At a time when restaurants may be struggling to get consumers to come out to eat, pop-up restaurants have many things going for them: They often incorporate fun, surprising, or novel concepts; they generate excitement and increase the potential for viral, time-sensitive sharing on social media because they are designed to be temporary; and they’re low-risk outlets for experimentation. As a result, they also happen to be made for the moment: Supply-chain challenges are limiting what chefs have on hand week to week and pushing them to pivot quickly and be all the more creative in their recipe development and presentations. The rise of ghost kitchens – and even chefs preparing meals out of their home kitchens – is making it possible for operators to test new ideas and cuisine combinations in lower-risk environments. The novelty of what restaurants can offer through pop-up concepts can also provide the promise of a memorable experience – an incentive consumers may need when meal-kit companies and grocery stores are offering options that make it easier to eat meals at home. Could your business try a pop-up concept – whether as a brick-and-mortar location or as a short-term takeout or delivery option? Consider how a pop-up concept might help you create an additional income stream or test what menu innovations guests respond to.
At a time when restaurant businesses are feeling pressure to identify new revenue streams, the CIO of Mattson, a food and beverage innovation firm based in Silicon Valley, says many operators are missing out on a potentially lucrative opportunity: meal kits. Barb Stuckey of Mattson told Restaurant Dive that she has long been urging operators to take a look at offering the kits to at least determine if they make sense financially or operationally, but few are following through, save for perhaps Chick fil-A. The brand tested meal kits to positive results last year, according to Forbes, though they haven’t announced future plans for them. Stuckey likes the kits because she thinks they can help operators attack some of the quality-control issues they may experience with delivery. For instance, kits may be worth a shot if you have menu items that could do well off-premise but may not travel as well when they are fully cooked (like fries and sandwiches). Or, if you have brisk lunchtime traffic, promoting the kits during lunch may help you sell to guests who want to sort out their dinner plan in advance. At least, the category could help restaurants tap into a less saturated segment that is ripe for reinvention. According to Packaged Facts said, meal kit market expansion in the future is likely to rely more on alternative purchasing venues than on the traditional subscription model, which can clash with the on-demand mentality of off-premise customers. Restaurants can provide that on-demand experience.
At a time when many operators are looking to scale down their restaurant footprints to accommodate service model changes and stay profitable, every square inch of food preparation space counts. At the recent NAFEM, the show hosted by the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers of Chicago, the theme was about helping operators do more with less, using tools ranging from multifunctional prep stations on wheels to compact, high-efficiency ovens to electric bakers with interchangeable molds for accommodating a wide range of snack foods. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that a highlight of the show was a collaboration between the equipment company Vulcan and the quick-service seafood restaurant Captain D’s. The restaurant had challenged Vulcan to devise a more efficient fryer, and the result was a smaller fryer that can be mounted on a freezer base and allows a worker to complete a task while standing in place. In stores currently using the fryers, fry times decreased 30 percent and the stores saved $10,000 annually. Where is there an opportunity to increase the efficiency of your kitchen?