Bundle Up This Holiday Season
Let’s face it, the holiday season is busy. With all the things that we have on our to-do lists, sometimes it’s all too easy to lose sight of what’s most important about the holidays: our friends and family.
Packages and family-style options can be a great way to help your customers spend more time enjoying their friends and family and less time in the kitchen.
The key to a putting together a successful holiday package is to remember that your customers want to create a memorable experience for their guests, and that is where you come in. Food is often the focus of family gatherings, so this is a great opportunity for your restaurant to make a great impression and potentially gain new, loyal customers.
Think of your holiday packages as a marketing opportunity. It is vital to ensure that the food leaving your restaurant is hot, fresh and travels well. Consider options that can be reheated on site as well as items that are ready to serve. Ask yourself what will present best at an offsite event? You may even consider modifying some dishes so that sauces or garnishes can be added at the time the dish is ready to be served for maximum freshness. Branded bags, boxes, foil pan lids, serving utensils and chafer heating instructions are a great marketing opportunity as well as give a polished, professional look to your restaurant.
Your customers may need to pick up their food the day before their event. Ensuring that you provide reheating instructions for each menu items is not only helpful, but that attention to detail shows that you care about their experience with your restaurant even when it is outside of your four walls.
Holiday hours can be tricky, especially if you are going to be closed the day before the actual holiday. Using Christmas as an example, you can prepare your holiday pre-orders in advance and schedule a window of time on Christmas Eve for pick-ups. This is a way to fill your orders on the day closest to the event with minimal staffing.
Pastas, salads and desserts are easy to serve in bulk. Pastas reheat easily and are a great option for family-style meals. However, this is a pizza magazine, so let’s talk take and bake! There are many different types of take and bake trays, pans and options for baking the perfect pie in a residential oven. Pizzas and Strombolis are equally as easy to par-bake and finish off in a 550 F oven on a baking sheet.
Here are some rules of thumb that I use when putting together packages. I like party packages that serve 12, (anything less than that can easily be accommodated with a large take-out order). In my experience, 12 is the sweet spot. I can provide more value, better options and variety for a party of 12. On average, each adult in the group will eat 4 ounces of cooked pasta (2 ounces uncooked), three 1-ounce meatballs, or 2.5 ounces of grilled chicken breast, 4 ounces of lettuce (plus salad toppings), 1 piece of garlic bread or 1.5 garlic knots.
For dough products, you can usually plan, on average, that each guest will eat 2 slices of pizza, or two 2-inch slices of a “family-sized” stromboli.
With these tips in mind, I would put together some packages that would include the following:
- House salad (48 ounces of lettuce, 16 ounces of salad dressing)
- 1 half pan of baked ziti marinara with broiled mozzarella on the top (48 ounces of pasta, 24 ounces of sauce, 14 ounces of cheese)
- Add protein — 36 one-ounce meatballs (assume 3 per person)
- One family-sized stromboli cut into 12 equal slices.
- 18 garlic knots
- Antipasto salad (48 ounces of lettuce, 16 ounces of salad dressing)
- 1 half pan of Fettuccine Alfredo (48 ounces of pasta, 24 ounces sauce)
- Add sliced grilled chicken (30 ounces)
- 18 garlic knots or 12 slices of garlic bread
- House or antipasto salad (48 ounces of lettuce,16 ounces of salad dressing)
- 2 family-sized stromboli, cut into 12 equal slices or two pizzas
- Meatballs or sausage with marinara (36 meatballs or 1.5-inch sausage links)
- 18 garlic knots
- 1 12-slice tray of Tiramisu
- 18 Cinnaknots with cream cheese icing (recipe in previous issue of Pizza Today)
- 1 tray of 12 cannoli or 24 mini cannoli
The holidays are a great time to have fun with your menu and be creative. But don’t stray so far from your niche or specialty, otherwise party guests will be confused about what your restaurant is all about. For example, Wholly Stromboli features a Rueben ‘boli on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s still a stromboli, but it’s a special occasion offering and still on-brand.
Also, the logistics of executing holiday packages can be tricky when you have a small kitchen. For that reason, I try not to stray too far from the menu items that I feature in my restaurant. I don’t need to special order ingredients that I don’t already have in stock, thus minimizing the space and special preparation required for these special items.
In terms of pricing, I like to keep my cost of goods at 18 percent or less. While that may not always be possible with holiday packages, you can make up for a slightly lower margin with dollars to the bank. Consider that your paper goods, labor and overhead is less than if your team were to prepare 12 separate take-out orders or serve those guests in house. Additionally, one foil pan with a lid is more economical than 12 individual containers. We should always strive to provide value to our guests without devaluing our product. The sweet spot is where convenience and value intersect. Make the emphasis on providing those two things and you won’t have to give away the farm to build a strong holiday business.
MELISSA RICKMAN is co-founder of Wholly Stromboli in Fort Lupton, Colorado, and member of the World Pizza Champions.