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Blog - Flanagan Foodservice

Brand Points Plus logo with hand reaching for a take out order

Making Food Delivery Easy

Turning to Takeout

 

by Jane Auster

This post was written by Jane and the Brand Points Plus team.  If you're not a member, this is an amazing, no-cost loyalty program.  To learn more click here.

 

Flexible restaurant operators are converting from eat-in to takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic. And whether they're fine dining, QSR or casual eating establishments, they're finding it's not as hard as you may think to revamp an eat-in operation. Also, according to infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch, the risk of contracting the virus from takeout and delivery is "so extraordinarily small" – good news for consumers and restaurant operators alike.

 

Here are the top takeaways to ensure your takeout is a success:

 

Make ordering and payment a snap. Many diners, especially Millennials, are already conversant with online and app ordering. Make sure your web and app menu allows for easy ordering and that you're capable of receiving text message orders and app orders from mobile devices. Then add a pre-payment option to make the whole process seamless. Companies like cloud-based commerce platform Lightspeed POS Inc. have set up special resources during the crisis to help restaurants who are converting operations to takeout and delivery.

 

Change up your restaurant layout. Without the need to provide tables and chairs for traditional eat-in dining, you can easily convert that space into takeout/delivery work stations. Think assembly line in the way you organize your takeout operation.

 

Revisit your staffing. There's no doubt you will not need the same number of employees as a full-service restaurant requires. But you will want to retain as many as possible to keep you up and running professionally and prepare for a return to more normal operations. Now is the time to redeploy your talent. You'll still need cooks (short order especially), cleaners, order takers and payment processors, delivery staff, and quality control personnel. You may also need a person assigned specifically to answer customer questions about your menu, takeout and delivery options, payment, and so on.

 

Carefully consider your menu. Not everything on your regular menu will be suitable for takeout and delivery. A takeout menu is more a snapshot of your full offerings. Confine your takeout to top sellers (as long they're not too elaborate or time-consuming to prepare), dishes that will transport well in takeout and delivery, and entries that will still give you a good return on investment.

 

Use the right packaging for the job. No one likes to pick up or receive soggy, leaking, messy or unattractive food packages. Companies like W. Ralston, Novolex and Polar Pak feature packaging specifically for foodservice operations that include takeout and delivery, and also packaging that's size-appropriate. “The packaging a French fry requires for travel is different than a pasta dish. And packaging will also depend on the miles or time it needs to travel,” says John Veder, director of innovation - paper for Novolex North America. Also consider packaging that can be easily reheated without having to be transferred to other dishes.

 

“With takeout, the customer is in control of when that food is consumed,” says Veder. “For delivery, the customer is at home, waiting. Their expectation is that the food is ready to eat. Not soggy. Not cold.”

 

For more info:

View Flanagan's Take Out Essentials catalogue.

 

Image of Flanagan Take Out Essentials Guide

 

Make delivery easy. "Delivery was a growing market segment prior to COVID-19," says foodservice principal Jeff Dover of fsStrategy Inc. "Restaurants have been adjusting delivery menus to include products that hold well and working on takeout containers that hold the food well. Increasingly, they are looking for tamper proof containers. If a restaurant hasn't worked through this yet, they may want to think about it before going full delivery. If they don't normally do takeout or delivery, they will need to get the packaging."  

 

If you're new to delivery, you may want to partner with an established foodservice delivery company like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Foodora, or Skip the Dishes. Uber Eats has announced that the company is waiving its normal delivery fees for customers who order from independent restaurants and allowing restaurants to receive payment daily instead of on a regular billing cycle in order to help their cash flow. Door Dash has said it will be not be collecting service fees for the first 30 days for a new restaurant client. Restaurants who partner with delivery services also benefit from the online exposure on food delivery sites.

 

Do it yourself? Some restaurants are choosing to do their own delivery by training their regular waitstaff to become delivery door-dashers. In the short term this is a great way to continue employing front-of-house staff. But don't forget to check your insurance to make sure your staff are covered for "other" employment within your operation.

 

Plus, ask yourself these questions:

 

What kind of vehicle will you need? Motorized, bike delivery, or via public transit?
What's your radius? How far are you willing to travel for your customers? During this difficult period, literally going the extra mile will make a huge difference and help retain loyalty.


How's your branding? What kind of branding will you use to stand out? The big food delivery companies are able to advertise themselves through their distinctive, logo-ed carry-on packaging. Like the big guys, your new visual identity as takeout and delivery food providers matters. Consider branding your takeout packaging with your company logo and tagline or marketing messages. Market and promote the service on your website as well.

 

Ramp up your social media. Never has your social media been more important. It's your direct conduit to customers, a way to let them know that you are still in business and you value their patronage and support. If you're adding takeout and delivery, you need to spread the word. Social media such as Instagram, Facebook and other community pages can let people know you are open and active. Don't be afraid of doing something different and a little crazy on your Instagram. Get personal, do a virtual meal in your restaurant and film it, sing an aria outside your restaurant and post to your Instagram.

 

You may also want to create an old-fashioned paper flyer with your takeout menu and have a staff member deliver it to your local area. Sometimes old school is the best school. The point is to communicate as often as you can with customers to keep them close. And don't forget to thank them. They want to help.

 

Get creative. Some clever restaurants are throwing in extras with customers' takeout and delivery orders. Have any logo-ed t-shirts on hand? Send one with each order. Do you make any branded food items for sale, such as jams? Add one to each order. A restaurant in Toronto is even offering to throw in a roll of toilet paper to food orders made through Uber Eats.

 

 

 

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Hand holding phone and taking picture of their food

As long as you post on social media, whether it be Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or a combination of any channels then you’re good, right?

