Did you hear about the Prague café that turned the coronavirus into a confection? Baker Olga Budnik created a treat that looks exactly like the notorious virus: a baked chocolate sphere with a pistachio and raspberry filling and “spikes” crafted from white chocolate and dried raspberries. It’s been a huge hit, she reports.
If there ever was a time when the world needed dessert, it’s now. About 23% of American diners miss ordering dessert at restaurants, a DoorDash survey found. What are the secrets to success with takeout desserts? Here’s what we’re seeing.
Including dessert in a special can boost profits. Overcome customers’ resistance to indulge by simply adding dessert to a lunch, dinner or family meal special. Cheesecake Factory, which saw its profits rebound in a big way in Q3 2020, won with a $15 lunch special that includes a slice of cheesecake. It “saw a tremendous guest response,” President David Gordon told FSR magazine, “thereby increasing awareness of our lunch offerings, while successfully driving sales to the late afternoon shoulder period.” In October, the chain offered a Treat or Treat promotion for delivery customers: orders of $30 or more included a free slice of Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake or Hershey's Chocolate Bar Cheesecake.
Kits are key. Offering to-go dessert as a kit to bake or assemble at home can be a profitable addition to tickets. Kits can be as inexpensive as a $3 sundae add-on kit with chocolate sauce and sprinkles that’s served with pints of ice cream at Washington D.C.’s Emilie's. Or they can be extravagant, such as the $45 frozen, bake-at-home pastry sampler from Le Marais in San Francisco, which is famous for its croissants, pain au chocolat and lemon kouign-amanns.
Offer gluten-free and vegan treats. Insomnia Cookies, a delivery-focused chain, just rolled out three vegan cookies: chocolate chunk, double chocolate chunk, and birthday cake flavor. A commercial stand mixer makes it easy to add house-made cakes, pies and cookies to the menu.
Focus on desserts that customers are less likely to make at home. People have been doing a lot of home baking. 80% of people say they’ve baked during the pandemic, according to the same DoorDash survey, and the most popular items are cookies, cake and brownies. But it’s just not the same as a delectable, restaurant-quality treat! DoorDash reports huge increases in orders of cinnamon rolls, skillet chocolate chip cookies, and New York-style cheesecake. These are decadent, comforting treats that require a certain amount of time or skill to bake successfully in the home kitchen.
Blend up drinkable desserts. Another winning category is smoothies (for health-focused consumers who still want something sweet) and milkshakes. The Wayback Burgers chain reports a 2% increase in U.S. milkshake sales year over year, which it attributes to treat-craving customers who don’t have the ingredients and blender to make milkshakes at home. Adding super-creamy milkshakes to a takeout menu is easy; all you need is a high-performance blender or an iconic drink mixer from Hamilton Beach Commercial.
Dessert presentation matters: Visual appeal is half the pleasure of ordering dessert. Smashed cake, smeared icing or crumbled cookies just won’t do. Consider new ways to prepare and present dessert that can stand up to the rigors of delivery. “Deliver desserts that look and taste like their dine-in counterparts so customers will be encouraged to order again. Use clear plastic containers and bags with clear windows to enhance desserts’ natural eye appeal,” suggests Sweet Street Desserts. Or get creative: sous vide cheesecake in Mason jars, anyone?
Go one step further and make your takeout desserts spectacular. Ratafia, a popular wine and dessert bar in Montreal’s Little Italy, devised a way to wow guests even when they’re eating at home: take-out flambée kits. A guest gets a “bombe tropicale”: a pineapple and coconut cake with frozen keffir-lime mousse, a white chocolate crumble, a layer of coconut-Malibu ice cream and an Italian meringue. Pour over some dark rum (included) and set it on fire! For less adventurous diners, Ratafia’s Cake-Out menu also includes non-flammable desserts.
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