As off-premises sales explode, operators make sure their food arrives in premium condition.
Delivery is more important than ever, and operators are working to win their share of this lucrative segment. According to a recent survey from the National Restaurant Association, approximately 60% of restaurant occasions are now off-premise across all forms, including drive-thru, takeout and delivery.
The survey, which the National Restaurant Association conducted with Technomic, also found:
- 79% of consumers use restaurant delivery at least once a month.
- 34% of consumers utilize delivery more often than a year ago.
Fries are especially popular among consumers ordering delivery. According to The NPD Group, for quick service restaurants, fries are sent off premise more than any other menu item1. For full service restaurants, Chinese/Asian/Indian, rice and French fries were the top menu items eaten at home.
Here are some ways operators say they are making certain their signature foods travel well — especially high-margin items that customers crave like french fries.
At Big Al’s BBQ and Catering, with two locations in Des Moines and Adel, Iowa, owner Al Laudencia says delivery and takeout make up 30% of sales in one location, and 60 to 70% in the other location. “In two years that number is expected to rise to 80%,” he says.
Laudencia points to millennials who prefer ordering via apps and eating at home as a key driver of the growth of delivery at his restaurants. NPD Group, in its research, points to convenience as a factor in the growth of delivery. Even the changing seasons play a role, as Technomic, in its Next Level Off-Premise Report (2018), noted that 28% of consumers say weather is a key deciding factor in ordering delivery.
Consumers have certain expectations about food that is delivered. According to Technomic’s Next-Level Off-Premise report (2018):
82% of consumers say the quality of delivery must be as good as dining in.
And 30% of regular takeout users say they typically purchase more food when ordering carryout versus dining in.
Laudencia says the challenge is that if someone orders delivery and the food arrives soggy or cold, Big Al’s BBQ can lose that customer and other potential customers. “They complain on social media,” he says. “They talk a little about the good and a lot about bad parts of the meal.”
The chain was seeing negative posts about fries that were limp by the time they arrived at customers’ locations. That was important because fries are the top seller at Big Al’s, followed by brisket, and then pulled pork. Not only do fries have low food costs, but they also are less labor intensive than brisket, which takes 22 hours to prepare, and pulled pork, which takes 16 hours.
If fries are cooked and then packaged, the moisture in the trapped steam causes them to wilt. To remedy that, last year Big Al’s switched to McCain® SureCrisp™ fries, which are clear-coated to help them remain crispy for up to 30 minutes. The results have been favorable. “We have not had a single complaint,” he says.
The switch is helping Big Al’s maintain current customers and also attract new ones, which results in increased sales. “It’s not the one-time sandwich for $10 or $15,” he says. “If you get new customers and they like your food, they will come in two and half times within the month and will bring back three and half new people.”
At Shorty Smalls, with three locations in Little Rock, Ark., Branson, MO., and Oklahoma City, consumers purchase french fries in 80% of takeout, delivery and dine-in orders. Delivery accounts for 30% of all orders. “The consumers are telling us they want convenience,” says Chris Potts, Director of Operations.
They also want crispy fries, and the fries Shorty Smalls offered in the past did not remain crispy after being packaged for half an hour. When the establishment tried McCain® SureCrisp™ fries, they tested the fry by having kitchen staff cook an order and then package it in a to-go container. Potts and other staff waited 20 minutes to eat the fries. “They were still hot and crispy,” he says. “It was night and day compared to the other fry.”
Shorty Smalls, which will open two more locations in 2020, has reported good results from the new fry. “Customers love the new fry, and nothing changed in the kitchen,” Potts says. “It’s a win for us, and a win for the consumer.”
The future is in delivery and takeout. According to NPD Group2:
- Restaurant digital orders by mobile app, internet or text message have grown by 23% over the past four years and now represent 3.1 billion visits and $26.8 billion in sales.
- Digital orders will continue to grow by double digits through 2020, with growth across delivery, on premises and carryout.
Operators are leveraging low food cost and high margin menu items such as fries as part of their strategies to keep pace with the delivery boom. For more takeout and delivery solutions and information on guest-preferred McCain® SureCrisp™ fries, visit https://mccainusafoodservice.com/good-to-go.
1NPD Group, CREST Foodservice Research “Delivery Impact on Servings by Item Type (YE Nov 2018 vs. PY). Note, Asian and Pizza were removed from the data filters.
2NPD Group, Delivering Digital Convenience report, 2018