The importance of Menu Design in Restaurant Off-Premise (Takeout, Delivery and Catering)

I’ve been thinking about menu design a lot lately:

I’ve been out there talking to restaurant operators and reviewing their programs, and it’s incredible to me, the complexity and confusion that leads to menu design – how we make things, how we package things, how we sell them.

So I want to take a minute to give a perspective on this.

In the business model of The 5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Takeout, Delivery, and Catering,  we have the 8 strategic areas of investment – and there are 89 core characteristics.

One of these 5 Pillars is operations, and operations covers menus. Menus are directly connected to how we manufacture and fulfill our orders, how we package them, how we stage them and how we get them ready.

The business of off-premise specifically, in takeout and catering (for delivery and pickup) is different from in store operations. It’s good logic to go through a differentiation process for your menus.

When you look at your menus throughout your brand, you can see menu differentiation already happening:

You have your takeout menu – your takeout menu could hypothetically mirror your in-store menu, or you could have a different one.

You have your delivery menu – in the case of what’s happening with delivery (especially 3rd party delivery) the business model has to evolve so that there will be a specific set of products you will offer in that channel – for example your top 6 products that you know how to make a lot of, and that are popular. We will continue to see operators go down this path of differentiation for delivery.

When it comes to catering – menus are so much different (Catering operations is a different beast altogether, but more on that later). Catering menus are platter based, so if you have a sandwich in your in-store menu, it becomes a platter of sandwiches for catering. Those are two completely different things. You sell a platter for much more, you package them differently, the whole product can be different. It’s important to have this in mind when designing menus for catering. When executed properly, catering profits will rise dramatically.

Menu differentiation is a huge piece of this puzzle, and it’s absolutely critical to success. The design of your kitchens and your technology that connects to your kitchen all has to come together in terms of menus.

I believe the next major shift in the food service space is going to be channel differentiation, which is coming rapidly – and therefore the menu differentiation is going to get very exciting in the years ahead. There will be a lot of innovation coming through the food service supply chain and everyone else bringing more solutions to customers in the coming year. Mark my words!

This is just some of the conversation we will be having at The 2018 Restaurant Takeout, Delivery and Catering Symposium on June 19th in Denver. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there for what will be a full house.

We have a few seats left – you can grab your tickets here.

Why food delivery has blown up in 2018 and how it impacts restaurant operators

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about 3rd party delivery and how it impacts restaurant operators.

This massive growth of 3rd party delivery and marketplaces in recent years is very interesting to me – especially the idea of technology companies using their own technology to provide services and create marketplaces for food delivery, which ultimately has given rise to an entirely new community of restaurant operators willing to participate.

Why has this happened and why is it blowing up? Well, it’s been made really, really easy and there’s little barriers to entry. My experience in this industry is that people have often done the easy thing, but the easy thing is not always the right thing.

Looking forward, what I expect to see more of (and something that is already happening) is restaurant operators beginning to see the value in pursuing delivery entirely on their own. High value catering orders, which can be thousands of dollars, are much better handled entirely from the restaurant operator entirely for many reasons.

So – how does a restaurant operator compete in this landscape?

Firstly, they have to become experts at delivery (Pillar #5 of The 5 Pillars of Successful Restaurant Takeout, Delivery and Catering).

The strategy involves proceeding with caution – putting out a limited menu, becoming much, much better at sales on your own, and putting a leader in place for your off-premise operations. Focus on being able to raise prices so that 3rd party delivery companies and marketplaces will make changes that they have to make to allow restaurant operators to flow through so that everyone can make money in the value chain and ultimately the customer can be happy on the other side.

Only when you are doing the business really well yourself, can you really start to deal with the world of partners and marketplaces. I should note that 3rd party delivery is an important component, and it’s not going anywhere – but the economics will shift, and this process will improve for restaurant operators. If you have a partner, you want to have a certified partner that is good at catering deliveries – which is must different than lower value takeout deliveries, i.e. backpack on a bicycle.

This is some of the conversation that will be happening at our 2018 Restaurant Takeout, Delivery and Catering Symposium on June 19th in Denver.

Tickets are still available: Register today.



This is a very exciting time for the foodservice industry because the nature of foodservice operations is quickly changing. As our industry continues to advance with technology, many foodservice operators are transitioning to cloud based platforms and automation to manage their operations. In this new marketplace, foodservice operators need to consider changes in their operating model in order to implement effective new strategies required for future success.

The five year outlook study that Darren Tristano and I have been working on is focused on this paradigm shift within the foodservice industry as we continue into a new age of operations systems. All of the research conducted in the five year outlook study is gathered by foodservice industry experts who ultimately explain what the future of foodservice operations looks like, and elaborate on the requirements for success in this future foodservice marketplace.

The five year outlook study is intended to be used as a tool so that foodservice operators can gain insight into the future of foodservice operations, make appropriate investments, and implement a required functional strategy to succeed in this new operating model.  

We will be releasing key information found in this study as a part of my keynote at the 2018 Restaurant Takeout, Delivery & Catering Symposium on June 19th in Denver. We encourage all restaurant operators to attend, and we hope you can make it.

Learn more about the 2018 Restaurant Takeout, Delivery & Catering Symposium here:

Learn more about the five year outlook study here: