Restaurants are feeling the need to reinvent and expand their services.
One way to achieve this is by offering restaurant meal kits.
A meal kit service may offer fresh ingredients or almost ready meals in fresh or frozen forms – all prepared, packaged and delivered to customers’ doors.
Meal kit services are steadily booming. The meal-kit market is worth more than $300 million in Australia and grew about 40 per cent last year, according to Nielsen.
Restrictions with dining services are limiting a restaurant’s reach to its customers. Meal kits fill that gap by extending a restaurant’s brand and taste to people who prefer to stay at home.
Here are some opportunities presenting now:
- Most people are still afraid to dine out.
- Most people get a little tired of their cooking. Or think of kids who are requesting Mom or Dad for something new at the dinner table. The variety and availability of options can be a breath of fresh air for some taste buds. Some people are open to eating food with someone else’s taste and employing kitchen skills that they wouldn’t normally do.
- Your loyal diners are missing you. Through meal kits, they can still have a taste of their favourite dishes that you offer and have them assembled in their homes. Your personalisation is through your customised seasoning and sauces. Your customers can still achieve the unique taste that your recipe is known for without divulging specific secret ingredients or blends.
- Some people are braver and more open to try new things. A lot of people are discovering or rediscovering the joys of cooking. They are using their time in lockdown to improve upon their cooking skills. People can start with the simplest of meals then work their way up to more complicated or even Michelin star level dishes.
If you’re considering adding meal kits to your list of current offerings, here are some things to consider:
1. Get inspired
Check out successful meal kit service websites for ideas and inspiration. Many of these delivery services have already been operating for some time. If your goal is to keep your food business surviving, fuel that determination with inspiration. Consider availing from these services so that you get to experience the process from ordering to delivery. Get that initial feel to gauge if shifting to this service is workable with your available resources ( or if you need to outsource such as staffing.)
2. Type of Meal Kit
- Cook your meal kit – You provide the pre-portioned ingredients and the detailed cooking instructions. The cooking process is left to the customer.
- Assemble your meal kit – You offer fully prepared food and leave the assembly to the customers. You do the bulk of the work before they get to your customers. You can provide pre-cooked and chilled or frozen meals that are ready for reheating, or you can cook the meal kit at the time of order before delivery—leaving a few details such as seasoning, garnishing, plating to the customer. This type is somewhat the more popular of the two since many people are still working at home. Families that are thrown to this “new normal” are coping as best they can with juggling work at home and homeschooling at the same time.
3. Subscription or Pay as You Go
Will you offer “pay as you go” options for your customers or have them subscribe to a meal plan?
If you are considering a subscription, will you require a sign up for one month? For pay as you go, will you require a minimum spend amount?
4. Variety of Menu, Meal Plans and Servings
You can make your already established menu work for you here. Your offerings can be exclusively picked from your existing list, and then your Chef can create new ones as you go along.
Your meals are deconstructed in a way that can be easily completed.
You can group them by customer preference such as “meat and veggie” or just “veggies”, “ for two servings or by groups and families.
Many meal delivery services cater to different dietary requirements and allergy considerations. They use dietitians or nutritionists to help build their menus. If you can, create a meal plan from your existing menu, such as meals for diabetics, or strictly vegans only, paleo and gluten-free options.
Determine how much manpower will you require to provide this service.
Will you be running this exclusively or concurrently with a dining service?
Do you have enough staff to accommodate bulk orders?
Consider getting services from temp chefs to fill a demand gap. Anytime Chefs can provide a fast and practical solution for you if you need to hire temp chefs and kitchen stewards. You need a recruit or replacement that will get the job done.
The best convenient way to operate this service is to have a system in your website that will provide all the needed information and automate payment transactions (including taxes and tips).
But, even without a website, you can use free social media platforms such as your Facebook Page, or Instagram to provide your offering, your menu selection, purchasing instructions and delivery options.
However, you present your offering; your online menu must always be up to date, including prices.
Will you provide a special offer for first-time customers? Free Shipping? Special discounts?
7. Freshness, Quality and Completeness of Ingredients
The quality of your ingredients should always be one of your top considerations. Whether you supply raw ingredients or pre-chopped/precut ingredients, your customers will see, feel and smell the ingredients. Are the leaves wilted? Are there some browning or spots in the potatoes? Are the tomatoes bruised?
Since more people now are health conscious and are very mindful of what they put in their body, they can be critical of the quality of the raw ingredients when they are delivered.
Before items are delivered, make sure that all the components are available. Imagine how frustrating it will be if customers receive an incomplete meal kit. Even if the missing item is a staple pantry, your customer may not consider a repeat business with you anymore or even create a bad review.
8. Easy to follow instructions
The preparation and cooking instructions that you will provide should be easy to follow, whether it is done by a novice cook or by someone who already has cooking skills.
They should be reasonably straightforward, with the number of steps kept to a minimum to appeal to a wide range of cooking abilities. They can be produced as visually appealing cards and printouts that come with their order. You can also provide a download link for digital access via social media or email.
You can offer a download link to a free video tutorial for the meals ordered which makes for an even more comfortable cooking experience.
Keep in mind as well that not everyone will have sophisticated cooking tools in their kitchens. If the quality can be replicated without the use of such cooking gadgets, you can provide alternative methods to achieve the closest result. If a specific tool is needed, make sure to indicate that in the ordering phase and leave the decision to the customer.
Packaging matters: not only to make things visually appealing but more importantly, to ensure food safety and quality.
Some foods travel better than others; some don’t. The overall goal for temperature-sensitive items is to make sure that hot items arrive hot and cold items arrive cold.
And because ingredients are pre-packed within the main package, be prepared for a LOT of packaging.
Will you be conducting your delivery using your staff? Will you get the service of a 3rd party delivery service? Will you accept pickups?
If you’re offering home delivery for your meal kits, delivery time, delivery of complete items and at the right temperature are essential. Customers expect these things.
Consider your usual market. Do you have an audience of couples or families?
Consider your location, is getting to the supermarket difficult for most people?
Do you cater to bulk orders?
Almost always, price is a significant consideration for consumers.
Establish a reasonable price that is competitive with other services, but will not undervalue your service. It is a given that meal kits are more costly than getting groceries directly. However, the quality of service you provide will justify the cost.
Restaurants are expanding and finding new ways to reach their customers. Meal kits provide that link to have your customers avail of your dishes for those who are unable to dine in your restaurant. Meal kits offer a welcome break from the usual and offer people something new to look forward to at mealtimes.
As with all service, don’t forget to secure feedback from your customers. Not only will you get insights on their preferences for your Chefs to create new exciting recipes but ideas on what you need to improve continuously as well.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,