 

Not necessarily! Posting is a great start, but engaging your followers is how you create strong brand awareness, encourage repeat visits from loyal customers, and attract new guests to your establishment.

 

What is social media engagement anyway?

It’s not about interacting with every single customer. It is about building relationships with your customers over time, much like we do offline.

 

Social media is where people connect, relate and learn from each other and businesses alike.

 

How can you increase your social media engagement and promote?

There are hundreds of ways to grow your business using your social channels; we're sharing ten that you can implement today.

 

1. Post frequently, when your followers are most active

Check the analytics of each of your social accounts (a helpful explanation by Twitter on how to check your analytics) to learn when your followers are most active, their basic demographics and more. You can do this for the major social platforms. 

 

You'll discover valuable data that can help shape your posts to your target audience in terms of content, timing, and type of post (video, photo, etc.).

 

Social media is like a plant, you have to keep "watering" it (with content) to grow your audience and increase engagement. The more accurately you can do this, the better it'll be for business.

 

Sweet & Sticky Inc. posted this soup suggestion at 3:34 PM, right around the time their followers are wondering what to make for dinner. 

 

Posting a delicious entrée photo at a similar time will help convince your followers to skip making dinner altogether and go out to eat at your restaurant instead.

 

Example of a social media post showcasing a bowl of soup

 

2. Invite followers to join the conversation

One of of the best ways to drive engagement is to ask your following a question.

Conversion shouldn't always be the goal of your social channels. Engagement in itself is just as important; your followers are a community, and people enjoy sharing stories and offer thoughts and opinions.

 

Here are a few things you can do to get the conversation started:

 

Pose a question alongside a photo, or just as a post on its own

  • "Local or organic? Why?"
  • "We're serving up our homemade macaroni and cheese this chilly Friday afternoon. What is your favourite winter comfort food?"
  • "It's the first day of summer! How are you celebrating today?"

Ask for photo shares ("Asparagus season is here! Show us how you’re cooking Ontario asparagus at your house.")


Use Twitter Polls to collect some insight, or use it just for fun

  • "Which of these two menu items would you prefer to see as part of our Canada Day special?"
  • "Help us settle this debate once and for all: is a hot dog considered a sandwich?"

Sapsucker asked their Instagram followers how they're celebrating the long weekend as the caption to a beautiful photo of their Sapsucker Lemonade (with a recipe, too!):

 

Social media post sample with refreshing lemonade

 

3. Show appreciation

Social media is a two-way interaction, not just a one-sided conversation. 

 

If you're looking to increase foot traffic to your restaurant and strengthen (or maintain) the relationship you have with your customers, showing your customer appreciation on social media is a effective way to reach a wider audience above and beyond the four walls of your operation.

 

Here are a few ways to let your customers know that you're grateful for their business:

  • Reply to a customer who posts a photo of your product - Use “@” to reach more of their followers
  • Give a shout out to customers celebrating an event at your restaurant (with their permission, of course). Maybe you have a group celebrating a milestone birthday or a company holiday party; ask for a group photo and share the celebration; they'll be likely to share it on their own pages
  • Please and thank you go a long way; if a customer expresses how much they enjoyed a meal, say thanks!
  • Offer an exclusive deal to followers of a certain social network

Vancouver Island Salt Co. gave their Twitter followers the chance to win a branded hat and their smoked sea salt product by asking them to post a specific photo on Father's Day:

Social media example by Vancouver Island Salt with a picture of a hat (free giveaway)


Bay Meats Butcher Shop offered this exclusive deal to followers of their Facebook page:

Example of a social media post offering a limited time deal

 

4. Stay connected, stay current

Whether it’s around the globe, an industry event, or holiday, people love to get in the spirit and be involved.

 

At the Restaurants Canada show in February, Henry's Tempeh shared a post with photos of their booth and the products they had sampled (which we tried—delicious!). They tagged Restaurants Canada and let followers know to stop by if they happened to be walking the show.

 

 

5. Acknowledge mentions, questions, and yes, complaints

Whether you have a few thousand followers or a few hundred, each follower likes to feel as though they have a voice and can contribute in some way.

 

If one of your customers has taken the time to express a thought, good or bad, reply with a personalized message. It lets your customers know you care.

 

Acknowledge any complaints as soon as possible with an apology and offer to sort out the issue offline ("Message us your contact information and we'll be in touch with a solution to resolve this issue.")

 

When we promoted 1847 Stone Milling products on Twitter as a supplier of the Flanagan Market, they responded to the post with their thanks:

 

Social media example of saying thank you to someone who mentions you in their post

 

6. Promote your partners

Some ideas about giving your partners some recognition:

  • Post about a great time you had hosting an event together
  • Share with your customers how your partners have influenced or impacted your business
  • Thank them for their contributions

Here's an example of Rootham Gourmet Preserves sending thanks to their partner Barrie's Asparagus on Facebook, while also promoting their seasonal Asparagus Smokey Antipasto and Honey Garlic BBQ products:

 

 

Social media example post where one business helps promote a partners business

 

7. Use hashtags to connect

Hashtags are used to index a specific topic on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Clicking a hashtag brings up a collection of all posts with that hashtag. You can now even follow hashtags within an Instagram account.

 

Try the following:

  • Create your own signature, branded hashtag
  • Use existing hashtags that relate to your business on whichever social platform you're using (#OntarioFood #OntarioProduce #TorontoFood)

Top Shelf Collection's use of hashtags during Game 6 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs put them right in the centre of the conversation, reaching not only their followers but a like-minded community of hot-sauce-loving hockey fans:

 

Example of social media post using hashtags to connect with audience

 

 

8. Post the good things happening in your community

Raise awareness about causes your restaurant is passionate about (it's also great to see the faces and personalities behind the scenes of your establishment!)

