On-Prem vs. Off-Prem: How to Fine-Tune Your Menu for Both Dine-In and Takeout

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing the temporary closure of dining rooms all across the country, many restaurants were driven to implement new forms of operations in order to keep their doors open and employees at work. Offering takeout is one solution that helped keep restaurants in business during the last few months.

However, although takeout has skyrocketed over the last few months, this service was already on a steep incline even before the current health crisis. In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 46 percent of adults and 61 percent of millennials said the availability of takeout or delivery options is an important factor when choosing a table-service restaurant. Additionally, in an NRA report published in 2019, it was found that 90 percent of consumers utilize takeout at least once a month—up 34 percent from the previous year.

The demand for takeout is irrefutable and becoming more and more essential to a restaurant brand’s success.

But if you’re a restaurant operator solely focused on offering an exceptional dine-in service, making the transition to takeout may not seem possible for the type of menu that you have in place. Fortunately, there are things you can do to ensure that your menu can work well for takeout as well as for dine-in.

Here are three tips for building a menu that your customers will love, whether they’re enjoying your food on-premises or off-premises.

Create Dishes with Choices and Add-Ons

Whether it’s the option to add cheese to a burger or to replace a protein in an entrée, giving customers the opportunity to order a meal and build it to their specific dietary needs or tastes is a great way to cater to their unique, individual circumstances.

This also works especially well when it comes to the takeout experience, where it’s much more conducive to offering add-ons and customizations in small increments. Customers dining in at your restaurant are more likely to order your signature taco salad, for example, as-is. But customers ordering on-the-go or from the comfort of their own homes are usually more inclined to add extras (like more sour cream) or request replacements (like chicken instead of ground beef), tallying up their orders without a second thought.

When you don’t have a server there to upsell, let the add-ons and customizations of your menu do it for you.

Remember That Not Everything on Your Regular Menu Has to Be on Your Takeout Menu

Don’t stress about having to make every single thing on your menu available for takeout. If a particular dish could end up getting soggy or becoming drastically different than it would be if served in your restaurant (for instance, fried onion rings or baked Alaska), refrain from including it on your takeout menu.

This helps to ensure that you are putting quality at the forefront of your customer experiences. And beyond this, you might also tempt takeout customers to dine at your restaurant to be able to order those menu items that they can’t get when ordering to-go..

Remix Your Dishes

Scale your menu by creating dishes that could consist of similar ingredients or items.

Eggs, for example, don’t have to be exclusive for breakfast. Make it an add-on for lunch salads, or include it as a premium topping for a burger entrée.

Many Mexican restaurants, for example, serve seasoned ground beef in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and as a salad topping.

There are a number of ingredients and foods that you can feature in various dishes for any time of the day. Use what you’ve got and get creative!

Plus, stretching ingredients and food items not only allows you to offer customers more options, it also helps to keep your costs low.

With customers increasingly seeking out restaurants that provide takeout, this service will become an increasingly essential offering for all operators. However, the customer dine-in experience needs to remain exceptional as well. And in order for restaurant operators to excel in both aspects, the menu has to on-point.

By offering dishes that incorporate similar ingredients and food items, including dishes on both your dine-in and takeout menus that allow you to maintain the highest level of food quality and presentation, and giving customers the ability to customize their meals, you’ll put your restaurant in the best possible position for winning at both on-premise and off-premise dining.