Take-and-bake meals, also known as heat-and-eat dishes, are beginning to gain a lot of popularity in the foodservice industry. Food operators have realized that many families want to enjoy restaurant-style meals in the comfort of their own homes. Customers are looking for high-quality meal solutions that require minimal culinary expertise and preparation. In this informative guide, we provide you with all the details on how to successfully sell take-and-bake meals at your foodservice establishment.

What Are Take-And-Bake Meals?

Take-and-bake meals are delivered fully cooked and ready for reheat in the microwave or oven. These meals are immediately frozen or refrigerated once cooked to preserve their freshness. Many foodservice establishments prep heat-and-eat dishes using fresh ingredients to provide customers with a healthy and fresh alternative to frozen foods found at grocery stores.

Why Are Take-And-Bake Meals Popular?

Restaurateurs have realized that many customers are tired of cooking multiple times a day and are looking for some relief in the kitchen. To provide patrons with the assistance they’re looking for, catering companies and restaurants have begun offering take-and-bake meals. Many business owners have found success selling take-and-bake dinners. Patrons appreciate being able to enjoy flavorful meals without the hassle of prepping ingredients. Plus, it allows them to spend more time with their family or doing other things they enjoy.

How To Start Offering Take-And-Bake Meals

With the demand for take-and-bake meals on the rise, you may be looking to capitalize on their popularity. To be successful in this new venture, there are a few tips you can follow to ensure the quality of your meals and service exceeds the expectations of guests.

Create A Take-And-Bake Menu

When developing a take-and-bake menu, do research to learn which dishes sell the most at your foodservice establishment. Including popular meals at your restaurant in your new menu will be an easy way to attract loyal customers. For instance, if chicken parmesan is your best seller, regulars will be excited to learn that they can enjoy it at home without the food quality suffering in transit.

To provide customers with a unique experience, many food operators like to rotate their heat-and-eat menus on a weekly basis. Changing the menu each week creates an event around the reveal of the new menu. Rotating your menu provides customers with a new dish to look forward to and prevents them from getting tired of ordering from your business.

When creating menus, businesses also like to incorporate ingredients to offset food costs. For instance, if there is an excess amount of chicken leftover, consider using it to prepare take-and-bake chicken pot pie or spaghetti. Repurposing ingredients to create heat-and-eat meals allows you to maximize profits and reduce food waste.

Include Heating Instructions

When offering take-and-bake dishes, it’s essential to include heating instructions for each meal. This will prevent customers from getting frustrated when they take a bite out of their dish and discover that it’s undercooked or burned. The goal is to provide patrons with a meal that features the same flavors and quality as in your restaurant. When creating instructions for guests to follow along, including the following information to provide them with a seamless experience:

  • How to store the food
  • How long in advance to defrost dishes before reheating
  • What cooking equipment is needed to heat the meal
  • How many minutes to microwave or bake the dish
  • How to know when food is ready

Properly Package Orders

Packaging can support high price points and increase the perceived value of take-and-bake food options. While your packaging quality is important, you should also consider the specific menu item you’re packaging. For example, if your heat-and-eat meal needs to be stored in the freezer and heated in the microwave, package the dish using a freezer-safe and microwave-safe container. Your customers are looking for convenience and requiring them to use different containers to store and heat the food because they purchase meals elsewhere.

Also, if any recipe components need to be separated, think about using containers with compartments or packaging them individually. This ensures that ingredients with different heating instructions don’t get mixed together to affect the menu item's quality and taste.

Decide How Customers Can Place Orders

A number of restaurateurs like to receive take-and-bake orders over the phone, on their website, or through third-party apps. These are methods their staff is familiar with which makes fulfilling orders simple. It also provides customers with an easy way to order meals since it’s similar to ordering for take out or delivery.

If you have enough space in your foodservice establishment, you can also set up to-go freezers to display a variety of heat-and-eat entrees, sides, and desserts. This allows patrons that are in the area or dining at your restaurant to quickly grab a meal they can enjoy at home.

Determine How Patrons Will Receive Orders

Many foodservice establishments offer take-and-bake foods for pickup and delivery because it allows patrons to choose the method that is most convenient for them. While customers will appreciate the options available to them, it’s also important to keep your business in mind. For instance, what happens if a customer lives more than 30 miles away from your operation and wants their order delivered to them? Will you charge them an extra delivery fee or not provide them your services? It’s important to establish guidelines to ensure customers understand your services and prevent delivery orders from impacting your business’s net profit.

Advertise Your Take-And-Bake Offerings

Once everything is set, it’s time to inform customers about your new heat-and-eat menu. Consider creating social media posts and a page on your website that is dedicated to your new service. Share photos of menu items, details on how to place an order, and other information you believe customers will find helpful.

To help attract attention to your take-and-bake meal options, you can advertise them as special dishes for date nights, family dinners, or weekly meal preps. For example, if Valentine’s Day is a couple of weeks away, you can create a romantic heat-and-eat entree for two to help increase sales. Think outside the box with your promotions because customers are always looking to try something new.

It’s Time To Heat Up Your Offerings!

Now that you have a great understanding of what take-and-bake meals are and how they’ve gained popularity, you can begin to offer them at your foodservice establishment. Just remember to create a menu your loyal customers are familiar with and incorporate ingredients to offset food costs. Each dish should also include heating instructions to guarantee guests enjoy their orders. By following this informative guide, you can easily provide customers with the convenience they are looking for while maximizing your foodservice establishment’s profits.