By Neha Mukund

Yes, we have populated information sources in the F&B space constantly citing the pandemic. And how it changed the dynamics of the restaurant industry. We’ve talked about how takeaway and delivery aggregators impacted the industry in this time. And how it forced the ‘innovate or die’ phase for most businesses that lasted through it. 

But, talking about the prospective evolution of industries and organizations due to the pandemic is critical. It changed the way we thought, it changed how industries operated and how the customer viewed their experience. 

We went from a casual once a week dinning out to three times a week ordering-in schedule. Consumers had more online delivery apps on our phones than ever before. We went from an indulgent burger or pizza twice a week to wanting more home-style, desi flavors and healthy food. Quickly after the brief convalescence the industry had, restaurants were required to branch out. From their Dine-in only business model to cloud kitchens stay in the game. 

How to adapt their dine-in menus to suit the barrage of takeaway and delivery orders? What stayed and what changed? What criteria were under consideration when deciding what their online menus looked like?

The Fast Food and Café Convention spoke to two industry stalwarts

Ajay Khanna, its long-time advisor and Business Head, Vasudev Adigas. And Rashmi Daga, Co-Founder, Fresh Menu about how delivery and takeaway has impacted the menu.

Vasudev Adigas

“Firstly,” Ajay said, “Yes, the increasing share of delivery in any restaurants’ sales have created a paradigm shift in the design of the menu. We took several factors into consideration when it came time to adapt our menu for the takeaway or delivery model. We considered – travel time, the actual food itself and its travel-ability, what would it look like once received? Some things have stayed constant while other aspects like packaging have evolved with experience and feedback.” 

Rashmi who runs the very successful Fresh Menu saw things from the perspective of a delivery only business. “Fresh Menu was always a ‘Delivery Only” business model, we have always designed our menus to ensure the same factors as a Dine-in restaurant would have to adapt to now. We design our menu for ease and convenience, keeping CX at the forefront. Hence, us looking into bowls and mixed menus for fresh, healthy food and ease of eating.”

The main factors, both, Ajay & Rashmi identified that impact a menu:

Distance and Radius for Takeaway and Delivery

What’s vital in the food app world, is to ensure that you have a set area of coverage per kitchen unit.

“It makes sense to expand the number of kitchens you have based on the requirement. Servicing area/radius matters,” Rashmi said. “We cannot service a 12-15km radius with 1 kitchen, this will drastically reduce the customer’s experience. If the delivery takes an hour to get to you, if the food is cold. That means an unhappy customer and a lower rating. The quicker the food is received, the better.” She added. 

Food Design

Food Design is as important as taste. Since restaurants cannot serve up a fancy plate of food, they have to care about how robust the food looks when it arrives upon delivery. “We use less garish than a dine-in plate of food, as fresh garnish wilts from heat and condensation. We also looked into the factor – can the food stay fresh for an hour after prep.” Ajay said. 

Food Packaging for Takeaway and Delivery

Trying to minimize the thermal shock cooked food goes through is an another important factor.

Food temperature varies as it goes through in transit. We need to keep in mind the temperature at which it was cooked, the acidity of the food, water contained etc. and also what it is packaged in. 

Ajay also talks about the types of packaging used – “everyone is now moving over to more ecologically sustainable materials. Packaging material has gone through an evolution over the last few years.” He said. Restaurants also have to factor in if the packaging can handle liquids across transit. Leak proof, container size, types & design are all facets in constant consideration. 

Rashmi shared similar thoughts on packaging, “packaging is constantly evolving, from plastic to paper based sustainable options. Now that the customer can microwave and eat out of at their homes or offices without additional cutlery. Ease of use is as important as the material. We cannot have a container that only lasts for 1 hour then starts degrading in quality or starts leaking.” She said. 

Menu Length for Takeaway and Delivery

The Shorter and crisper the menu, the better. It not only helps the customer make decisions easily, it also helps keep the consistency of the food standard. And that means, we greatly reduce prep and cook time, which makes for faster delivery.

“Ensuring most of the menu items are made from the same raw material combinations is also vital. ” Ajay said, “This helps hugely in eliminating food waste, and prep and cook time as it eases out the process of anticipating the orders for the day.”

Restaurant Pickup Counter Designs

It is important for restaurants to have an established packaging counter or area, fitted with counter lamps to ensure the food stays warm till pick up. “At Adiga’s it has been very helpful, especially in case of delivery/pickup delays and to ensure we minimize the thermal shock between pickup and delivery to the customer.” Ajay concluded. 

So, whether your menu offers delicious and crispy brown Dosa and Vada or mouthwatering Pan Asian bowls, collectively, both Ajay and Rashmi agree that the menu is always evolving, the customer’s expectations are always changing. What’s in trend now, might not be at the end of the year. Restaurants need to have an action plan in place for quicker turnaround times, swift menu upgrades and innovation. Keep one eye fixed on CX and CE and always ensure a robust and delicious menu!

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