Boost Deliveries And Test New Menu Concepts With Virtual Restaurants

Food delivery is predicted to account for 40% of total restaurant sales by 2020, and has become what one restaurant analyst refers to as a “driving force in the restaurant industry.”

One way restaurants are responding to this rapidly growing demand for food delivery is with a relatively new type of food service: virtual restaurants.

Learn what virtual restaurants are, how they work, and why they may help you experiment with a new brand of cuisine while growing your delivery sales.

Demystifying The Virtual Restaurant

Also known as virtual kitchens or delivery-only restaurants, the virtual restaurant concept is actually quite simple.

They are delivery-only operations that accept orders solely online—through apps and websites like Grubhub. With no need for a brick and mortar location, the “restaurant” only exists online.

Restaurateurs can launch a virtual restaurant to experiment with a new menu concept, brand a subset of existing menu items, or capture unmet customer demands for particular food in the market. In this way, restaurants can open up a whole new “restaurant” without any additional expenditures on staff or rent.

Since all orders are placed digitally and delivered, customers don’t know (or care) that the restaurant is “virtual.” They may even be excited to try new concepts if they are put out by their favorite local restaurant. Their only concern is that the food tastes great, is easy to order, and is delivered to their door.

Paving The Way To Your Own Virtual Restaurant

The process of creating and launching a virtual restaurant is fairly simple, and can be creatively enriching and exciting as well!

  1. Choose Your Cuisine. Your menu can expand your existing offerings or be based on a subset of items from your current menu. You can even test out an entirely different concept—one that may even be completely different than your physical restaurant. With data provided by Grubhub, you can even pinpoint what type of food customers are searching for, but not finding, in your delivery boundary, and create a menu that fills that gap.
  2. Create Your Brand. You can create your own brand assets like a new name, logo, photos and descriptions, or utilize Grubhub’s assistance to populate your virtual restaurant online and appeal to your virtual restaurant’s ideal customer.
  3. Launch Your Virtual Restaurant. Your virtual restaurant instantly becomes visible to thousands of hungry delivery customers. And, they can easily order from any device through an app or online platform.  

Making A Virtual Restaurant Work For You

There are many exciting advantages to opening a virtual restaurant in addition to your physical restaurant.

  • Obtain High Rewards For Low Investment. Virtual restaurants are efficient and save money because they grow your business without increasing overhead costs.
  • Grow Delivery Sales. You can open up new channels of revenue using the same amount of staff, space and resources by operating one, or multiple, virtual restaurants out of one physical kitchen.
  • Reach New Customers. By branching out with a new concept, you can reach an entirely different customer base.
  • Innovate and Lead. With little risk, you are free to experiment and test out what works to create successful concepts and satisfy needs in your particular market. Also, being able to change your menu on the fly without updating printed menus or signage allows you to be flexible and creative.
  • Increase Digital Presence. By living online, your brand will get valuable exposure through the Grubhub website and mobile app.

Whether you want to increase delivery sales or experiment with a new restaurant concept, a virtual restaurant can help you reach your goals with low risk and high rewards.

Learn more about opening a virtual restaurant.

Steps to Master Menu Pricing Basics

Pricing menu items can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope: trying to balance food costs with quantity all while teetering on a thin profit margin.By taking the following sure-footed steps, you will be able to create prices that appeal to your target demographic while maximizing your profits.

#1: Determine Food Cost Percentage

Determining your food cost percentage helps you understand your profits at a glance, so it’s the best place to begin. Food cost percentages are food costs calculated as percentages of your gross sales. Use this formula to determine your food cost percentage: Food Costs ÷ Food Sales x 100 = Food cost %

For example, if at the end of a time period, you used $3,000 of inventory (food costs), with a total of $10,000 in food sales, your food cost percentage would be 30%:

Food Costs ($3,000) ÷ Food Sales ($10,000) x 100 = 30%

Your goal should be to have a food cost percentage between 25-30%, which is the average for well-performing restaurants, with fine dining establishments reaching up to 35% If your percentage is high, try lowering it by negotiating better prices with distributors, using seasonal ingredients, controlling portions, and re-designing your menu to maximize profits.

