Though the COVID-19 vaccine availability is set to start increasing, many restaurants used the pandemic constraints to experiment with their business models. Some brands invested more resources into their takeout and delivery services. Other brands have dabbled in limited reopenings with social distancing, mask policies, and reserved seating options. And while online order system integration has proven quite popular, a few brands have also developed meal kits that aim to capture the essence of popular menu items while providing an interactive experience for the customer.
In particular, restaurants with a strong social media presence rely on meal kits to boost profits and attract customers to their own website pages. So, what makes these limited menu offerings so popular compared to a loyalty program or email marketing campaign? Can you build a steady commission off meal kit delivery? And what about the ability to collect customer data and develop promotions? Here's what you need to know about the value of meal kit online orders.
Think about it from a diner's perspective: If you're ordering through ChowNow, Grubhub, or Doordash, you're probably not going to take a photo of your food when it arrives. Instead, you're going to unbox everything and dig in. While takeout and delivery orders help small restaurants and large chains, they aren't always reliable for collecting customer data or making a larger digital impact. As a result, it's harder to gain insights and send other customers to your restaurant website to create a new order. Since you need to focus on your bottom line, it's important to invest in products that have the potential to market themselves.
On the other hand, meal kits are much easier for customers to share and post on their profiles. A customer is more likely to snap different photos of their cooking process and tag the restaurant. In effect, customers are marketing your restaurant for you. Instead of relying on a delivery platform like Uber Eats, you're letting the customer engage with you directly. Each post to a Facebook page or Instagram feed increases your brand saturation, a major plus in such a competitive market. This can help direct traffic to your mobile app and online ordering platform. It can also help increase phone orders in real-time.
If you're not a professional chef, you probably see menu items that you think you could never recreate. With a meal kit, that's no longer the case. Restaurants can source the right ingredients, pare down the difficult steps, and provide kits to their vendors. All the customer has to do is put everything together. It saves time on grocery shopping and prep work. This empowers customers to create a high-end meal in their own kitchen. Since you're saving the customer both time and money, it's easier to upserve them, suggest coupons and bundles, and encourage additional costs or transaction fees.
Of course, if you're considering creating a meal kit, it's a good idea to follow some established best practices. First, you can't solely focus on the marketing campaigns. While it's important to increase monthly sales, you also need to make sure the product speaks for itself. As a result, you need to ensure that your meal kit is as convenient as possible. Some brands even go so far as to handle all of the cutting and dicing. Others include whole ingredients to give the diner more of the "chef experience." You can tinker with both to find out what works best for customer satisfaction. However, it's a good idea to limit the number of prep steps if you include whole ingredients.
Then, it would help if you considered either curbside pickup options or speedier delivery times. Often, this is up to your support team to determine the bandwidth you have. For a small restaurant, curbside pickup is often the best best. You keep things local, reduce the risk of product spoilage, and help eliminate potential waste. Ensure your delivery system or online food ordering system can differentiate between a pickup and delivery order, even for mobile ordering or Facebook ordering. That way, you can adjust kits in real-time.
Usually, there's a degree of one-way communication between restaurants and diners. You take phone orders, enter them into your delivery system, and handle payment processing. The customer enjoys the product and sometimes provides feedback. With a meal kit, you're opening up the dialogue a bit more. Since meal kits are so interactive, you're essentially inviting diners to be a part of your kitchen for an evening. While you save money on labor, you still get a commission on the product, and your customer can act as a part of your kitchen staff in a way.
If the meal is a success and tickles the customer's taste buds, you're more likely to see repeat business. A home-cooked meal, after all, is often more impactful than a takeout or delivery option. On top of that, you're less likely to field customer support inquiries. If you want to make your meal kits even more interactive, you can consider a subscription basis with a flat monthly fee. A monthly fee program provides customers with a set number of meal kits for each payment period. As long as the credit card clears, the customer gets a new kit. This establishes a firmer relationship with the customer and helps you improve your bottom line.
If you're going to include this option, make sure it's visible during payment processing or on your online order system. When a customer visits your Facebook page, they should see that there's a subscription option. They shouldn't have to reach out to customer support to start their membership.
To up your commission, attract new diners, and improve your business prospects, it's a good idea to consider adding meal kits to the menu. It's a great way to develop a more interactive relationship with the customer and create a viral, shareable sensation. Ensure you have the best online ordering system in place and an ordering widget on your site or mobile app. It'll help you connect with more potential customers and expand your reach.