If you are wondering what the most popular foods are during quarantine and which takeout menu items customers are craving in the wake of the coronavirus, you have come to the right place. In this guide, we will reveal the key ingredients to restaurant menu success during COVID-19 and provide specific tips, strategies, and recipe ideas that will help your food-and-beverage operation not only stay afloat but rise above the competitive pack and even thrive and grow.
Corona and The New Restaurant Reality
A new reality has set in and the options for your restaurant to stay alive have been whittled down. Ready-or-not, if you are a restaurateur, you may be in the process of transforming your brick-and-mortar eatery into a takeout and delivery service. The stakes are high, the outlook is dim, and its crunch time.
But hold onto your chefs’ hats and take a moment to breathe. On the flip side of the frying pan, good news is brewing that should give you a sense of purpose, direction, and a renewed sense of hope. Although the global restaurant industry has taken a beating with the majority of eateries being shut down practically overnight and new social distancing rules effectively barring customers from approaching your venue, the options for transitioning to a remote restaurant (aka ghost kitchen) are increasing. Moreover, new understandings and up-to-the-minute practical information is emerging every day.
Here is what we DO know: Consumers are isolated, lonely, scared, and hungry – and what they are searching for is contact, comfort, and YOUR online takeout menu! In fact, the COVID-19 crisis offers your ‘biz an unprecedented opportunity to rise to the occasion, meet your customers’ needs, cater to their desires, and let them know you have their interests in mind.
One specific way to attract traffic is to provide a takeout menu that is practical, relevant, and affordable. Better yet, a carefully crafted digital menu with a personalized feeling is memorable and can garner major loyalty points for the future as well. To help you on this culinary journey, the following are some great strategies for creating the best corona menu.
Corona Menu Key Ingredients
The recipe for takeout menu success during the corona pandemic can be summed up by two simple protocols: 1) Back to basics; 2) Creativity wins the day.
With retail food shortages widespread, and with customer demand high and supply low, getting the most out of every ingredient is imperative. In addition, industry stats confirm that what consumers are looking for and are willing to spend their money on are simple, wholesome meals that can feed families and that contain familiar ingredients.
However – and here is the turning point – keeping it simple does not mean your menu has to be Plain Jane and boring. In fact, one way to stand out from the crowd is for your chefs to strut their culinary stuff and show off their cooking know-how by transforming a simple can of beans into a gourmet meal, by turning mush into a masterpiece, and by coming up with novel ways to stretch a can of tuna to its limits. Just turn on the television these days or tune into YouTube and you will find a host of celebrity chefs sharing their secrets on how to transform ordinary kitchen staples into a feast fit for a king – or a family.
So, let’s get started and begin with a year-round, palate-pleasing and traditional favorite.
Mashed Potatoes Revisited
If there is a culinary staple you can easily breathe new life into, it’s mashed potatoes. Fortunately, when it comes to new spud recipes, the sky is the limit. Here are some tried-and-true tested ideas, as well as some pioneering newcomers, on how to elevate your restaurant’s mashed potato game.
Beginning with the basics, your menu should offer generous servings of the classic mash of russet potatoes, butter, cream, salt, and pepper. Next, get more inventive and try your chef’s hand at any of the following: pumpkin mashed potatoes; mashed sweet potatoes; dairy free recipes for your lactose intolerant customers; cheddar-cheese, garlic-cauliflower, or basil-rosemary mashed potatoes; muffin-tin potato puffs; mashed potato pancakes; overnight crock pot taters; and how about a decadent blend of parmesan cheese, avocado, cauliflower, potatoes, and garlic?
You can also put some international spins on the classics as follows: For a spicy Mexican recipe, add 1 tbsp. chopped chilies and some adobo sauce; for an Indian flavor, use sweet potatoes and add 1/2 tsp. cumin and 3/4 tsp. garam masala (the blend of ground spices used extensively in Indian cuisine); and for a Spanish flavor, add 4 tsp. of smoked paprika and chopped fresh chives.
