakfast products available frozen (so you only thaw when you need them, reducing waste) you can create an enviable breakfast menu without much effort. Breakfast also provides the opportunity for several upsells including coffees and juices, ‘extras’ like bacon and haloumi and grab-and-go items like egg and bacon muffins.
All Australian operators are trying to figure out what the post-pandemic consumer will want to eat in 2021. Although no one knows what this year will hold, there are certainly many ways you can reinvent your menu to give you the best chance at, not just surviving, but thriving in the new year.