#2: Use Food Cost Percentage To Price Menu

While there are various pricing strategies, using the food cost percentage formula is a good start because you are gauging profitability based on hard costs, which also helps determine if adjustments should be made to improve your percentage.

  • Tally up the costs of all the ingredients that make up each menu item individually
  • Divide that cost by your existing food cost percentage, or your desired food cost percentage
  • Round off the price

For example: $5.00 (Food Cost for Chicken Piccata over Pasta) ÷ 30% (Food Cost Percentage) = $16.99 (rounded up from $16.66).

In this case, the food cost percentage is on target, the decision to round up or down can be influenced by factors discussed below.

#3: Know Your Target Demographic and Pricing Boundaries

Now that you have a general idea of how your menu items should be priced, there are other factors to consider.

Target Demographic. Your prices should align with your brand, and your customers’ expectations based on marketing, level of service, type of restaurant, and the quality of your food. For instance, quick service and fast casual restaurants tend to have lower prices than sit-down establishments since they require restaurateurs to spend less on service.

#5: Consider Indirect Costs

While food cost percentages help guide your pricing decisions, it’s important to also add indirect costs into the equation. These are costs outside of ingredients that add to the value of your menu items such as overhead expenses, labor, etc.

For instance, a dish that requires advanced techniques or longer prep time should reflect a higher price. You want to make sure that the prices you establish match the service and culinary levels necessary to create and serve the dish.

#6: Understand Competitors’ Prices

It’s important to be aware of the prices that your competitors are charging for similar menu items. This is part of the competition pricing method which offers three choices:

  • Price your item the same as your competitor’s price
  • Price your item a bit lower than your competitor to lure in customers hungry for a better deal.
  • Price your item a bit higher to lure in customers hungry for better quality

While it is always a good idea to know what your competitor’s prices are, it is more important to do what is right for your restaurant. Be sure you don’t price yourself out of a profit or underprice at the expense of quality in an attempt to attract your competitors’ customers.

#7: Strike The Perfect Balance

Have a good range of lower-to-higher priced menu items. This will help balance out unavoidable market fluctuations that are due to circumstances out of your control yet affect your inventory and bottom line.

Another way to add some stability to your menu is to have less expensive items that can be bought in bulk such as pasta, potatoes, etc.

Be sure to use appropriately-sized plates that match your portion size and include those lesser-priced items to balance out higher priced ingredients.

These seven methods will help you master the menu pricing basics and give you more control over your bottom line.

Learn The Best Strategies For Attracting New Customers To Your Restaurant.

Image: Pexels

Why A Kid’s Menu Makes Your Restaurant More Attractive

According to Grubhub, orders from kids’ menus have increased 40% over the last six years.

Read on to discover why offering a kid’s menu can make your restaurant more attractive to families.

Differentiation for Restaurants

There is an incredible amount of competition in the restaurant industry these days. Consumers have more choices now than ever before.

For instance, although Millennials eat out more often than the general public, affordability remains a key differentiator for why they choose one restaurant over another.

Parents will naturally choose restaurants that offer meals and prices suited for every family member over those restaurants who do not. This is true for families that dine out, as well as those that order food delivery.

 Kid-friendly Food

It’s perfectly normal for young children to have fussy eating habits for a number of reasons—from taste and smell sensitivity to parental control. However, these factors can make it hard for parents to find nutritious food their kids will actually eat—whether at a restaurant or when ordering food for delivery.

Kids’ menus can help make this task easier, by offering kid-friendly food that appeals to young palates.

What’s more, Grubhub’s guidelines for healthier kids’ menus can help restaurants provide the nutritional value today’s parents are looking for as well.

The National Restaurant Association and Healthy Dining are also helping restaurants provide healthy options for kids through their Kids LiveWell program. Participating restaurants receive a turn-key program for creating qualified kids’ meals, a listing on HealthyDiningFinder’s Kids LiveWell website, and icons to designate healthy choices on their kids’ menus.

Convenient Ordering

Whether ordering for table-side service or delivery, parents of young children want to order easily and quickly. The faster they can feed their children, the happier everyone will be!

By having a separate kids’ menu, parents can conveniently refer to a pre-determined list of kid-friendly items—rather than scouring the entire menu searching for something their kids might eat.

Smaller Portions

It’s important to offer meals and other items that are appropriately-sized for children. On the average, healthy kids’ meals should be 600 calories or less.

Today’s savvy parents don’t want to order more food than their child could (or should) eat. Kids’ menus offer smaller portions for smaller appetites.

Parents are also looking to save money. Smaller portions cost restaurants less to prepare, so they can pass those savings on to parents.

 

By offering a diverse and healthy kids’ menu, you can attract more families looking to take the stress out of mealtime, while helping them spend more quality time together.

 

Check out Grubhub’s ideas for creating a more compelling kids’ menu.

Image: Flickr

Building a Menu for Delivery

Design your Grubhub menu with the best food for delivery

When it comes to online food orders, some dishes ALWAYS taste delicious when they’re delivered. While other dishes… not so much. This guide will help you create the perfect menu for a successful delivery.

If you’re interested in other takeout packaging tips, check out our blog post here.

 

Whatever cuisine you serve, create a delivery menu with the dishes that will taste best when they arrive at their destination.

5 Tips for Designing Menus That Lead to More Orders

Your menu is the marketing cornerstone of your restaurant. It significantly influences customers’ ordering decisions.

By implementing a few design and item placement basics, you can navigate customers purposefully through your menu to influence their ordering choices.

Here are six quick tips to help you structure and design a menu leading to more orders and maximized profits.

#1: Analyze Your Menu Items

First, look at your existing menu. Ensure all items on it are performing well and are profitable. Make any necessary cuts or adjustments before moving on to the redesign phase.

  • Trim the fat: According to RestaurantBusinessOnline, streamlined menus mean happier customers. Create a lean and mean menu that offers your customers a variety of dishes while removing unnecessary or unprofitable items.
  • Stick with your brand: Remove items that no longer appeal to your demographic or are mismatched with your overall concept.

#2: Place Items Strategically

According to Gallup, the average diner takes only 109 seconds to scan a menu (rather than reading front-to-back).

You can strategically place items on your menu that will make an impact and quickly influence customer selection:

  • Hit the “sweet spot”: The top/top right-hand portion is the prime location for your best performing items.
  • Position items purposefully: When scanning, people notice the top two items in a section, and then the last. Place your highest-margin items in these spots. Menu Engineers  suggest no more than seven items per section.

#3: Highlight Items You Want to Sell

Use the below “eye magnets” sparingly to call attention to targeted menu items of your choice, which subconsciously encourages customers to order them:

  • Borders
  • Shaded or colored boxes
  • Bold or specialty fonts
  • Graphics, illustrations, and photographs
  • Asterisks
  • Negative or “white” space around a section

#4: Write Imaginative Descriptions

Well-written descriptions can increase sales up to 30%. Grubhub offers these suggestions to inspire customers to order, and paint an accurate picture so they know what to expect:

  • Keep it Brief
  • Appeal to Customers’ Senses
  • Speak to your Demographic

#5: Practice Subtlety in Pricing

By softening prices on your menu, you can guide your customers to make choices based on ingredients, quality and technique—and not on price alone.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Eighty-six the $$: Use a little psychology and remove dollar signs from prices.
  • Be discreet: Put prices after the descriptions, and don’t ever use leader dots—they reduce items to mere price tags.
  • Choose “charm” prices: Ending a price with .99 or .95 makes it seem more affordable and friendly to customers.

These few tips will help you increase your profitability, while actually making your menu easier for customers to digest.

Learn how to take great food pictures that can increase a menu item’s sales up to 30%.

Photo: Pexels

Tapping Into the Power of Personalized Menus

Customers aren’t afraid to mix and match ingredients. In fact, 72% expect restaurants to accommodate special requests.1 Give customers the power they crave with personalized menus.

Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including nearly 6 million children.2 Personalized menus not only meet the need for customization, but also cater to the requirements of customers with food allergies and other dietary restrictions.

Not sure how to start personalizing your menu? These 4 tips can help get things cooking.

  1. Put the right technology in place. Invest in an online ordering tool that makes it easy to sub out different ingredients and even indicate how a dish should be prepared. A customer who enjoys an especially rare burger or pizza with extra crispy crust won’t have to worry about whether his or her preferences are satisfied.
  1. Loop in your staff. Give your front- and back-of-house staff a heads up before introducing any new menus. Use opportunities for discussion — such as individual check-ins or staff meetings before each service — to clear up any confusion before personalized orders start to trickle in. Welcome feedback before, during and after rollout to quickly spot and solve problems.
  1. Get the word out. Leverage social media to shed light on your restaurant’s new offerings. Social media ads help raise awareness among a specific segment of customers, while mentions of your restaurant from the customers themselves can boost engagement. Encourage customers to post their customized menu items across social media. By sharing some of the top ideas, you can reward current customers in addition to giving others a taste of what’s possible.
  1. Offer up suggestions. Keep track of a customer’s order history to help speed up ordering. Instead of browsing through an array of ingredients, returning customers should have the option of choosing their favorite dish in just one click.

A growing number of customers are aiming to get creative with their dishes. Serve up the power of personalization to take your revenue to new heights. From implementing an online ordering solution to marketing on social media, the 4 tips above promise to attract customers and keep them coming back for more.

Looking for more tips on restaurant news and trends? Subscribe to The Tip Jar today!

1Technomic: 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report
2Food Allergy Research & Education

Is Your Restaurant Menu Spring Ready?

Spring is finally in full bloom.

And with that you can cater to a wide range of seasonal events and keep your business booming — whether customers dine in, order online for delivery or need an event catered.

Here’s how to capitalize on a few of the most popular events coming up this Spring.  

College Basketball

The Spring is always an exciting time for college basketball — and the same can be said for your restaurant. Make the most of the boost in customers and food orders on game days by offering special online promos or exclusive menu-items.

Focus on beefing up your menu with delicious appetizers that fans can quickly grab and enjoy without breaking their concentration on the games, such as fried mac and cheese balls or buffalo chicken dip with chips. Since March is historically a huge month for restaurant beer sales, try enticing customers with deals on drinks as well.1

Mother’s Day

A delicious meal is a popular way to celebrate and honor moms on Mother’s Day. In 2017, an estimated 92 million people dined out on Mother’s Day, while 21 million opted for takeout or delivery.2

Consider planning out a special prix-fixe menu or brunch menu for the occasion, and make sure to promote upcoming changes to your menu early and across all your social media channels. To capture the attention of customers who may prefer to celebrate at home, include a complimentary dessert or small gift along with delivery and takeout orders placed on Mother’s Day.

Graduation

Graduations are always an exciting time, but being able to make reservations for large groups can be tough for customers. Since people may already have plenty of friends and family visiting, it can be easier for customers to use restaurant catering as an option to make sure everyone is fed.

Make sure your restaurant — and menu — are ready for a potential increase in catering orders during the months of May and June. Deciding which dishes to feature on your catering menu may require some adjustments to recipes, but don’t forget to stay true to your brand and unique offerings. When it comes to marketing your catering services, be sure to mention any promo deals or specials for those looking to place a catering order during the Spring months.

With a new season comes new opportunities to surprise and delight your customers. Keep up with the big events this Spring to help your restaurant business generate buzz all season long.

Ready for more seasonal tips to grow your business? Subscribe to The Tip Jar today!

1Upserve
2National Restaurant Association

5 Healthy Menu Items For 2018

A new year often brings demand for new options — and healthy dishes.

And in 2018, customers may start piling up their plates with more healthy meals than ever before. In fact, 7 in 10 customers are trying to eat healthier at restaurants than they did in 2015.¹ Still though, taste often takes precedence. Nearly 85% of consumers say taste is the top driver of food purchases.²

Offer the best of both worlds by adding menu items that are not only nutritious, but also delicious. These 5 healthy dishes are a great place to start for updating your menu in 2018.

1. Plant-based burgers

A growing number of restaurants are swapping out traditional meats with a popular alternative — plant-based proteins. More than 70% of consumers consider plant-based meat alternatives to be healthy. Roll out a plant-based burger — think seitan, portobello mushrooms or black beans — to meet the needs of those looking to cut back on meat consumption. If the dish is a success, it may be worth adding plant-based proteins to other items on your menu.