 

Share photos of your staff participating in events. It connects you to your customers and is a way to promote your brand's reputation as giving and a contributor to the community.

 

We proudly shared our experience volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in 2018 and 2017 on our social channels (you can find that blog post here):


Example of a social media post where business uses social media to promote community involvement

 

 

9. Ask for feedback

Test a new product idea and ask what your followers think. If you can't decide on something, let your followers choose!

 

Pose the question using Twitter Polls, ask followers to answer in Instagram comments on a post, or in the comments of a Facebook post.

 

10. Host a "Chat with [Your Business Name Here]" session

This is an exciting method of generating engagement, especially on Twitter. Post and tell followers that for 15 minutes, they can ask you anything and you will reply.

 

Why?

It helps people connect with you on a more personal level and encourages a high level of engagement from your followers. It's fun to participate in real-time.

Try hosting a live video on Instagram and engage with your followers who are "tuned in."

 

If you have suggestions about growing your business using social media, we'd love to get your feedback—share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

This blog post was originally created and published by Local Line. Vendors listed in this post can all be found on the Flanagan Market, though their delivery cities may vary; not all suppliers on Flanagan Market deliver Ontario-wide. If you have any questions, contact flanaganmarket@flanagan.ca.

 

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Smiling Flanagan Foodservice team at the annual spring show

Each spring, thousands of people gather at the Flanagan Food Show to visit, sample unique new products, network with industry leaders and get exclusive show deals on a selection of products.

 

It was our 37th year hosting the show, and this year's was amazing. There was a buzz of excitement in the air as members of the industry came together to celebrate and learn about all things foodservice.

 

Because there is so much to see and taste (everyone’s favourite part) in just one day, we’ve recapped highlights of the show for you.

 

We sampled new products, learned new trends from each presentation, and had the chance to chat with vendor reps about what’s new and exciting in the world of Canadian foodservice.

 

Food Show Products

By Jackie Oakes

I’m Jackie, Senior Marketing Manager at Flanagan’s. I was able to visit many booths on show day and wanted to share some of my favourite discoveries:

 

Tamper-Evident Carry Out Bags

Flanagan code: 504489

 

These bags protect food from being tampered with when being delivered.

 

Recently I heard a story where a third party delivery driver was helping himself to some of the food he was delivering. I am sure most drivers aren’t—but this stuck in my head so I was very pleased to see these bags at the show. It is a large bag that permanently seals when the food is packed. Once delivered, the customer simply removes a perforated area of the bag and takes their food out. 

Ralston Tamper Proof Bag at Flanagan Food Show

It has a write-on block allowing operators to identify the customer or order number.They also offer custom print the bags; minimum case order is 250 cases.

 

 

McCain Avocado Wedges and Root Vegetable Medley

Flanagan codes: 199024 and 193039

McCain Deep Fried Avocado and Root Vegetables

 

McCain actually had four new products that I enjoyed sampling, but I forced myself to choose my two favourites to share with you:

 

Avocado Slices

YUM! Menu penetration for avocados are up 32% over the past four years and this breaded avocado is a great appetizer or addition to a burger. This provides operators an easy way to handle avocado, which can be rather temperamental.

 

Root Vegetable Medley

A tasty, unique twist on a traditional fry.  Carrots, parsnips and beets are cut and lightly battered.  Presentation is beautiful on the plate!

 

 

Carole’s Cheesecake on a Stik

Flanagan codes:

Matcha Green Tea – 107921
California Almond – 107919
New York Classic – 107933
Belgium Chocolate – 107934

 

Well HELLO, cheesecake on a stick!

Delicious, only 190 calories each, and available in four flavours: Matcha Green Tea, California Almond, New York Classic, and Belgium Chocolate.

Carol's Cheesecake on a Sick arranged on a plate

This is the perfect product to allow your guests indulge, while not breaking the calorie-bank. Today’s consumers are time strapped and want convenient foods that are easy to snack on. This product would work great in a location marketed as an afternoon snack.

 

 

Mini Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza Appetizer and Chicken Quesadilla Appetizer

Flanagan codes: 187791 and 187785

Brom appetizers

Brom Mise en Bouche was not a company I was familiar with before the show, and I was eager to try their appetizers. With more than 20 years’ experience in food manufacturing, their line of hors d’oeuvres and canapés were delicious!

 

My favourites were the pizza-style mini tartlet with pepperoni and cheese and the tortilla dough cone filled with chicken, strong cheddar, peppers and onions.

 

Strawberry Peanut Stick, Raspberry Chocolate Danish and Sweet Potato Bun

Flanagan codes:

Strawberry Peanut Stick – 107549
Raspberry Chocolate Danish – 107565
Sweet Potato Bun – 126150

 

Bridor Strawberry Peanut Stick

The Bridor story began in the 1970s, when Louis Le Duff moved from France to Quebec and couldn’t find a pastry to equal that in France. He opened in his first bakery in 1980 and has been developing high quality breads and pastries for over 30 years.

 

Bridor just launched a Strawberry Peanut Stick to mirror the attributes of a peanut butter and jam sandwich, which was scrumptious!

 

I am hard pressed to pick between that and the chocolate raspberry Danish. I was very excited about the sweet potato hamburger bun. The taste is very subtle, making this bun ideal for a pulled pork sandwich.

