Portable food menu items in white takeout containers

Portability: Raise Your Takeout Game at the Menu Level

Whether it’s on a plate or in a box, your food represents your restaurant’s brand.

With takeout becoming more regular and important, it’s time to take a close look at your menu. Every meal, even ones packed into a box to be eaten later, reflects on your restaurant and your brand. It’s time to think strategically about your portability program.

Where do I start?

The things your customers experience upon walking in the door for the first time makes an impression that often determines whether they return. The same applies to off-premise foods. Each time a takeout container is opened, the customer forms an impression based on what they see and they taste. This opens the door to a menu that works for both customers and your business. Here are three takeout menu areas to consider:

  • Remove items that don’t travel well.
  • Eliminate items that are complicated to cook or require lots of labor.
  • Promote your menu stars—they’re popular and offer high margin.

Take a close look at the menu

Test menu items as a customer would and see for yourself how well they uphold or enhance your brand. When evaluating, ask these two questions:

Does it travel well? 

Many fried foods lose their crispy texture and get soggy. Same for sandwiches slathered with condiments. Nachos? Na-cho best idea—cheese gets rubbery as it cools. Items that do travel well include shareables, like bowl builds or foods with hearty sauces. Shareables appeal because people often order takeout to feed more than just themselves. A great way to determine which items make the grade is by asking yourself, “Does this travel and reheat well as if it were leftovers from yesterday?”

Does it look appetizing?

Takeout presentation is easily overlooked. It’s good to remember that people eat first with their eyes, so package your food with thought and care. When a to-go box is opened and the contents have shifted to one side in a puddle, it’s a safe bet the customer won’t order again. Place condiments and sides in separate containers or compartments to achieve pleasing presentation.

Here’s why it matters

You may have to adjust your menu a bit, but foods should look and taste as good out of a box as they do on a plate at the table. When you provide quality, consistency and value, customers notice. And they will return for takeout from establishments that stand out.

— Written by Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist Derek Seigfried