Restaurant meal kits provide fresh food, entertainment for customers stuck at home

COVID-19 ,

Source: Nation's Restaurant News

Not all food travels well, and many people, sequestered at home have some extra time on their hands. A number of restaurant operators are responding to that situation with meal kits that allow their customers to assemble meals at home, sometimes with light cooking required, that fulfills many of their customers’ needs.

Bartaco, a chain of around 20 units specializing in street tacos, is now offering a “Taco Pack” comprised of any two fillings and enough tortillas to make 16 tacos. It also comes with three sides, salsa verde and chips for $35.

“Given our prior success of party packs and today’s circumstances, we decided to roll out family packs, providing families everything they need to enjoy a meal in one easy order while they are home together.” At $35, they’re also price-appropriate for these challenging times.

Given a wide variety of fillings — from portobello mushrooms and cauliflower to seafood, pork and poultry — Lawton said families can order according to their cravings or dietary restrictions.

Where it’s legal, Bartaco is also selling $30 Margarita kits comprised of four nips of tequila, two nips of Cointreau, lime agave mix, salt, lime and a mason jar for shaking.

Casual-dining chain Smokey Bones just launched a line of “Bones Basics” meal kits, complete with instructions for cooking them at home.

Options include a burger kit with raw patties, brioche buns, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, ketchup and mustard for $24.99. A chicken meal at the same price includes a whole, raw chicken with seasoning, potatoes, sour cream, whipped butter, roasted corn and garlic bread. Another option at the same price is four chicken breasts with potatoes, butter and sour cream as well as the ingredients for a Caesar salad.

For $64.99, guests can order four sirloin steaks, four burgers with buns and six chicken breasts, all ready for the grill.

“Smokey Bones ‘Bones Basics’ meal kits offer our guests a way to enjoy popular items from our menu that they can prepare at home at their convenience, and are also a convenient alternative to an extra grocery shopping trip,” CEO James O’Reilly said in an email.

Friendly’s also leaned into its strengths with its new sundae kits. The family-dining chain of around 170 locations saw ice cream delivery orders rise as people retreated to their homes.

“With homebound families looking for ways to keep kids entertained and elevate moods, we thought, how else can we bring our unique restaurant experience to families at home,” chief operating officer Dennis Pfaff said in a release announcing the sundae kits. “Amid the uncertainty we’re all facing, something so simple as a make-your-own ice cream sundae can bring additional comfort and a sense of hope.” 

Starting at $24, the kit includes a carton of ice cream, three sundae toppings, whipped topping, cups and cones.

California Pizza Kitchen introduced meal kits in late March, including a $12 Lettuce Wrap Kit with Lettuce Cups, Asian-Inspired Lettuce Wrap Sauce, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and chicken for four servings. It also introduced a Chef’s Board with a baguette, choice of two cured meats, two premium cheeses, dried fruit and mixed nuts for $25. Similarly, it has a Taco Kit for four for $15 to $24 depending on the protein and, at $5 apiece, a Kids Build-Your-Own Pizza with parbaked dough, pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and optional pepperoni for $5 each.

Uno Pizzeria & Grill, which has around 90 units, has a similar $5 kids’ pizza kit, but it also comes with crayons and a pizza coloring sheet. 

CPK’s meal kits proved so popular that the casual-dining chain of around 200 units introduced four more kits in early April. They include choice of raw protein — salmon fillet, chicken breast or rib eye steak — with spinach-and-artichoke dip, sourdough baguette, Caesar salad, raw fingerling potatoes with oil for cooking them, and butter cake with ice cream. The chicken kit is $40 for 2 or $70 for 4, the salmon is $45 or $80 and the steak is $65 and $120.