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More than Takeout: Restaurants Are Adding Groceries to the Menu

August 27, 2020
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Restaurants are finding new ways to engage their customers and generate revenue through grocery and pantry sales. With less people interested in shopping at crowded supermarkets, restaurants provide a unique opportunity for customers to purchase high-demand pantry staples while ordering dinner or takeout. 

 

Restaurants are well positioned to sell grocery and pantry items during the Coronavirus pandemic, because of their different supply chains. While grocery stores had limited stock of two- to five-pound bags of flour at the height of shelter-in-place orders, restaurants did not have that problem, because their flour is delivered in 50-pound bags. You can’t sell a 50-pound bag of flour in a supermarket, but a restaurant can portion two-pounds worth in a bag alongside a dinner order.

 

Selling groceries doesn’t recover all lost revenue from the pandemic, but it does keep restaurants afloat. It also provides a welcome alternative to the pitfalls of online ordering, and fighting for a coveted grocery pick-up slot. Casual eateries, fine dining establishments and fast food chains are all finding ways to broaden their menu.

 

Panera Bread sells staples like freshly baked bread, bagels, gallons of milk, greek yogurt, cream cheese and produce such as blueberries, tomatoes and avocado. Subway offers two-pound packs of salami, fresh baked rolls, red onions and tomatoes. The Los Feliz restaurant, All Time, has boxes of eggs, dried pasta, hot sauce, wine, bread, avocado and at least one roll of toilet paper. They also sell a la carte items like pre-cut steak.

 

If your restaurant is considering selling groceries, it is advised to keep your new menu simple. You can’t compete with actual grocery stores, so don’t try to sell everything. Sell staples such as fresh produce, protein, dairy and pantry items like soup, pasta and rice and ingredients for baking, like flour and sugar. If you can afford to do so, sell paper goods like toilet paper and paper towels. Anything else on your menu should be specific to your restaurant, like wine, spirits or seafood. 

 

Some restaurants are pivoting to offer meal kits, as well. California Pizza Kitchen sells a kids build-your-own pizza kit, taco kit and lettuce wrap kit on its market menu. Denny’s experimented with a “Complete Breakfast” kit in April, but phased it out in favor of precooked “Shareable Family Packs.” 

 

Sysco is also helping restaurants convert a portion of their dining room into a grocery pop-up shop. The idea is to allow customers to buy essential grocery items while ordering their meal to-go. Sysco would provide the grocery inventory, as long as you have adaptable floor space, walk-in freezer and cooler space and staff to work the floor.

 

Hopefully, selling groceries and meal kits and converting your dining room into a pop-up shop are short-term solutions. But your restaurant may find long-term success with these new ways to engage your customers. Remember to advertise your new, expanded menu online and in-store to maximize exposure.

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