How to Create Tuna Heaven
The next recipe is simple. Start with a single can of tuna. Look around your pantry and start mixing and matching ingredients. Almost anything goes with versatile tuna – raw, cooked and frozen vegetables, a plethora of spices, an array of sauces, legumes and lentils, poultry, cheese, and eggs, your choice of grains, pasta, breads, rolls, taco shells, tortillas…
To solidify the picture and stir in your own creative juices, consider the following takeout tuna recipe ideas: Tuna Tetrazzini (think canned tuna, melted cheese, spaghetti, and creamy mushroom sauce; Tuna Almond Salad; Canned Tuna Tacos; Za’atar, Tuna, and Chickpea Salad (high in protein and fiber, low in fat, egg-free, and dairy-free); Tuna Corn Chowder; Tuna Melt with Dijon Mustard on Whole Grain Bread; Italian Tuna Risotto; Tuna Sushi Rolls; Crushed Potato Chip Tuna Noodle Casserole; Tuna Stuffed Red Peppers; Cilantro Tuna Quinoa Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette, and more.
Not only are these recipes easy to prepare, but they are easy to package, travel well, and will maintain their temperature, consistency, and presentation from your kitchen to your customers’ front door.
Salmon Menu Sensations
If you are under the impression that there is not much that can be done with a can of salmon, think again! It takes only a handful of common ingredients and the right mix of spices to prepare the following sensational canned salmon recipes – which, by the way, are chock full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, high in protein, vitamin A, and complex B vitamins:
- Salmon Sandwich Croissants
- Salmon Veggie Burgers
- Salmon Fettuccine with homemade Alfredo Sauce
- Salmon Tacos and Tortillas
- Breadcrumb Salmon Loaf
- Salmon Pizza
3-5 Ingredient Recipes
If necessity is the mother of invention, it is time to get inventive! Fortunately, thanks to your cooking and baking prowess, there is no end to what you can create with as few as three to five ingredients. Begin, as always, with the basics. Next, add either a dash or a heaping portion of creativity – and voila! Your creation could be the next pièce de résistance turning heads and going viral on social media. For inspiration, consider the following recipe ideas:
- 3-Ingredient Potato Gnocchi: All it takes are some mashed potatoes, eggs, and flour to create these mouth-watering light and fluffy gourmet look-alikes
- 3-Ingredient Chocolate Crescent Rolls: Start with your choice of homemade or frozen flaky crescent dough. Divide into rolls. Fill with chocolate sauce. Top with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar – and get ready as customers call in for more!
- Pineapple Chicken Skewers: Looking for an innovative and simple way to serve up great flavor? Alternate chunks of sweet pineapple with savory chunks of chicken on a skewer, and what you have is sweet-and-savory mouth-watering combo that cannot be beat
- Endless Chicken Recipes: You can dress up chicken with any number of spices; a gamut of roasted and cooked vegetables, a bed of lentils or grains, and feature your creations as a main dish, as an hors d’oeuvre, on a bun, or as a filling for tacos and lettuce wraps.
- Vegan Butternut Squash Soup: Add onions, carrots, celery, and your choice of spices to the sturdy winter squash and prepare for repeat orders.
While crafting your corona take-out menus, don’t forget about dessert! You can add to your good fortune by cashing in on the plethora of simple baking recipes available. These include a treasure chest of no-bake desserts and snacks that can be prepared anywhere, that freeze well, travel well, and are easy to package and deliver. Moreover, given that creativity is the name of the corona restaurant menu game, allow your bakers to throw caution to the wind with new dessert combos and concoctions that excite the palate and cater to your more adventurous customers as well.
Consider the following as you think vegan no-bake peanut butter clusters made with oat flour and maple syrup, wholesome no-bake oatmeal bars and cookies made by mixing together rolled oats, peanut butter, brown sugar or maple syrup, and your choice of cinnamon, coconut, chocolate chips, and almonds.
Takeout Menu Marketing Tips During Corona
Now that your takeout menu is taking shape, it’s time to spread the word to the masses. Best advice from the experts? Advertize shamelessly, shouting the news over email blasts, on social media sites, and posting irresistible images of your decadent offerings – as well as pictures of your refurbished menu – on Pinterest and Instagram.
Let customers know that you are still here, that you are taking every safety precaution to combat COVID-19, that you are dedicated to continuing to serve them, and that their favorite menu items – as well as some new decadent offerings – are now available via online ordering with the option for takeout or contactless delivery.
Good Luck and Good Health!