 

 

MadeGood Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip and Sweet and Salty Granola Bars

Flanagan codes: 

Chocolate Chip – 364538
Sweet and Salty – 364539

Made Good Granola Bars and Snacks at Flanagan Show

Made Good has a great story, leaning on healthy food as well as being an inclusive company. Half of their employees—from management to production—are women. Newcomers to Canada and people from under-represented groups enjoy a sense of belonging at MadeGood.

 

With one full serving of vegetables from six different sources, the vegan granola bars are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can help contribute to a healthy digestive and immune system. 

 

Wings' Uncooked Ramen Noodles

Flanagan code: 119450

What is great about this traditional ramen noodle is that the product comes pre-portioned in a case of 24. Each package is 100 grams. It can be used in soups or as a cold noodle salad.

 

Here is a Ramen Chicken Noodle Soup recipe using the product:

Ingredients

4 bundles Wing’s Ramen Noodles
5 L chicken broth
1 inch ginger
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. Wing’s Soy Sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1 carrot cut into match sticks
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half lengthwise
2 green onions, chopped
4 tsp. sesame oil

 

Preparation

In a large pot, bring chicken broth and ginger to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, slice chicken thighs.


Heat canola oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat and add chicken.
Once chicken pieces are fully cooked and have a nice sear, add Wing’s Soy Sauce and sugar. Continue frying until chicken evenly coated.


Boil Wing’s Ramen Noodles in lightly salted water. Drain, and portion into serving bowls.
Add chicken broth to noodles, and arrange chicken, carrots, egg, and green onions on top.


Drizzle with sesame oil and serve.

 

Serves: 4

 

I’m Katrina, Marketing Specialist at Flanagan’s.

 

There were so many delicious new products showcased on April 10 at our Kitchener show that I had trouble keeping my summary concise. These were my favourites:

 

Katrina Couto of Flanagan Foodservice

 

 

Beyond Sausage by Beyond Meat

Flanagan codes: 

Original Brat – 177000
Hot Italian – 177002
Sweet Italian – 177004

 

Walking into the show, the Beyond Meat booth was high on my list of vendors to visit. I was so excited to try the Beyond Sausage and it did not disappoint.

 

Though I’m not vegetarian, the Beyond Burger has been my A&W go-to order since it was released. The Beyond Sausage has the same attributes as the burger in that it has a similar texture and taste to that of its animal protein counterpart.

Beyond delicious.

Beyond Sausage Meat at Flanagan Food Show

 

 

Wow! Factor’s Sangria Cake, Reese Peanut Butter Blondie, and Vegan Chocolate Torte

Flanagan codes: 

Sangria Cake – 104169
Reese Peanut Butter Blondie – 104154
Vegan Chocolate Cake – 104175

Variety of Wow Factor Cakes at Flanagan Food Show

Wow! Factor was another booth I didn’t want to miss. I featured the Reese Peanut Butter Blondie in an issue of our New Product Newsletter shortly before the show, and I had to try it for myself.

 

Wow! Factor has released five unique new products for spring 2019, and these products were three of them.

 

The Reese Peanut Butter Blondie tastes exactly as you’d imagine a Reese candy would taste in cake form. In other words, decadent.

 

Their Vegan Chocolate Cake is comprised of mostly plant ingredients, and the Sangria Cake is heavenly, fresh, and chock-full of summer berries.

 

Cavendish DeliverCrisp™ Fries

Flanagan code: 193130

This year, Cavendish debuted their DeliverCrisp™ fries; a skin-on, straight-cut fry that maintains its crispiness for 30 minutes while en route to your customer’s door. 55% of restaurant delivery occasions are incremental orders, and right now French fries are the fastest growing food item in delivery. No matter what serving container these are packaged in, DeliverCrisp™ fries are designed to provide an unprecedented hold time.
Cavendish Deliver Crisp Fries

 

 

 

Fully Cooked Chicken Wings

 

Even better: this product qualifies for Brand Points Plus, and until June 30 you can earn 5 bonus points for each case purchased!

Flanagan code 164494

Reuven International featured their new Fully Cooked Wings (exclusive to Flanagan!), and they were incredibly tasty as is, without any seasoning.

 

These wings are prepared straight from your freezer to the fryer and ready in less than five minutes. Because they’re fully cooked, you eliminate any food safety concerns and minimize fryer oil degradation.

Rueven Fully Cooked Wings

 

 

KIND Bars

Flanagan code: 164494

Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate – 177000

Almond Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate – 177002

Almond & Coconut – 177004

 

Kind, indeed. KIND bars are all about simplicity. With no artificial sweeteners or added sugars, these bars are nutrient-dense without compromising flavour.

 

Speaking of flavour, the three that were featured at the show were delicious; Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate, Almond Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate, and Almond & Coconut.

 

Kind Bars - Dark Chocolate nuts and sea salt

 

 

 

The Deals
Flanagan Team promoting truckload deals at Flanagan Show

Once again, we had a Truckload Deals section in the centre of the show floor that featured one-day-only deals on select products. Flanagan customers placed their orders on the spot, and saved anywhere from $0.50 to $18.00 per case (or portion, depending on the product).

 

Products with deals included Grille & Galley Gourmet steak, Redpath sugar, Gay Lea salted and unsalted butter, High Liner seafood, and a variety of smallwares.

 

Though the Truckload Deals were one-day-only, show pricing applies for six weeks past show date; reach out to your Territory Manager for more information or call Customer Relations at 1-855-FLANAGAN.

 

Thank you to all guests, vendors, presenters and staff for another wonderful show season. We look forward to seeing you in 2020!

 

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Take out burger in a car

 

In an increasingly time-starved, drive-thru society, time really is of the essence—and perhaps especially so in tougher economic climates when many people are watching their pennies closely. But those same financially prudent folks are opting for quick dinner fixes and have discovered that restaurant-style meals can be taken home to eat. That can be quicker and less expensive for the customer, but it can also mean more money on a restaurant's bottom line.

