Is 2018 the year of the home meal service?
Hindsight is 20/20. The fantasy of many stock market investors is to know what they know now, travel back in time to initial stock offerings and get in early on stocks like Microsoft or Google.
What will the restaurant owners of 2018 wish they knew ahead of time? According to Food & Wine, it’s that home meal services are stealing restaurant’s market share.
“Food industry consulting firm Pentallect [suggests] the ongoing growth trend in the sector is [meal services]…stealing away as many as ‘millions of occasions’ from more traditional eateries,” F&W reported last summer.
Even though investors aren’t optimistic about the concept’s future (as of mid-December 2017, niche leader Blue Apron’s stock price was less than $4.50 per share), surveyed consumer interest and website visits are increasing every quarter.
Instead of keeping your fingers crossed that the concept will crash and burn, maybe you need to jump on the bandwagon. If your kitchen is hopping, 24/7 Restaurant Parts is happy, so we offer a few suggestions that could help restaurant owners avoid regret:
Consider the D word
Maybe you don’t currently offer delivery due to quality control concerns. But as fewer people are cooking from scratch, it’s worth considering adding even a limited delivery menu. Put your thinking cap on – soups and pasta dishes aren’t the only meals that travel and reheat well. As restaurant delivery services grow, they’re more sensitive to delivery time and are coordinating service more efficiently.
Offer discounts on a subscription service
It’s expensive for home delivery services to send only one meal to a customer. That’s why they offer free shipping for a minimum number of meals per order. If you have a daily special, offer a discount (like free delivery or free dessert) for customers who “subscribe” for a minimum number of meals. The added benefit of subscription programs is that customers are more likely to develop a habit of relying on your restaurant over a longer period of time.
Accentuate the positive
Meal delivery service customers typically eat healthier than those cooking from scratch, even when they don’t choose a so-called healthy option. Even when the meal delivery options include sauces, they are portion and fat controlled. If your restaurant has flavorful low calorie/healthy menu options, you could muscle your way into a very lucrative business niche.
Offer co-producer credit
One unintended result of home delivery services is the number of supervised kids who are participating in meal prep. Most services include detailed preparation instructions simple enough for, well, a child to follow. You own a restaurant, not a supermarket, so you don’t want to reinvent your wheel, but if you include even one prepare-at-home feature (“sauté vegetables in 1 teaspoon of olive oil until bright and crisp-tender”), you can guarantee homemade perfection from the junior chef.
Change isn’t easy for anyone, especially if your operation has only until recently served you well. But if you want to take on the food delivery big kids, it’s possible to hold your own against them without too much change. Dip a toe into the water and steal back the customers that weren’t afraid to try something new themselves.