Many establishments are taking the initiative to temporarily change their business models and operate solely as ‘takeaway’ or delivery services during the Covid-19 pandemic. But how do you go about making this transition? FEJ looks at some of the help on offer.
There are times during the coronavirus pandemic when it can feel like the entire restaurant sector has ground to a halt, but one chink of light for diners craving their favourite meals has been the availability of food through takeaway channels.
Takeaway delivery platform Foodhub revealed it had seen growth figures for online orders surge above 30% during weekend periods in April, proving that there is still a decent revenue stream to be had for those in a position to be able to run a kitchen operation.
While the new legislation allowing takeaway and delivery services represents a much-needed lifeline for hospitality businesses, it does bring with it a new set of challenges and a steep learning curve to ensure operations are run effectively and safely. New food hygiene procedures and contactless delivery methods are two of the more vital considerations that kitchen managers need to address urgently, according to online training provider High Speed Training.
It polled 2,000 members of the public on what would make them more likely to order a takeaway or delivery service from their ‘local’ and the response provides a telling insight into what could shape business.
“Paying online and the promise of high food hygiene standards were the two most popular criteria, both voted for by 42% of Brits, providing a useful indicator for the information businesses should be promoting,” reveals content author Sarah Taylor. She adds that ‘contactless’ delivery with no face-to-face contact came in third, at 28%.
One of the biggest challenges will be choosing how to fulfil orders. Taylor advises restaurants to look at the benefits and limitations for delivering food direct to customers or signing up to a delivery provider if based within a catchment area.
“The likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats have recently published guidelines for restaurants as they see sign-ups in urban areas soar. Those outside of their catchment areas or that prefer to go solo may prefer to utilise software from the likes of Access Hospitality. Whichever route is chosen, the method of serving customers needs to adhere to the legal requirements for food delivery services and work efficiently for both the business and consumer,” she says.
Then there is the kitchen operation to consider. While cooking processes will remain the same, companies need to think about the storage and transportation of food, in particular.
Food safety protocols must be upheld and that means ensuring the availability of items such as heated delivery bags, insulated boxes and storage containers. Nisbets has added a dedicated ‘Food To Go’ link on its website, providing essential supplies for operators converting their establishments into takeaway businesses.
Another supplier, The IG Group, has rolled out a range of takeaway boxes and cartons from its Green Planet Catering Products line.
“We launched this range to help our clients protect the environment,” explains CEO Stephen Hoey. “But the added bonus is now we are also able to provide them to restaurants, pubs and bars which usually may not need these products but will use them to help create and retain business during these very difficult times.”
Meanwhile, heavier equipment such as holding bins and heated ovens become more important, because of their role in keeping cooked hot food in peak condition before it is sent out for delivery.
Lincat has developed a ‘mix and match’ package of light duty, cost-effective equipment to help cafes or restaurants that have moved to a takeaway offer as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Caterers can choose from a range of compact, countertop items including a convection oven, fryer, pizza oven, contact grill, bain marie and hot cupboard — all of which can be delivered in 24 hours and with minimal investment. The items all operate from a 13-amp plug and are supplied with a two-year on-site parts and labour warranty.
These are disruptive and defining times for the hospitality sector”
Paul Hickman, Middleby culinary UK director, said: “We understand this may be completely new territory for some, which is why we wanted to highlight some of the key, core pieces of equipment, which they can mix and match, to get up and running.
“Our selection enables caterers to do this in 24 hours, with minimal investment and space, as the equipment offers high output from a small footprint.”
Even things like warewashing requirements change when running a delivery operation. Understanding how existing equipment can be re-purposed to meet new demands can help to control workload, as well as maintain high standards of hygiene.
Restaurants and pubs becoming takeaways will begin to operate more like production kitchens, with almost no need to wash plates and cutlery but greater amounts of pots, pans and utensils being cleaned, more often.
Winterhalter says that changing the wash parameters, for example to increase the water pressure and length of wash cycle, will enable machines previously optimised for delicate stemware or decorated plates to tackle more heavily soiled pots and pans, even with heavily baked-on foodstuffs.
“It’s very important that dishwashers and glasswashers that are re-purposed for utensils are able to do the job effectively and hygienically. Hence the wash cycle has to be adjusted, and the right racks and chemicals need to be used,” says marketing manager Paul Crowley.
On the technology side, meanwhile, there is assistance available for operators that need a technology ordering platform to support what they are doing in the kitchen. Kitchen CUT, for instance, has developed a software tool that makes it simple for businesses to launch delivery or click and collect operations — and is offering it to the market for free during 2020.
The company — best known for its recipe management and inventory modules — says the ‘F+B To Go’ system will benefit any company requiring a simple-to-use platform that allows customers to order online. The dashboard enables users to track and monitor orders as they arrive and throughout the production process.
The customer is able to see the menu and prices on offer and can place an order by adding an item to their shopping basket. Payments can then be made online, rendering the whole process completely contactless.
Kitchen CUT’s CTO, Simon Haynes, says there are no set-up fees, subscription fees or license restrictions and operators can use it at zero cost until the end of the year, irrespective of their EPOS, stock system or menu management system.
“The current challenges have forced hospitality businesses to adapt quickly in order to survive. We want to help our clients and the sector as a whole and so we have developed F+B To Go to enable businesses to make the transition to click and collect or food delivery in the most safe and efficient way possible. The entire ordering process from menu to payment is entirely contactless.”
Deliveroo, meanwhile, has introduced a rapid payment service for restaurants, which allows them to access money made from deliveries within a day.
This new payment process will give restaurants faster access to their delivery revenue, helping them cover their costs, whether it’s paying staff wages or settling electricity bills.
As well as choosing the most convenient delivery model and technology for the business, restaurant operators should also review and condense their menu to streamline their service and adjust opening hours to target peak periods in order to guarantee profitability.
“These are disruptive and defining times for the hospitality sector, and businesses need to be reacting quickly to the constantly evolving situation,” says High Speed Training’s Sarah Taylor. “Fully grasping how and why Brits are changing their eating habits, as well as carefully reviewing how best to modify their offering, are just some of the simple steps businesses need to be taking into account in order to keep up with the change in demand.”