COVID-19 Restaurant Innovations and Adaptations

chef working kitchen

Kerry’s Director of Culinary for North America suggests 8 ways restaurants can adjust and innovate during COVID-19

It is anything but business as usual at restaurants located in areas affected by COVID-19. Dining rooms are closed, foot traffic is all but obsolete and social distancing practices are limiting the number of staff allowed in the kitchen. Yet the supply chain is still functioning and in many cases restaurants are still legally allowed to operate, if only for delivery.


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How can restaurant operators safely keep their staff employed, customers fed and businesses running? Here are 8 ways restaurants can innovate at pace during COVID-19.

Add delivery service or curbside pickup

Partnering with a third-party food delivery service is a quick way to get your restaurant and menu in front of customers scrolling through apps in search of their next meal. If you live in a location without such delivery options, curbside pickup may work. By keeping customers in their cars you’ll minimize exposure to workers and limit the need to enforce social distancing for people standing in line. Some businesses are even creating staggered pickup times to decrease overlap.

Sell your bulk packaged foods

Due to COVID-19, the FDA recently relaxed guidelines around the use of nutrition labels on packaged foods. The change allows restaurants to sell on-hand packaged food inventory to customers so long as the packaging doesn’t advertise any nutrition claims and does include other required information, including an ingredient statement and information on the original supplier. Depending on your stock, you may be able to sell to customers who are filling their freezers with large quantities of sauces, toppings and more.

Create meal kits and DIY options

Although various health institutes make clear COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through food, some consumers may feel more comfortable cooking restaurant-prepared foods themselves. Others may want to turn mealtime into a family affair or simply seek out the freshest and best possible eating experience. Delivering unassembled meal components as a kit—complete with clear, printed instructions—can satisfy all of these needs, whether the final product is a bowl of ramen that needs combining and reheating or a pizza kit that allows people to place their own toppings before cooking.

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Limit your menu

One simple way to ease the pressure on your kitchen staff is to include only top sellers and basic creations on your menu. Doing so will simplify the ordering process for customers, streamline your supply shipments and allow limited kitchen staff to better prep for mealtime orders. If you’re unsure what to keep, consider maintaining high margin items and those that are easiest for the back-of-house to prepare and package.

Innovate with what’s on hand

While you’re making menu changes, take stock of what you have on hand and brainstorm on new items you can easily innovate and prepare. If you would like help ideating new menu items made with Kerry products, the Kerry Culinary Team can assist. For instance, our Chef’s Pass seasonings can be used to up-level, customize and differentiate current offerings such as fries, wings, tenders or nuggets, mac and cheese or pizza. The same is true for our other various sauces, spices and seasonings.

Donate food items that could go to waste

If you find yourself with underworked staff and a supply of food that may not be used, investigate opportunities to provide meals to healthcare workers, grocery store employees, members of the aging population and anyone else who might be in need of a good meal. Such acts of altruism feel good for everyone involved, and they can help solidify your restaurant’s reputation as a vital part of the community.

Expand your hours

At a time when most restaurants are cutting back, it may seem counterintuitive to add more hours. But if your restaurant is busier than ever—something we’re hearing from some restaurants that already had an established delivery model—you may want to add offerings that cater to your typical off-hours. For instance, a pizza business that hums all night may want to take a crack at a breakfast service. Not sure your team has the skills to craft a breakfast pizza? With traditional norms being tossed aside out-of-the-box thinking, such as pizzerias partnering with brunch restaurants, could easily be rewarded.

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Sell more alcohol

Packing up a trio of margaritas to go? That is a new reality for many restaurants located in states that have recently loosened rules around alcohol delivery. This is good news since liquor sales generally offer a high profit margin. It may even give your resident bartender the opportunity to create a premium COVID-19 product in line with the “quarantinis” we saw flooding social media.

Whatever changes you implement, make communicating with your customers a top priority. You don’t want to disappoint anyone who hasn’t been notified of recent menu changes, and you also want to make sure your customers know about new offerings, hours and safety measures. These can be communicated on the restaurant’s website, social media channels and even via large storefront signage.

To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting the food and beverage industry, including changes in consumer preferences and purchasing behaviours, visit Kerry’s COVID-19 resource page.

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