How to Turn Your Restaurant Menu into a Delivery Menu

We talked to chef James Forman - Freelance Consultant at On Point Hospitality, about what he advises clients who want to develop a takeaway and delivery menu.

Here are his suggestions:

First and foremost, I advise businesses to reduce and refine their full menu offer. The latest research on consumer behaviour tells us that too much choice leads potential customers to stop and take notice but it also discourages and often prevents a decision being made (this is one of the foundations of Aldi’s strategy of not offering more than three, often two choices in most product ranges).
In a restaurant setting, having tables settle in and take their time selecting a meal is ideal, as they won't get up and leave if the choice becomes difficult. When it comes to takeaway, it is crucial to get a quick decision before the customer hits a point of indecision and moves on and clicks another choice. Limit the menu to about 12 items.

When putting together a takeaway menu, he follows 3 principles. Dishes must be:

  1. Operationally suitable. Take away meals must be delivered quickly, so aim for no more than 20 minutes cooking time from time of order. If you're also doing sit-down dining, it is essential that extra orders don't cause operational bottlenecks and production problems.
  2. Offer value as a takeaway. Select and refine meals that will travel well and still be attractive after some time in a sealed container. Avoid or alter fried food that will go soggy, meals that will wilt and combinations that will smoosh together e.g. sauce and purees. Select meals that can absorb a price reduction and remain profitable - there is no table service or other offers that make up the total value proposition for dine in meals. Take aways should be priced approximately 25% cheaper.
  3. Promote the core business. The takeaway menu must encourage customers to return for the full experience. Select or modify dishes that represent the essence of your core business and will leave customers wanting to come back to try the rest.

Some businesses simply cannot alter their menu to be suitable for take away. For them, the option may be to create an entirely new offer (paying particular attention to items 1 and 2 above) and run that offer under a different name - this can work very well in partnership with delivery platforms.

Other chefs and restaurateurs also had some great advice:

Make sure the recipes are profitable - there's no point in having 'profitless volume'. Items that are high on carbs and low on protein and make good money – it’s no accident that pizza, rice and noodles are popular for delivery. If you’re using a third-party delivery service, it’s essential that you have a very good margin in every item. Now’s the time to start using a simple Recipe Software system.

Pump up the value - you want to turn these customers into weekly regulars. This will only happen if you 'exceed expectations' - it's a simple rule of marketing. The nicely cooked steak might usually be served with a sauce and a mushroom, but looks very lonely in a box. For takeaway, why not add a small bowl of vegetables or salad, a bread roll and mini dessert. Even some orange wedges - a well-known offer from old-style Chinese restaurants. Think about how airline meals are presented - the tray arrives with everything you need.

Sell desserts - there are lots of sweet-toothed people, and they'd love a chocolate mousse or panna cotta to finish their meal. These are easy to package, and better still are ones that will be OK for longer at room temperature (e.g. a fruit compote). Tubs of hard-frozen gourmet ice cream could also be popular, but make sure you have a margin on them.

Sell beverages - it may not be alcohol (although check your license conditions), but there's good money for cafes selling big smoothies and health shakes that are so popular for sit-down customers. There is good spill-proof packaging available. If you haven't developed this side of your takeaway menu, it's time! Soft drinks and bottled water are the alternative, but the margins are much less.

Sell quantity packs – feed a crowd, with large portions of pasta, curries, whole chickens and hearty desserts. This is also a way to keep your dollar sales high and the per-head price low – people will do their calculations, and keen prices are essential in this climate.

Sell items that can be reheated. They might not be the only things you sell, but this way you can encourage people to buy up in bulk for several meals. These items could be hot or cold - chilled ones can be sent out in the insulated bags you can buy at supermarkets for a couple of dollars.

Sort out the packaging - it's got to be practical and look good. People want to avoid plastic, so see what's suitable with cardboard or compostable plastic-like material. You also need bags that will allow 'contactless' pickup - for people who want to collect, but want the bag left at the front door. Don't spend too much on fancy labels - download the label-printing app from Avery, and you can format and print inexpensive labels from your local office supply store.

Prepare your photos - and make sure they're (fairly) similar to what people see when they open the box! We've all compared the burger chain's picture in the poster, with what's in front of us - it's a challenge. Modern phones can do excellent photos, particularly if you use natural light. Make them 'instagram delicious' and you are off to a good start. When you get your new takeaway menu online, you will need a photo for most items, so these will come in handy.

Put your ordering online - that's how people want to order. This might be through one of the third-party services like Deliveroo, or keep the profits and do it through your own ordering website like OrderUp! - they can put up an ordering page that matches your website colours and design, but the orders go straight to you, via a third party. LINK to the other article on Delivery Apps.

Learn from Thai & Chinese Restaurants - they have been feeding kiwis with great takeaway food for decades. Think about how the food is packaged and delivered, the extras included and how they have menus that lend themselves to add-on sales – how many servings of steamed rice for you?

Respect food safety regulations - food that's delivered may be delayed and fall below safe-food temperatures. It's essential that your staff understand Safe Food Handling and make it part of daily routines. They can do online courses, or read the guidelines from Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

This article was written by SilverChef, a leading hospitality distributor in ANZ.