2. Poke bowls

Spice up the way you serve seafood by offering poke bowls. Though this rice, tuna and vegetable-packed dish has long been a staple of Hawaiian restaurants, poke bowls have recently gained traction throughout the U.S. mainland.

3. A new twist on tacos

Make no mistake — classic tacos are here to stay. But that doesn’t mean you can’t step outside the shell or test out new fillings. Go beyond traditional tortillas and switch things up with lettuce and seaweed wraps. Try offering various fillings that health-conscious consumers can mix and match to best satisfy their appetites.

4. Cauliflower crust pizza

Satisfy comfort food cravings by introducing a cauliflower-crust pizza. The dish provides the same great taste without the added calories of a traditional pizza pie. Better yet, this meal can help drive sales from 44 million gluten-free consumers.³

5. Bánh mì

Affectionately referred to as a Vietnamese hoagie, bánh mì now appears on almost 5 times as many menus as it did 4 years ago.4 Make the most of this surge in popularity by adding this cucumber and cilantro-stuffed sandwich to your menu.

Ready for more ways to spice up your menu options? Subscribe to The Tip Jar today!

¹National Restaurant Association
²Cargill: The Science of Sweetness
³The Gluten-Free Agency
4Datassential: FoodBytes June 2017

How to Create the Perfect New Year’s Prix-Fixe Menu

With 2017 coming to a close, it’s time to celebrate the start of a new year. Rather than ringing in 2018 in the kitchen, a growing number of customers plan to spend New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day enjoying a delicious meal from their favorite restaurant.¹

To make sure your restaurant is ready for the New Year’s rush, consider a prix-fixe menu for your dine-in or delivery/takeout customers. Literally translated to “fixed price,” the French term “prix fixe” commonly refers to a multi-course meal or menu selections — that may include an appetizer, salad, soup, entrée and dessert — for a set price per person.

Not only can a prix-fixe menu help control food costs, but it also improves your kitchen’s operational efficiency. Meanwhile, customers can get a taste of your restaurant’s top dishes as well as any new offerings.

Use the following tips to create and market a prix-fixe menu to ring in the new year in style.

Find the right mix

A prix-fixe menu is more than just a collection of your restaurant’s most popular dishes. Meet with your back-of-house staff to ensure your pairings are on point. Consider some important aspects of each dish and how they balance out other items on the menu, such as:

  • Appearance — Add some height to your dishes by stacking meats on top of rice or potatoes.
  • Flavor — Sprinkle some grated lemon on the finished product or kick things up a notch with new spices.
  • Aroma — Mix and match different herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
  • Texture — Introduce a little crunch to your salads by throwing in apple slices or top off a dish with onion strings.

While you’ll likely throw in a few crowd favorites, it’s important to prioritize which dishes work best together.

Schedule a test run

Once you’ve settled on a specific set of dishes, prepare to put the plan into action. In addition to perfecting each recipe, a practice run will enable your staff to familiarize themselves with the sequence of dishes as well as their responsibilities. Be ready to answer any questions that pop up — and use the time to correct mistakes or point out areas for improvement.

Need to manage or update your prix-fixe menu before the big day? Grubhub for Restaurants can help you do just that. Log in to your account to tack on new items or make updates to your restaurant menus.

Get the word out

Drum up customer interest by marketing your New Year’s prix-fixe menu before, and throughout the holiday season. Table tents can help notify dine-in customers while printed flyers can share the news with those ordering delivery or takeout. From pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to word of mouth, use a wide range of marketing tactics to attract customers who may be looking to try a prix-fixe menu for the first time.

Prix-fixe menus can make handling the flood of New Year’s customers easier. Use the tips discussed above to ensure you’re ready as the clock nears midnight.

There’s more where that came from. Subscribe to The Tip Jar for more advice on restaurant marketing.

¹OpenTable: How Many Guests Are Dining Out on the Holidays?

4 Must-Haves For Your Fall Menu

As the heat of summer cools off, it’s time to start thinking about your seasonal fall menu. To help you do just that, here are four food trends that are taking over this fall, along with tips for incorporating them into your menu. (more…)