Adapting menu operations for COVID-19
These past few months have changed our best-laid restaurant plans, culinary directions and revenue streams. For some of us, this is a scary new world, but even though dining rooms may be shuttered and employees laid-off, that doesn’t mean we should concede defeat. Customers are still out there hungering for our proprietary products. To recapture our own markets’ share of business we must go back to our baseline revenue streams of pickup and delivery. The latter holds an opportunity with items other than pizza. Here are some facts all of us are staring at and some cascading opportunities to take advantage of while using food as a force for delivery.
Fact: People are staying at home and cooking more: New product lines for delivery can make you look fresh and alive such as oven-ready foods like fries and mozzarella sticks or ice cream pints. They offer you the opportunity to introduce new products with less labor.
Fact: People are not going to the store as much as before: This means your customers may not have fresh greens in their fridge so why not introduce a fresh salad with your delivery.
Fact: Many restaurants and bars are closed. Some restaurateurs and bar owners have just thrown in the towel and opted to not pivot to delivery. Are these closed restaurants in your area and which food items did they serve diners that you can make, box up and deliver? Bar food like wings, ribs, French fries and nachos deliver well.
Fact: Fine dining is all but gone: The high-end culinary restaurants that charge top dollar for meals are suffering greatly. Over the past month though, many intrepid chefs have started with carry-out bento boxes. These Japanese-style compartmentalized lunch boxes can hold anything. You can easily mimic these bento boxes using aluminum pie tins with clear lids for only 34 cents each. Could an appetizer Bento Box of cheese bread, wings, salad and salami be in your customers future?
Now that these constantly changing facts have been brought to bear, you can look at your menu and items in your pizzeria and find opportunities for delivery.
Make dough with your dough:
One of the best assets for creativity you have is your proprietary pizza dough. Stretched, rolled, filled, cut and baked or fried, it can become that “add-on” that elevates your revenue with each order.
• Jalapeño Poppers. We’ve started with rolling cream cheese, make-line jalapeños and mozzarella and turned them into creamy, spicy and crunchy heaven.
• Cheese bread with French Fries. Yes, that’s right, oven-ready fries are great on cheese bread. We sprinkle it with a choice of wing sauce, pesto or even white truffle oil and black truffle confetti to turn truffle fries into a masterpiece of deliciousness.
• Charcuterie plates with Asiago-topped dough. It is baked and sliced into strips, paired with Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano, salami, sopressata, mortadella, mozzarella and pickled peppers. The app can be made and delivered easily.
• Tuscan Pizzette. Who says pizza
appetizers must have a sauce? This summer, your cheese bread can easily be enhanced with provolone or Piave Vecchio, sliced cherry tomatoes and pesto or Asiago and roasted red peppers.
• Mediterranean Mezze Platter. Pizza dough is amazingly like pita bread, either topped with za’atar or baked plain and accompanied by ready-made hummus or Baba Ghanouj. Surround the hummus with summer cucumbers, eggplant, spinach, feta and tomato accompanied by olives, banana peppers and jalapeño will make this a great appetizer.
• Sauce is the boss. We serve multiple dipping sauces with our breads that combine mayonnaise and sour cream as vehicles to enhance other items like our jalapeño-roasted garlic or chipotle pesto.
Salads with a protein you already have on hand are a culinary pillar in bars, taverns, trattorias, cafes and fine-dining restaurants everywhere. Most of these may still be shuttered. As America gets more sedentary sitting at home this summer, there will be more calls for salad sales.
• Grilled Chicken or Chicken Wing Caesar. The possibilities are endless with your chicken wings, boneless wings or IQF grilled chicken breasts. It all depends on the flavor you want to present.
• Fresh Tomato and Basil in a Caprese Salad. Summer is the time for tomatoes. This stunning salad is best shingled in a round container with a small spinach salad in the middle. The pesto could be cupped and the whole salad is best with coarse sea salt.
• Fennel Salad. Thin-sliced fennel with red onion, lemon and olive.
• Greek Chicken Salad. Fresh spinach, olives, tomato and feta make a great combo with any of your chicken options.
What’s the Plan Stan?
Introducing new items may increase sales, but what about the bottom line?
Food and labor costs are all about survival, which makes this recipe the most important of all.
Here is a real-world work-up for a Chicken Caesar Salad:
Romaine - $0.60
Croutons - $0.18
Chicken - $0.86
Dressing - $0.30
Parmesan - $0.28
Pie tin - $0.25
Pie tin lid - $0.09
Wrapped fork - $0.08
Total Cost = $2.64
If salad sells for $6.99 = 38% cost (or) $4.35 Gross salad revenue
If salad sells for $7.99 = 33% cost (or) $5.35 Gross salad revenue
If salad sells for $8.99 = 29% cost (or) $6.35 Gross salad revenue
Key: None of these are prices are right or wrong. You, your market, your customers will determine sales.
Nacho Ordinary Chips
Who doesn’t like chips, salsa, cheese and guacamole? This delivery item is easy to make and after obtaining a case of chips, all the other ingredients can be found on your makeline. You may think, “Hey, I’m not a Mexican joint?” but who is filling the gap of that closed Mexican place down the street or that bar or theater that used to serve nachos. This can be served in four to six ounce to-go cups for a great visual and the colors of the Mexican flag. Make ahead of time to allow for speedy delivery.
JOHN GUTEKANST owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio.