Diners are still eating off premises more than they were pre-pandemic.
Chef Brian Duffy—a restaurateur, foodservice consultant, and television personality—recently opened SideBird Kitchen in Philadelphia. Duffy knows as well as anyone that the industry has trended toward takeout and delivery, which is why he designed SideBird Kitchen to have just 55 seats.
Even he, however, has been surprised by just how much off-premises dining has dominated his order mix. He reports that 78 percent of his business is still takeout and delivery.
SideBird Kitchen is not the only restaurant experiencing sustained off-premises orders. Recent NPD Group/CREST data has indicated that even though consumers are dining in restaurants again, overall eating patterns have changed. The share of commercial foodservice traffic for delivery, drive-thru, and digital is well above pre-pandemic level, and remains close to pandemic-high levels.1
For example, prior to the pandemic, delivery made up 3 percent of industry orders. That figure is now 7 percent, down slightly from a pandemic high of 10 percent.1
One of the challenges with takeout and delivery sales is ensuring food is just as delicious after an off-premises journey as it would be in a restaurant. French fries, in particular, can be a challenge to keep crispy, and crispy french fries are pivotal. In fact, a recent study by french fry producer Lamb Weston found that crispiness was the single most important attribute when it comes to consumers liking fries.2
“Think about when a consumer orders a burger and fries,” Duffy says. “The first thing they do is grab a fry and eat it. If that fry is soggy, you’ve already lost that customer. Now they’re on high alert and thinking everything else is going to be bad.”
There are many strategies that can be taken to help ensure fries remain crispy. Takeout containers with proper ventilation can be a helpful start. But more than anything, Duffy recommends choosing the right fries for the job.
Lamb Weston designed its line of Crispy on Delivery™ fries after consulting with consumers and chefs like Duffy. The company offers five different fry cuts in this line and has expanded its off-premises-ready options, each of which has a battered coating that keeps them crispy for up to 30 minutes when using vented packaging. Other product options include the Colossal Crisp® line featuring a thick, extra crispy, battered coating, and the Lamb’s Seasoned® line with a wide variety of styles and cuts.
“Restaurants like ours have to remain committed to making sure dishes look just as beautiful in a takeout container as they do plated,” Duffy says. “To do that, you have to use the best possible product. And to me, Lamb Weston makes the best french fries. I’m a huge fan of the way they engage with consumers and chefs to help shape their products. They have a variety of fry products specifically designed for takeout and delivery that are a testament to that collaboration.”
For more on Lamb Weston’s off-premises-ready fries, visit lambweston.com
1 The NPD Group/CREST®; Commercial foodservice, delivery, drive-thru, and digital traffic share for periods: Pre-Pandemic (year ending Dec’19); COVID High (April ’20, except Apr-May ’20 for digital); Current (May-Nov ’21)
2 Lamb Weston Coated Fry Category Appraisal, 2021