Not every restaurant should feel the need to offer takeout. Some dishes simply don't take well to the containers and conveyance of to-go orders. However. An effective approach and great food can make takeout a business strength.
How can you take steps as a chef to ensure the quality and consistency of takeout meals? Austin culinary arts students have a leg up on their competition, as they can draw on their education and the following advice to make their restaurant's takeout operation as effective and delicious as possible.
Make sure customers get their food home safe and sound
Whether your customers pick up their orders or use a delivery service, the last thing you want to do as a leader in your restaurant's kitchen is make a bad impression. Repeat diners may be less likely to make another order, and first-time eaters could not return at all. What areas should you be sure to address?
Keeping food safe for consumption is a vital consideration, especially with the longer timelines involved in a takeout order reaching its final destination. The National Restaurant Association recommended using hot holding techniques to keep food out of the danger zone before it's taken outside the restaurant. Packaging should minimize temperature changes as much as possible, and hot and cold foods should be packaged separately. Additionally, you should provide warming or reheating instructions to further increase safety.
A good meal
Underneath only the serious considerations of food safety, the quality of the meal is a vital element of an effective takeout menu. Foods that quickly lose their structure, texture or other positive qualities when sealed in a warm, humid container – think of the crispy skin of fried chicken going soggy – may not be the best offerings for a takeout menu. Instead, you may want to limit your offerings to items that hold up well in transit. This approach helps avoid negative dining experiences and positions your restaurant as a good source of to-go and dine-in options.
Packaging is important for food safety, but that's not the only role it plays. Good packaging also keeps food items separate from each other and safe from spilling on the trip to the customer's home. Choosing the right items can mean the difference between a meal that resembles one fresh from your kitchen and a soggy, limp and uninspiring one.
For wetter and potentially sloppy items like soups, sauces, gravies and dips, it's vital to have strong packaging that can stand up to handling by staff and customers. Failing to address this need can quickly lead to doubly angry eaters: not only did they not bring their entire order home, they have part of it on themselves or their car.
As recycling continues to grow more common, it's also worth considering if your chosen packaging can be recycled in the local community. Some foodservice providers offer such options, and it may be worth a small additional cost if the decision reflects positively on your restaurant.
A dish deteriorating on the trip home is a great reason to delete it from the takeout menu, but it's not the only reason to limit your offerings. Don't be afraid to feature a slimmed-down list of options for to-go orders. This approach makes sure you can avoid offering any especially labor-intensive or otherwise unsuitable items for customers to take with them. It also means your kitchen staff can more easily recognize which orders are intended for consumption inside and outside the restaurant, allowing them to prepare the food accordingly.
A great takeout menu can drive your restaurant forward. Consider these qualities as you create or update yours.