 

Call it the "pop-in take-out"

According to the NPD Group, average diners in the United States order a take-away meal almost twice the amount of times as eating a meal at a restaurant. While Canadians have a different relationship with their restaurants, we can see similar forces at work here.

 

 In some respects, the grocery store chains have led the charge. If you think about it, they offer a wide variety of prepared meals hot and ready to go when a customer pops in for a panini, a pizza, or a rotisserie chicken with a side of chunky potato wedges and slaw. And they can take those meals home for less money than visiting a restaurant.

 

So shouldn't full-service restaurants take advantage of this trend—the growing expectation by consumers that they can pop in and take-out? John Mitchell, a Flanagan territory manager, thinks so.

 

"I think that restaurants need to keep in mind that those meals are designed for people on the go and who don't have the time to sit down and eat a proper meal. The obvious way restaurants can take advantage is to offer similar meals-to-go."

 

Talk to busy families and you'll hear that they just don't have the time or energy to cook, but at the same time they may not feel like going out to a restaurant due to time or monetary restraints.

 

It's the profile of a changing diner. According to businessweek.com, in the United States take-out sales from restaurants—not merely traditional QSR establishments—is booming. Major casual-restaurant chains are taking orders via Internet, telephone, and even text messages. In fact, some U.S. Outback Steakhouse restaurants say that take-out meals account for nearly a third of all the meals their kitchen prepares.

 

Mitchell's experience working with a large grocery store chain tells him they know what take-away meals can mean to their bottom line: something in the order of five times the profit margin for selling the hot, prepared meal over selling the dish's ingredients off the shelves, he estimates.

 

"The chicken dinner and pizzas-to-go low-ball the average restaurant, partly because they don't have wait staff. And the start-up cost can be low. A hot take-out can be done in very little space."

 

For restaurants to jump in and take a piece of the growing grocery store take-out pie, Mitchell advises to start getting the word out. Build ready-to-go meals and people will come-if they know it's there.

 

"Promotion and advertising is important to reach those customers who are visiting grocery stores for ready-to-go meals. If possible, set up a take-out counter that's different than the main restaurant. Most restaurants are going to have food warmers and such equipment, and there may be set-up cost there, as well they will need proper take-out containers."

 

Take Out Tips

  • Treat your take-out service like your eat-in business with meals that are cooked in a timely manner and packaged properly for a trip home
  • Consider that people will likely order via Internet, telephone, or text message—be able to handle your order process efficiently and conveniently
  • Allocate a staff member to handle order inquiries
  • Put in place a system to ensure that orders are filled accurately
  • If possible, designate special parking areas for take-away customers

 

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Burger on a plate

 

Young and old, now and then, hamburgers continue to be enjoyed by just about everyone. The humble patty of ground beef started in the seaport of Hamburg, Germany, set sail one day and likely made its North American debut at Delmonico's in New York as early as 1834. What a journey it's been.

 

Today, the hamburger remains solid diner fare (at a few bucks a pop) and at the same time has become an upscale luxury food (at $20 stuffed with Stilton or $40 for a Wagyu beef version). No matter how it's prepared, the hamburger is a harbinger of summer as it sears and sizzles its BBQ aroma across neighbourhoods and on busy restaurant patios.

 

It doesn't stop there. Obviously the best hamburger starts off with the best beef available: that we have known from decades of experience that indicates to us the continued mass appeal of burgers.

 

Yet, while it stoutly maintains its presence as a backyard-grill staple and roadhouse regular, hamburgers are getting quite a going over, according to Nancie Lillie, district sales manager at Flanagan Foodservice. It's a combined effort with inventive chefs who want to differentiate their product from a mass-produced one, but it is also diners who are looking for exciting new renditions of a childhood favourite.

 

"From what I see, burgers are trending in this way. Restaurants are starting to offer more than the regular beef burgers including good veggie burgers, chicken burgers, and even tuna burgers. We're also seeing meats like lamb and bison more and more."

 

Quantitative research supports the anecdotal evidence we hear about $40 Kobe beef burgers, says Shawn Barrette of Maple Leaf Foodservice.

 

"We are seeing reports like those from Technomic that, I quote, cite consumers are relying now more than ever on restaurants to provide value in hamburgers through what it calls premiumization."

 

Technomic reports that, when choosing a burger, 75% of consumers ranked quality of meat as the first or second most important characteristic.

 

Price points have gone up in some respects, says Lillie, but always with a significant value that is added by grinding and blending the meat-mix in-house and forming the burger by hand. That's something that attracts customers' attention and is a good way for a restaurant to differentiate itself from the crowd.

 

"The toppings are unique and move away from Cheddar and bacon, too" she explains.

Barrette adds that the burger category has expanded as well to include sandwiches and wraps and they continue to grow in popularity because they are accessible to many a dining demographic, and they remain affordable.

 

"We are catering to the demand for premium burgers that deliver hearty texture, prime-rib flavour and a succulent bite in five-ounce and eight-ounce sizes. On the fully cooked side, we have Angus burgers which offer a premium flavour and texture, and provide operators with more consistent quality and reduced food safety risks."

 

Different meats, whether it's Angus, pork, turkey or elk, can accompany the regular favourite, beef. But the use of one of those proteins in your burger will immediately say to a customer perusing your menu that things are new and dynamic at your establishment.

 

The "Customization-Factor"

That's the burger-key. Whatever cut it is, burgers offer an important and inexpensive "customization-factor:" they can be dressed up gourmet-style or chug along quite happily in standard format with the topping-trinity of ketchup, mustard, and relish.

 

"Customization means finding your own burger niche," Lillie says. "And toppings can be the key. The Australians put pickled beets on hamburgers like we would use a dill pickle."

 

Those toppings, in fact, have become the crowning achievement of the "new" old hamburger: traditional or iconoclastic, the sky is the limit. Hamburgers, points out Barrette by way of the American restaurant chain Cheesecake Factory, can become "glamburgers" with basic melted Cheddar or with pulled pork and coleslaw. Otherwise, it might be dried cranberries, fried eggs, chili, roasted corn and black bean salsa, he notes.

 

There are a variety of sauces ranging from apricot to spicy sour cream, not to mention a unique Canadian favourite back bacon, or blue cheese or fiery Thai seasonings.

 

"It might be provolone cheese or avocados on top. Grilled pineapple is popular, which tells me that people are really running with burgers to make them different," Lillie says.

 

And as burgers continue to capture diners' imaginations with new flavours, toppings, and buns, it is their classic popularity that keeps calling out customers' names, suggests Lillie.

 

"Who doesn't like a burger whether it's a beef burger or one of the many more exotic burgers? People just love a fresh burger. It's a comfort food that when cooked right, and at the right price, appeals to everybody."

 

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Gastro food on a table

By definition, a gastropub (literally gastronomy + pub) is a pub, bar or tavern that offers meals of high quality. They're the perfect blend of casual atmosphere and quality food.

Though they've been around in Britain since the early '90s, gastropubs are relatively new to the North American scene.

 

The first gastropub opened its doors in New York City in 2004 (The Spotted Pig), and the term was only added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2012.

 

Despite their "newness," gastropubs have erupted over the past thirteen years. Their popularity reflects the rise of craft beer, which is fitting, as many independent gastropubs are known for their wide selection of beer by local, independent brewers.

 

Top Proteins on Gastropub Menus

We've identified the top proteins on Canadian gastropub menus during 2016, and foie gras (a luxury food product made of duck or goose liver that has been specially fattened) was the top entrée protein during that time period:

 

Top proteins trending at gastro pubs

 

Source: MenuMonitor, Technomic.

 

Sausage, hot dog and beef follow, and rack (rack of boar or lamb) was the fifth most popular protein, listed on 4.3% of gastropub menus in 2016. Though "hot dogs" are typically a casual menu item, the hot dogs of gastropubs are made with baguette breads, Bavarian sausages, and topped with Dijon mustard (which is, incidentally, the top condiment at gastropubs, listed on 6.5% of menus).

 

Top Gastropub Flavours

Goat cheese and mustard were the top flavours in Canadian gastropubs in 2016, each listed on 8.7% of menus. Maple and onion followed closely, and almond was listed on 4.3% of gastropub menus in the same year.

 

Almonds are found on cheese and charcuterie boards as an accompaniment. Serve them raw, or roasted drizzled with honey.

 

Top flavours at gastro pubs

 

Source MenuMonitor, Technomic.

 

 

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Person chopping vegetables

Like the plethora of phone apps and the massive retail presence that is online ordering via organizations like Amazon, Netflix, Uber and Just Eat, meal kits are out there and slowly becoming a potential disruptor to the bricks-and-mortar restaurant industry. They answer a simple question asked by consumers: “Can I stay at home and have a great meal?”

 

Meal kits are based on the concept of convenience for eat-at-home dishes. Depending on the meal-kit company—it could be Chef’s Plate or the big German outfit HelloFresh AG which operates in all provinces except Quebec—you order online and a box arrives at your door packed with what you need to feed your family healthy and delicious food.

 

Meal Kit Disruption

The process is quite different, and more work, than ordering a pizza or some Chinese delivery. The cut and prepared ingredients (it’s mise en place in a box), kept cool and safe with ice packs, may come from local suppliers, depending on where you are.

Next, you follow the step-by-step instructions to assemble the ingredients and cook the meal, and voila! A chef-created supper that you might find at your favourite restaurant – Italian, Korean or steak house – and you haven’t left your home. It’s a new economy for food that’s technologically enabled.

 

Maybe.

 

While meal kits are a booming business (easily worth a couple of billion dollars in the U.S.) that is anticipated to grow sharply in the next several years and is getting some major celebrity buy-in, the jury is perhaps still out on whether the business model is sustainable. Issues like cost, convenience, value for money and sometimes an alarming amount of packaging waste have yet to be solved for delivered food. (As an aside, food icon David Chang recently converted his delivery-only concept into a small bricks-and-mortar restaurant).

 

Regardless, meal kits are a potential disruption, especially if you don’t consider story, brand and service-staff training at your operation. Recognize too that more educated consumers who like to cook and eat but are mindful of the time it might take to prepare dinner have shunned standard frozen and packaged foods and the artificial additives and preservatives that hold them in suspension until they hit the microwave. The option of better ingredients with little work to bring them together in a meal–and all at the click of a mouse–is attractive.

 

Create an experience at the table

Another benefit of meal kit delivery is that it does permit family time together in the kitchen and at the table, according to Flanagan Senior Marketing Manager Jackie Oakes. She says it does take away an opportunity for that bonding that has been the purview of the restaurant with families, big or small, getting together.

 

“Most importantly, I think that operators need to understand this isn’t just about take-out,” says Oakes, placing on emphasis on “take-out” as a service. “The whole meal kit is not just about feeding the family. It’s as much about bringing generations together.”

She adds that the concept is about the experience and not just the meal itself. That means that restaurateurs need to focus closely on the experience that their customers are receiving, she says.

