he back-to-school season poses many challenges for restaurants. As the lazy days of summer wind down, so do time and money spent on dining out. When students head back to class, schedules change and activities increase, leading families to hunker down at home and causing college students to focus more on studies and less on entertainment. But this season offers opportunities for restaurants, too, from off-premise dining options to diversifying your menu dayparts.

At Sysco, we offer a wide range of takeout-friendly ingredients, products and packaging, as well as ideas to ensure success. Here are our tips to make it the best fall yet.


1. Grab and Go With It
Portable, prepackaged meals that customers can grab and take with them have become an important factor in the success of many fast-casual and independent businesses. People are busy and stressed, and research shows they want something quick, tasty and healthy at a good value. Sysco's versatile lines of packaging make off-premise dining easy. Modern, lightweight Sysco Trendz disposables are designed for greater resistance to grease and moisture, while Sysco Earth Plus containers are made with post-consumer recycled content.

2. Diversify Your Dayparts
If your customers come in primarily for coffee, place packaged breakfasts, lunches and snacks like Baker’s Choice Parfait Muffins close to POS, to drive impulse sales. If you are a lunch spot, upsell packaged dinners, à la carte entrées or preassembled meal kits. Busy parents will appreciate the convenience.

3. Consider the Snack
Snacking has become big business. According to new research, 80 percent of consumers say they snack at least once a day; snacks are used increasingly to replace a meal; and 57 percent say portability is an important factor. Ask your Marketing Associate about the new Block and Barrel Snack Trays.

4. Use the Right Foods
Some foods retain their flavor and texture better than others on that ride home from the restaurant. Soups, sandwiches, salads and wraps all make the grade. Short pastas such as cavatappi and penne retain their texture well. Fried foods can go soggy, but Sysco has developed several distinctive french fry products to hold up over time, including Sysco Imperial Red Batter Potatoes and Fries, and Ultimate Crisp Heavy Battered French Fries, coated in an extra-thick batter to ensure a crisp outside and buttery interior.

5. Hit the Curb
This growing trend splits the difference between takeout and home delivery by having a server meet the customer in his or her car or at the curb. Use texts to communicate with customers and cut out the middleman. Diners love not having to leave the car, and it’s cheaper than building a drive-through window!

6. Implement Online Ordering
Diners today expect to be able to order meals online, on either a restaurant’s own app or a third-party website. This is true for takeout and delivery and is even becoming the case for some eat-in dining. The online experience should be seamless, so as not to frustrate customers before they get in the door.

7. Limit the Selection
Takeout and delivery can be a burden for restaurants. Do your kitchen—and customers—a favor by creating a separate, limited takeout menu that offers a few selected items—those most suitable for takeout.

8. Make Friends With a Delivery Service
Are you on board with Uber Eats or another version of digital home delivery? Don’t bother trying to fight it; the revolution is here. As millennials are becoming parents themselves, they turn to their phones for everything, including dialing up dinner— with no actual dialing or talking involved.

9. Two Meals for the Price of One
Because economics is a driving force keeping families at home, value and savings should also play an integral role in bringing them back into the restaurant. A limited time “Order a meal, take one home” offer is perfect for the back-to-school season, as busy parents will have one less dish to prepare the following day.

10. Let Kids Eat Free
Another surefire savings-based concept for back-to-school season is to offer a weekly Kids Eat Free Night. Not only will this attract regular customers back in, it will also bring in new customers willing to try out an untested spot in order to save money.