How To Start Meal Prepping – Guide For Restaurants

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Converting your restaurant to Meal Prepping could be a good idea if you are looking to add new revenue streams. Many restaurants, due to Covid-19, are looking for ways to increase their offerings. Some are just now starting to offer online ordering. Some are newly offering delivery.

Some restaurants are now offering meal prep services to their customers.

What Is Meal Prepping From A Restaurants Perspective

Meal prepping is the preparation of foods for the week, or in some cases, for the month, so the customers do not have to worry about making individual meals. An individual might cook up a massive dish and separate it into several serving plates, typically using Tupperware, and then refrigerate it for the week. Restaurants can do this as well. We get into that a little later, but you might want to consider the benefits and drawbacks of offering meal prepping services to your customers first.

Benefits:

  1. Gain recurring revenue by allowing customers to keep orders coming on a weekly basis.
  2. Increase revenue
  3. Give loyal customers a way to support you without having to think about it
  4. Keep staff busy

Drawbacks:

  1. You have to be setup to make large portions
  2. Depending on the type of offering you have, your customers might need to trust you to choose what meals to send them (more on this and the different types of meal prepping you can offer)
  3. Managing the orders from week to week can be complicated (luckily there are tools available, some for free, to make this easier)

What A Restaurant Needs To Consider In Order To Convert To Meal Prepping

This isn’t as well documented as switching to delivery or adding online ordering to your restaurant. There are several decisions you will need to make to be successful with this conversion to Meal Prepping.

1. What day will I charge my customers?

This might seem obvious; you charge your customer when they place the order right? Well what about recurring orders? Presumably, and hopefully, the customers will order recurring weekly.

2. What day will I fulfill orders?

People expect to order meal prep for the week ahead. Most restaurants set it up so the meal prepped orders will be picked up or delivered on Sunday. This gives the customer the meals for the week. This makes the day you charge your customers important. You do not want to charge your customers on Saturday. You will not know how many meals to prepare until the day before you need to prepare all of them! Many opt for having the order in before midnight of Wed. Giving themselves plenty of time to prepare the food.

3. What TYPES of food will I offer?

This is another one that is not obvious. There are 3 types of meal prep you an offer:

  1. Meals by type of meal: Meat plates, Chicken plates, Desserts, etc. This is referred to as “Chef’s choice”. Usually how this works is the restaurant is known for their meals and their loyal customers trust them to provide a good meal. This allows the customer to say something along the lines of “I need 2 beef meals, 2 seafood meals and 1 Chicken meal for the week” and they can get something new each week, so they do not get burned out on the order types.
  2. The second type is your dishes: i.e. Chicken Marsala, Lobster Plate, Prime Rib, etc. This is an offer to just let people choose exactly what they want. The downside to this is that it will be the same thing every week unless they change their order. So, it would be beneficial to have a way for them to manipulate their order from week to week easily. (There are existing options for this)
  3. You could also offer both options. Have a way for people to order the same thing every week if they know they really love it, as well as a meal type to add randomness. Most online ordering systems that provide this functionality, should have the ability to leave notes. So, someone might order a seafood meal to be prepared at the chefs discretion, but they do not like scallops, so they may comment to exclude dishes that have scallops, or to exclude them from the dish.

How To Setup The Restaurant For Meal Prepping

This is another area that is often not considered. You will want to make sure that you have the right environment and resources to maintain your customers orders.

  1. Make sure you have the staff you need for the orders you need to put out.
  2. Make sure you have food containers specifically for meal prep. This is NOT the same as a to-go container. This should be able to keep the food sealed and fresh for over a week.
  3. Have a plan for distribution. Especially during Covid, are customers pulling up to the door and someone is running out? Or are they coming in? Who is making the deliveries and to where?
  4. Do you have the resources to make many meals at once? One of the benefits to the restaurant for preferring to have “Meal Types” over offering specific meals is that they can make a very large batch of a specific meal every week to portion out to their customers. This saves on preparation time drastically if you are making the same “Chicken” dish for everyone each week. They get a variety each week and you only have to make one thing.

How To Offer Meal Prepping

There are several ways you can start offering meal prepping service to your customers. Some easy, and some difficult. Some expensive and some cheap or free.

Option 1: Add functionality to your website

Expensive and difficult

This entails adding eCommerce to your website (if you don’t have it already) as well as adding recurring orders, the ability to charge everyone at the same time, and the ability to manage your orders.

This is a great option if you have the capital and/or you already have eCommerce integrated into your POS. If you are interested in adding eCommerce to your store, we highly recommend ExecuServices Website as a Service offering.

Option 2: Take and track orders manually

Cheap but difficult

You could have customers call in to your restaurant to place the orders. This has the benefit of being extremely flexible. You can offer whatever you would like. The potential problem is charging them from week to week and keeping track of orders. You will not receive an email reminder with this method, and it allows for a lot of errors. But it is a good option to start if you are limited on funds and are not tech savvy at all.

Option 3: Use a Meal Prep for restaurants offer

Cheap and easy to implement

As far as we know we are the only ones offering this service to restaurants. I imagine there will be more choices as this type of service becomes more popular, and there could be services popping up as we speak (Google: “meal prepping for restaurants” or similar queries), but as of now ours is the only one specific to offering meal prepping.

We build this platform for a restaurant that requested it and we decide to roll out an automated system to help restaurants in this very trying time. That is why we are offering the meal prep app for FREE.

You can sign up and get started right away here: Meal Prepping eCommerce For Restaurants

How To Get Customers For Your Meal Prepping Service

You might be convinced that offering meal prep to your customers is a good idea, and that you are well prepared to convert your restaurant to a meal prepping enterprise, but how do you get the word out that you now offer this?

  1. Notify your current customers via email. If you have been collecting customer emails, this is the time to utilize them.
  2. Add a banner to your website, letting people know they can now order meal prepped from your restaurant!
  3. Advertise to your local area. This is the most expensive way but can be effective if done in a “support your local restaurant” type of way.
  4. If you offer delivery of the meals, you can join local Facebook groups that are dedicated to helping neighbors. Most are like “Beverly Neighbors helping Neighbors” and the idea is around helping people around you by offering to pickup and drop off things in their neighborhood. Offering to have your delivery drivers pickup and drop off supplies to elderly, immunocompromised, and others (for free) in your neighborhood goes a long way to creating good will and also allows you a platform to announce that you are still open, delivering and potentially offering a meal prep service (maybe offer a discount to those who cannot leave their homes?).

Summary

Converting to Meal Prep for your restaurant could be a great option to add revenue streams. You can get started right now, by signing up for FREE to eDine’s Meal Prep service.