 

“Restaurants need to pay careful attention to the human contact that they have with customers and the experience that they create for their them and the way the generations come together. At a recent family birthday celebration, we had 14 people and four generations around the table at the restaurant. We have to remember that the generations can come together at restaurants, not just at home.”

 

Sell to different demographics and train staff well

The focus is on families getting together around the table at meal time. Restaurateurs need to be able to compete with it, and they can do that if they take certain steps.

“First, they need to up the ante on their catering and online ordering,” says Oakes. “But they also need to understand how phone apps work and how to approach and sell to the different generations of diners.”

 

There are several demographics that are eating out, from older Boomers and Gen X’ers to new and older Millennials as well as Generation Z customers. “Millennials make up 29 percent of restaurant customers and are used to ordering online and through apps. But don’t forget that Boomers make up 27 percent of customers, and they have healthy pocketbooks. That means $200 billion in spending power and more time to eat out.” Oakes adds that the numbers add up having to pay close attention to these different groups and not ignore one for the other. If you do, that’s at your bottom-line peril.

Second, adds Oakes, has to do with front-of-house service staff and how they are hired and then trained. It’s about becoming customer-centric, she advises.

 

“You need to train your staff in such a way to give the warmest, most genuine human-to-human contact that when customers visit the restaurant you give them a reason to come back.” According to Oakes, restaurants lose opportunities when they don’t focus enough on the front-of-house—and that can come into dramatic focus in the face of a disruptor such as meal kit deliveries and online ordering. “Does your staff know how to tell the story of your food? Do they represent your brand at the restaurant?” she asks.

Give customers a reason to visit your restaurant

 

Oakes points out that the social and economic reality is that you have to give people a reason to eat out now. “People work from home, shop from home and binge-watch television at home rather than go to out to a restaurant and the movies. Those are new forces, and the fact is that it’s disruptive and has changed peoples’ habits.

 

You have to give them a reason to visit your restaurant,” she says.

 

Focusing on story, brand and service-staff training is critical, according to Oakes, and then communicating that to both regular customers and reaching out to new ones in light of disruptive deliveries.

 

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Fine dining dish with a wine glass

 

Joanne Rosiana, Account Manager for Browne & Co., says tableware is critical to building a good first impression—especially if it is a new restaurant hoping to distinguish itself from the established competition.

 

"A lot of times, operators put dollars into the back-of-the-house, which is of course fine. But when it comes to the front of the house, they're cutting their budgets and that really reflects in the ambiance and in the eyes of their customers."

 

Make a Good First Impression

Tableware, and what it says about your restaurant, is what Richard Beeksma, General Manager of s.t.o.p. Restaurant Supply in Kitchener, calls the "framework" of the food and the dining experience.

 

"That doesn't necessarily mean it has to be high end. In some cases, the experience can be enhanced by wicker baskets lined with paper. It's what customers end up talking about at the end of the day."

 

What Beeksma is referring to is the context and a customer's expectations: put yourself in your customers' shoes as they walk into your restaurant and toward their table. What they in fact notice first is the décor and ambiance of the larger dining room around them; that is immediately followed by scrutinizing their table and in particular the individual set of cutlery, plates and glassware that they will sit down to and use to enjoy their meal. It's a critical moment.

 

Forks on the left of the plate, from smaller to larger in size left to right, the knife on the right with blade facing toward the plate and spoons outside of that: formal place settings may have given way to linen roll-ups at some restaurants but an impression still needs to be made.

 

Eric Ross, Ontario Regional Manager for Steelite International, says that members of the restaurant and hospitality industry would do well to recognize this moment.

 

In terms of making a positive first impression, glistening cutlery and sparkling glassware will go miles toward building a good relationship with a customer, no matter what the level of dining establishment.

 

"This initial delivery is a chance to 'wow' customers," Ross continues. "Whether casual or upscale dining, the tone of the customer's experience will be set with the delivery and service of the food that the kitchen prepares."

 

Don't Underestimate the Importance of Tableware

The problem for even seasoned restaurateurs is that the smallwares and table-top get left to the end in a design plan or refurbishment, says Beeksma.

 

"Then the money runs out. Somebody may have the best of intentions but the budget goes and it gets clawed back at table-top, china, and glassware. It then comes down to what's in stock that can be quickly put in place."

 

The tendency, Ross describes, is for restaurateurs to invest in back-of-house improvements or larger scale dining room renovations to the detriment of what might be needed in front-of-house. The old china still works, so why change it?

 

"The problem is that improvements and changes take place in the facility or restaurant, but the tabletop presentation stays the same. Like many things in life, products get tired looking and at that point need to be replaced," Ross says.

 

According to Ross, white china remains popular with most operators, perhaps with a defining shape for signature and special dishes.

 

"There is interest in earth-tone products that coincides with the current trend in comfort foods such as stews and chili. Squares still have a place but they are not nearly as prevalent as five years ago when everyone wanted square plates, bowls and even cups," he says.

 

Yet, according to Rosiana, shapes are still a way to go. "And I'm seeing more glassware mixed in with porcelain too, in terms of trends," she says.

 

Whatever you choose, industry experts agree that you get what you pay for, with price-point-either a $0.75 fork or one costing $5.75-determining the quality. Take the time to find the proper product that suits your menu and budget.

 

Beeksma says the market has become very competitive and offers more products than ever before: catalogues that were once 60 pages are now 160 pages.

 

"Top chefs are creating their own shapes and these are being picked up by some of the larger companies for distribution in the mainstream."

 

Buy Quality For The Long Term

Given the plethora of choices, it's important to recognize that you will continue to find better-quality products still on the market many years after initial purchase, while products of lesser quality are often no longer available.

