6 Unique Ways Restaurants Changed their Approach to Food Service During COVID-19

COVID-19 has made many restaurant owners change their approach to food service.

From curbside deliveries to freezer-friendly “heat-and-serve” meals and more, restaurant owners are thinking outside the box. We’re all in this together and the goal is to protect workers, protect the health of the business, and of course, protect patrons as well. Here’s what some restaurants are doing differently.

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COVID-19 has been a “real-time” learning experience for many restaurant owners. We’ve learned some challenging lessons, but many of them are worth holding onto as we move forward.

The culinary industry has always stood out with creativity and a unique approach to the daily tasks of cooking and enjoying food. Innovative restaurant owners and chefs have come up with creative methods for keeping their foodservice running during COVID-19.

While curbside pickup and to-go orders have become the norm, some restaurants are going above and beyond with unique options and approaches to foodservice. Here are some outstanding examples that might inspire you to take a new approach in your restaurant today (or in the future).

1. Offering DIY Options

Restaurants are making DIY menu options like take and bake pizza for families stuck at home

Some restaurants have discovered that folks prefer to pick up once and then eat for several days. Not only does this encourage patrons to place bigger orders but also provides the opportunity for cooking at home. Many home cooks have struggled to come up with ideas and kid-friendly meals as we shelter-in-place (and keeping kids entertained in these unusual circumstances is a big challenge for everyone).

Pizza Crafters in Menomonee Falls, WI changed their business model from a “pizza-pasta-salad” buffet to a take-n-bake pizza service. Patrons can carry out pizzas and toppings to make a DIY pie at home. Kids can help their parents decorate their own pizzas to enjoy. An activity for kids and a delicious pizza? It sounds like a win-win for everyone!

Celesta restaurant in Milwaukee is offering ready-to-eat takeout options off their regular menu, along with refrigerated meal components on their menu like soups and sides that patrons can take home to heat-and-eat later. Restaurant goers are likely to increase their orders and appreciate the opportunity to take another night off of cooking.

Build-your-own taco kits and burger kits are another popular to-go option. With family-style dining, everyone can get exactly what he or she is craving! Some restaurants have even offered beverage kits with ingredients for loaded Blood Mary’s, Old Fashioned’s, and other specialty drinks. While it might not be quite as fun as brunch at a favorite spot downtown, patrons can still toast to better days from their kitchen table.

2. Delivery for All

While food delivery isn’t unique in-of-itself, it’s certainly become a unique option for many restaurants during COVID-19. Restaurants, who previously never thought of themselves of “delivery” food service establishments, have jumped on the bandwagon.

While delivery services aren’t without flaws, many have enabled restaurants to maintain revenue and retain staff during this fraught situation. Offering to-go, delivery, and pick up is likely going to continue to be a necessity in the new normal. Restaurants that have started to work out the kinks now are positioning themselves for a better future.

Working with nearby restaurants to establish a group delivery service is one option. The other option is to simply use a service like Grubhub or UberEats to deliver meals to customers.

For curbside pickup, establishing a call-system and online ordering options will help your new service go as smoothly as possible. Restaurants are learning how to handle orders over the phone and finding new approaches to contactless pickup and delivery.

3. Serving Truckers with Food Trucks

Restaurants are offering accessible take out food for many workers affected by the Coronavirus outbreak

INDOT has allowed Indiana food trucks to serve truckers at rest stops. This changed approach increases the business for food truck restaurants during a time when they’ve been particularly hard hit. With no “downtown lunch breaks” to service and no large gatherings, typically successful food trucks have struggled.

Truckers, working hard to keep the food supply going, often can’t go through traditional drive-up windows and when fast food provides only drive-through options. Many truckers were left hungry. Their only choice was waiting for a kind stranger to add their meal to a drive-through order. Allowing food trucks to extend their services at rest stops has been a mutually beneficial solution.

Food trucks also offer customers an easy “walk-up” option for pickup. Several restaurants have fired up their vehicle right in the parking lot or near their restaurant, so patrons have an easy way to order and go. While it might not be as ideal as food truck culture was before the outbreak, this has allowed restaurants to stay profitable and to make use of their trucks.

4. Offering Something Extra

In this dire time, some restaurants have found a way to bring a bit of levity into the situation. Several takeout restaurants are offering a free roll of toilet paper with your takeout order. Since there was a significant shortage of TP when the outbreak began, many customers have started running low on their supply.

Other restaurants are offering additional deserts and add-on options (like the take-home Bloody Mary kits mentioned above). These extras are fun for diners and help keep the spirit of togetherness going.

The Coffeeville Co. realized customers needed a little burst of positivity, so they’re including a special, positive message on the wrapper of each cookie they sell. This little gesture helps customers remember to keep the good feelings going throughout their day. The cookies are available for drive-through and pick-up orders.

Stickers and merch are a fun way to get restaurant-goers to show their support and love. Slipping a sticker in a bag or a thank you note seems like a small gesture, but it means a lot to customers. Times are tight for everyone, but many restaurants are finding little ways to give customers that extra touch with their order.

5. Paying It Forward

Food service workers are paying it forward by buying and delivering food to front line workers during the pandemic

Restaurants are finding ways to help forge the spirit of “we’re all in this together” by offering patrons an opportunity to pay it forward.

Many restaurants have delivered food to frontline workers at hospitals, doctor’s offices, fire stations, and more. The nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals who are working hard to treat patients have appreciated the meal options. Local media outlets have covered much of this outreach, allowing restaurants to gain so positive (free) PR, and connect with the community.

Other restaurants have even found ways to help out in their darkest hour. One Milwaukee restaurant, sensing they were not going to be able to continue, decided to “run it until the wheels fall off” by cleaning out all their food storage and giving it to those in need. Volunteers donate additional ingredients and have helped them continue serving the hungry.

6. Supporting Each Other

When an entire industry has gone through a hit, people often come together to help one another in surprising ways. Restaurant owners are offering discounted meals and emotional support to other service industry workers and providing sustenance throughout this crisis.

Several restaurant workers have created a support group to help those hardest hit emotionally and financially by the COVID-19 crisis. Meeting on Zoom, restaurant owners talked out the fears and pain of this situation as they brainstormed ways to help the workers in their industry and each other.

Local news outlets and publications are offering free listings and updates to keep everyone apprised of restaurant reopenings and availability. With schedules in flux and constantly changing, it’s hard for customers to keep track. These listings are helpful and keep restaurant-goers informed. Positive websites like Share Lemonade are helping to spread the word about the positive actions of restaurants and businesses during this challenging time. Good press is always a welcome boost!

Once this outbreak is over, the landscape of the restaurant industry will be forever changed. Customers will return, but when and how it will look is still unknown. Will restaurant tables be sparser and further spaced out? Will outdoor dining become the norm? Will we shift to offering “dining for one” like this Swedish restaurant?

It’s hard to say what the future will look like, but we know the Midwest will continue to support and rally around the restaurant industry that we love so much. We’re all in this together, no matter what the future holds.

Reliable Water Services is Here for You

Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.

Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely, while our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.

Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!