The pandemic might have brought out the aspirational sourdough bread bakers, but collectively, your customers are starting to feel the fatigue of cooking so many meals at home. They want something familiar, uncomplicated, and delicious. They want family-friendly dining without the hassle. And, they miss you.
Simplot Foods Chef Michael Zeller explains, “Everyone gets tired of their own cooking eventually, no matter how good it is. And when you’re unable to visit your favorite restaurants, you really miss your go-to dishes. Take-n-bake family meal deals are an ideal solution to both of these.”
A consumer demand waiting to be met
Even with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-era dining, people want the option of returning to their favorite restaurant meals—but safely. Restaurant Business reports that in a recent survey, 80% of respondents ordered meals for off-site consumption, up from 69% in April.1 Take-n-bake meals represent a potent way to drive off-premise business:
- 31% of consumers say take-n-bake items would motivate them to get food from restaurants during the pandemic.2
- 29% say multi-serving or family-sized items would motivate them to get food from a restaurant2
- Nearly half of consumers (43%) feel that restaurants should offer more family-sized meal bundles as a delivery option.3
Yet most restaurants have yet to take advantage of this demand:
- Only 12% of operators have added large or family-size meals during the pandemic2
- And only 10% added frozen take-n-bake options.2
Comfort food recipes are hitting the spot with consumers
With the additional stress of the pandemic, demand for indulgent comfort food dishes is on the rise. Early on during the COVID-19 pandemic (the week beginning March 29), consumers reported ordering “comfort food” at elevated levels across all dayparts and occasions. Italian-themed offerings are proving especially popular:4
- Italian Combo Plate limited-time offers (LTOs) are already up +375%
- Angel Hair & Spaghetti LTOs are up +225%
- Lasagna LTOs are up +160%
- Chicken Parmesan & Chicken Romano LTOs are up +71%5
Sweeten the meal with a good deal
Everyone likes getting a good deal on things they buy, and restaurant meals are no different. Fully 49% of consumers report that coupons and deals can encourage them to try a new restaurant, and 38% report seeking out restaurant deals and promotions more often now than they were two years ago.6
The multi-faceted nature of family-style meal bundles makes it easy to increase their perceived value with desirable (yet low-cost) sides. Be sure to offer a reasonable number of choices with each offering to ensure everyone in the family will be satisfied.
What kind of family-friendly offers do consumers say they are interested in right now?
- Buy-one-take-one entree deals (78%)
- Full 3 or 4-course family meal deals (68%)
- Sunday Supper (64%)
- Dinner and a Movie Deals (63%)
- Breakfast/Brunch Boxes (62%)
- Holiday Feast (59%)
- Upscale Dinner (58%)
- Kids Eat Free (47%)
- Kids Party Packs (41%)2
Chains are recognizing this, and responding to both of these consumer trends with family-sized, and family-friendly kits.
- Taco Bell is offering an “At-Home Taco Bar” which includes 8 flour tortillas, 12 crunchy taco shells, seasoned beef, nacho chips, nacho cheese sauce, and traditional taco toppings. Also included in the kit are recipe cards, so that diners can make old favorites, as well as new dishes from their test kitchen. The kit feeds up to six and is priced at $25.
- Duncan Donuts has a “DIY Doughnuts at Dunkin’” decorating kit geared towards quarantined families, which includes plain doughnuts, frostings, and sprinkles.
- Chick-fil-A recently added a Chicken Parmesan Meal Kit to their menu. Kits include two seasoned, breaded, and pressure-cooked Original Chick-fil-A Chicken filets, marinara sauce, Italian-style cheeses, and creamy garlic and lemon pasta. The kit serves two adults, with prices starting at $14.99. The chain also added “Nightly Nuggets”— recipe ideas that can be created at home using Chick-fil-A prepared foods. Each cook-at-home meal, like their Chick-fil-A Flatbread, or Grilled Nugget Stuffed Peppers, features a recipe card and a how-to video on the company’s website.
- Einstein Bagels is offering several versions of family meal kits, including a brunch box, which includes six bagels, cream cheese, three egg sandwiches, four twice-baked hash browns, and four blueberry muffins. It retails for $29.99. A Take & Make Pizza Bagel kit, with bagels, cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni, is also available.
Where Simplot can help your takeout stand out (and pencil out)
Simplot offers a broad portfolio of high-quality frozen potato, vegetable, fruit, grains, and avocado products well-suited to creating tasty, family-sized take-n-bake meals. Here are a few places where substituting fresh produce with Simplot products make good sense:
- Items with a high percentage of trim or spoilage. The yield on many fresh fruits and vegetables is less than 50% after trim and spoilage. That effectively doubles their market price. Add in the cost of labor to process it and it's even more expensive.
- Items used as ingredients in recipes. A lot of fresh produce ends up as ingredients in dishes like soups and casseroles where any difference between fresh and frozen is imperceptible—not a good use of your labor dollars. This is another place where Simplot Simple Goodness™ peas, corn, carrots, beans, asparagus, broccoli, and others shine.
- Items that are difficult or dangerous to cut. Many fruits and vegetables are time-consuming and challenging to process with a knife, especially for low-skilled labor. The prep for frozen products is as simple (and safe) as heat and serve.
- Ancient grain blends. Each individual grain in a blend has its own optimal cooking time, making it more complex and time-consuming to prep. In frozen blends like Simplot Good Grains™ Ancient Grains & Kale, each element is perfectly cooked on its own then blended with the others, so customers can easily heat and serve to get perfectly consistent quality every time.
- Roasted items.Roasted vegetables and fruits are some of the most difficult items to cook consistently day in, day out, especially across different locations. It's also time-consuming and therefore costly. With Simplot RoastWorks™ Roasted Vegetables and Fruit, you can deliver consistent seasoning and roasting, order after order.
A few great take-n-bake menu ideas
Here are some easy, family-friendly options you can add to your menu to greet the growing demand from customers:
- Salsa Verde Enchiladas Kit, featuring Simplot RoastWorks® Flame-Roasted Corn & Black Bean Fiesta Blend, and Simplot Harvest Fresh™ Avocados Western Guacamole Cups. View recipe ›
- Southwestern Taco Lasagnawith Simplot RoastWorks® Flame-Roasted Corn & Black Bean Fiesta Blend and Simplot Good Grains™ Cilantro Lime Rice. View recipe ›
- Farmer’s Breakfast, with Simplot Simple Goodness™ Winter Vegetable Blend and Simplot Freezerfrige® Sliced Hash Browns. View recipe ›
Right now, many people aren’t just working from home; they’re living at work. Short on time, they welcome the opportunity to let their favorite restaurants do the cooking, so they can take a break and enjoy their evening together with family. With the right products and strategy, take-n-bake family meals are a terrific way for restaurants to boost revenue and maintain customer loyalty until the pandemic passes.
1“Consumers are increasingly cutting back on dining out” Restaurant Business
3Technomic, Inc., Takeout & Off-Premise Consumer Trend Report, 2018
4Technomic Foodservice Impact Monitor, 3rd Edition
5Technomic, Inc., Ignite Menu Data, Q1’20—Q2’20
6 Technomic, Inc., Value & Pricing Consumer Trend Report, 2019