How the takeaway became a fine dining experience of its own
The British takeaway has long been a cultural fixture, but since the pandemic restaurants have transformed the polystyrene-box meal into fine dining cuisine
The global pandemic had a massive and fundamentally negative impact on the services industry. Restaurant owners and food businesses were hit hard by the fact that their customers simply couldn’t access them in-person.
The situation led to innovation and experimentation, as businesses adapted to the new normal and attempted to salvage something spectacular from the crisis.
Takeaways were an important part of that re-genesis, as restaurants explored what they could do in this straight-to-the-consumer space.
In the past, takeaways had earned a reputation for being cheap, accessible and ultimately of lower quality compared to eating in a restaurant. That’s a generalisation and there are countless entities that proved that stereotype wrong time and again.
But it’s hard to deny that the pandemic did shift things in the industry and forced businesses to reevaluate the role of the takeaway, elevating it to its current status.
The pandemic forces the food industry's hand
The pandemic forced businesses to change their stance on takeaways. Previously, the focus and indeed priority had been delivering quality services in-house. With that taken away, that outlook had to evolve.
Takeaways became extensions of these businesses, representing the values that owners and chefs want to portray when guests visit them.
During the pandemic, kitchens adapted to create takeaway meals, unable to perform in their usual capacity. The success of this shift was astounding and encouraged restaurants to continue this trend after service returned to normal.
"Takeaways became extensions of these businesses, representing the values that owners and chefs want to portray"
Some businesses have since opened second kitchens to continue to supply quality takeaway food, which is under the same scrutiny as what is served in the restaurant.
This change in how restaurants were able to connect with their audience was so successful and popular that there doesn’t appear to be a way back to how things were.
You’ll likely notice that local restaurants, who had never previously delivered their wares, are now instantly available to order from.
A change in outlook across the industry has led to new opportunities and has crafted competition in the market, driving each business to their absolute best.
Rethinking food delivery and packaging
It seems obvious, but a crucial area that businesses had to revisit to improve the quality of their produce was their delivery and packaging systems.
On the delivery side, there have been big moves in the digital world, with apps like Just Eat and Deliveroo acting as fantastic platforms to launch from.
But many businesses took matters into their own hands, investing in websites and systems that could sustain a long-term takeaway strategy that also worked for consumers.
There have also been breakthroughs in how food is being packaged, with that restaurant feel coming from the quality of the packaging itself.
"A drive for more sustainable materials and recycling schemes has encouraged a bigger discussion in the industry"
This is an extension of the restaurant experience and thus packaging has advanced to match the themes of the business, but most importantly, keep the food both hot and well-structured. Gone are the days where food turns up messy and lukewarm.
While there were environmental consequences of this increase in bespoke packaging, a drive for more sustainable materials and recycling schemes has encouraged a bigger discussion in the industry, which will in-turn lead to further positive breakthroughs.
There is still research taking place on the use of temperature-controlled vehicles versus the advantages of relying solely on packaging to maintain the food quality. These discussions will continue as the industry rolls on boldly forward.
Spoilt for choice
You might have also noticed that the menus have changed on your local takeaways. There are now more options and crucially, food that you may be able to order in one of the restaurant locations.
In the past, takeaway menus were viewed as a lower priority, with businesses looking to create simplified food that could be made efficiently and for low cost.
The pandemic crafted a shift in that strategy, and it was much-needed.
Restaurants will often now offer the exact same food that you can eat in the restaurant, at the same quality, or a bespoke personalised menu that takes advantage of the takeaway model.
Menus feel more thoughtful and, crucially, play into the overall eating experience.
Setting the ambience at home
That takeaway experience cannot be undervalued. When people order a takeaway it isn’t just a cheap and easy option. It’s an event unto itself. A treat that might be shared with loved ones or strangers.
Restaurants are tapping into that experience and experimenting with ways they can set themselves apart from rivals.
The packaging is one aspect of that, but presentation is another. Restaurants are thinking about how you open your food, how it looks and how it is set out.
"Spotify playlists craft a more immersive dining atmosphere"
Some restaurants are using technology to advance their concept further, including elements like QR codes or even links to Spotify playlists to craft a more immersive dining atmosphere.
This a new era in the takeaway industry—one that is open to big ideas.
There are sure to be more changes on the way, but fundamentally this overhaul has given takeaway businesses the kick they needed to embrace that restaurant-quality state of mind.
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