 

Durability is key too, Rosiana points out. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, restaurant tableware gets a big workout everyday and it needs to have the endurance. That often means using a vitrified substance in which a porous surface is fused with a solution through heating.

 

"You want to look for a plate that is fired at very high temperatures for a long time and has a very strong glaze applied. It prevents dishes from looking worn over a period of time."

As for cutlery, understanding that flatware might be 18 percent chrome or 18/10 with 10 percent nickel is important, Rosiana adds. Nickel in your flatware makes it more resistant to staining and corroding and provides brightness and long-lasting shine despite years of dishwasher pounding.

 

Know Your Customer

Beeksma adds that "restaurateurs want something that feels good in the hand but that isn't even noticeable. They want it to blend in, have a good price, and be durable."

When all is said and done, understanding who your customers are, whether the younger crowd or the baby-boomers, will in good part determine how you are going to set your table, Rosiana says.

 

"You want your customers to feel comfortable and stay longer, maybe over coffee and dessert. That's going to help with your profit. Invest in the front-of-the-house like you invest in the back-of-the-house."

 

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Fresh sandwich on a white table

 

Sandwiches—like other versatile items such as salads, burgers, pasta and pizza—are constantly evolving to keep up with seasonality and trends. These appear on menus more often than any other dish.

 

As of 2017, sandwiches currently penetrate 71% casual dining, 74% midscale, and 69% fast casual operators, according to Technomic data.

 

The fastest growing sandwich flavours/ingredients on Canadian menus are basil, guacamole, Cajun, honey and applewood. Fastest growing breads are whole wheat wraps, brioche, hoagie, roti (Indian flatbread) and French bread.

 

Use these six ideas as inspiration for your existing sandwich menu:

 

1. Better for you

Simply choosing healthier alternatives to your existing ingredients can elevate your sandwich from delicious to delicious and “free-of-additives” or “made with chicken raised without antibiotics.” Your menu now appeals to health-conscious consumers who are mindful of what they eat.

 

2. Go global

Croque Monsieur (grilled ham and cheese) is undoubtedly one of the heartiest, indulgent sandwiches around, and is easily up- or down-scaled by altering the ingredients. Add Dijon mustard or a hint of sweetness with sliced pineapple or Granny Smith apples.

 

3. Stay local

Similar to “better for you” claims on sandwiches, local identifiers in menu descriptions are a major selling point. Why not build that classic Croque Monsieur using Ontario ingredients?

 

4. Elevate bread

Turkey and cheddar is fairly standard – but what about a turkey and cheddar sandwich on an onion baguette or pretzel loaf? An unexpected bread style is suddenly unique and stands out from the crowd.

 

5. ...Or, eliminate bread altogether

Consider eliminating bread altogether to appeal to gluten-free or carb-conscious consumers. Replace grains with cucumbers, tomato slices, or lettuce wraps, or simply offer other alternatives to bread such as wraps, paninis, or pitas.

 

6. Slide away

These small sandwiches pack big flavour–offering a smaller version of your most popular sandwich creates the perfect appetizer (or “two-to-go” as a lunch item).

 

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Image of Pumpkin BBQ  Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict

With a cooler breeze in the air, favourite fall flavours are back on restaurant menus. Though appetizers, entrées and desserts typically get the love when it comes to seasonally updating your menu, brunch offers the perfect opportunity to celebrate the new season.

 

Fresh produce like apples, pumpkin and squash were made for pairing with comfort food brunch staples like waffles, fritters and French toast.

 

Highlight fall’s best by spicing up your brunch menu with spiced apple muffins, baked oatmeal stuffed acorn squash (served with cranberry sauce), or pumpkin pulled pork eggs Benedict.

 

Keep It Simple

LUDA’s Instant, Gluten-Free Hollandaise Sauce Mix features a slightly sweet flavour with lemony notes and butter flavour. It’s as versatile as it is vegetarian and certified Halal and Kosher.

 

Steam-table and freeze-thaw stable—no butter needed! The product prepares an opaque, medium thick, light yellow sauce, and its mild and slightly sweet flavour is balanced with a little heat and lemon notes.

 

Recipe: Pumpkin BBQ 
Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict

Yield: 8 servings (2 Benedicts = 1 serving)
 

Ingredients

Pulled Pork:

2.7 kg JMS Fully Cooked Natural Pulled Pork
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 cup White onion, diced
6 Garlic cloves, diced
3 cups Pumpkin purée
2/3 cups Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Molasses
4 tbsp Ground mustard
To taste Salt and pepper

 

Hollandaise Sauce:

2 cups LUDA Instant Hollandaise Sauce

Benedict Assembly:

16 Eggs
8 English muffins, split
16 Fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
2 Green onions, thinly sliced (for garnish)

 

Instructions

Pulled Pork: (From tempered state) Oven: Remove from pouch. Heat in oven at 350°F for 20 minutes. Boil: Drop pouch into boiling water for 15 minutes. Microwave: Remove from pouch. Heat for 8 minutes.

Pumpkin BBQ Sauce: Heat a pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and onions, cooking until translucent for about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Blend contents until smooth and combine with prepared pulled pork.

Hollandaise Sauce: Add mix to 3/4 of 4L hot water, stirring vigorously with a whisk. Add the remaining water, stirring. Heat and then hold above 65°C (150°F). Stir before serving.

Benedicts (to order, 1 serving): Poach eggs to order. Meanwhile, heat pumpkin BBQ pork mixture (if applicable). Toast split English muffin until golden brown and top with 1/8 pork mixture, a sprinkle of sage leaves, poached egg, hollandaise and sliced green onion.

 

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June 25, 2020
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