Delivery and takeout continue to drive business at many restaurants, easily raking in higher checks than dine-in averages. Simply put, consumers like the convenience of ordering out and to be able to avoid the work and the need to get dressed up. The top reason consumers say they choose not to dine in restaurants is that they are more comfortable eating at home, according to Technomic’s 2018 Takeout & Off-Premise report.
The desire for takeout and delivery extends to holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, as well as special occasions such as anniversaries and graduation parties. These events provide a potentially lucrative opportunity for operators to create a memorable meal, whether it’s via delivery or takeout sales.
1) Spread the word
The first strategy in attracting special occasion orders is making sure your regulars know about your capabilities. Website reminders and table tents can help set the stage with holiday menus, bundled meals or bulk ordering options such as pizza, subs and sides like chips or French fries. “Are you ready for graduation/the big game?” teasers on the restaurant’s homepage can link to the catering menu for families or groups that are in the market to buy food for a crowd, while posts on social media can also alert hungry diners of specials
2) Plan properly
Once the word’s out, execution is key. For certain special days, like Mother’s Day, that requires a bit of innovation. “How do you create an experience that will give mom what she’s looking for when staying home versus what she’ll experience when going out?” asks Jim Collins, owner of Town Kitchen and Grill in Montrose, Calif., and CEO of Kitchen United, a growing network of foodservice production facilities that help restaurants expand their takeout and delivery options.
3) Add a special celebration
A simple gesture that turns an everyday meal-to-go into a celebration is to add a special themed dessert or appetizer. Premium packaging or delivery by tuxedoed drivers raises the bar as well. Partnering with local florists, spas, salons or chocolatiers and offering an all-inclusive experience that goes beyond food is another way to make sweethearts, moms, dads, graduates and everyone feel special.
4) Promote premium options
However, promoting premium-priced LTOs on holidays can sometimes turn off regular customers, Collins says. Instead, he recommends tweaking regular menu items to reflect the holiday, such as menuing heart-shaped pizzas and cakes for Valentine’s Day. Other ideas can include offering a “date night special” that includes sides like loaded fries, premium fries or waffle fries with the entree.
5) Offer occasion-specific ideas
When it comes to events like graduations or big sporting events, foods that reflect the graduate’s school or team colors make an impression. Depending on the occasion and the group size, menu options can lean toward bar food nachos or wings, picnic-style classics like burgers and fries, food truck-style fare such as street tacos,, barbecued meats, clambakes and other party favorites. Cost carries a bit more weight than it does on holidays. “It’s more like a catering event than a typical takeout or delivery order,” Collins says. “People are looking for a price point that makes the meals accessible.”
Finally, offering several tiers of service—simple takeout versus delivery, drop-off catering setup and removal, disposables versus china, flatware and glassware—satisfies the needs for customers across the spectrum.
Special occasions will always be a reason for diners to get together for a meal. For restaurants, the trick is making the takeout and delivery experience feel just as special as dining out.