Chef Scott Craig offers tips for an expert take-out operation

By Liz Barrett Foster

On a normal Easter Sunday, Myers Park Country Club, an award-winning, five-star club in Charlotte, North Carolina, serves 1,000 people in its dining rooms, according to Chef Scott Craig, CEC, CCA, WCMC, director of culinary operations. Last Easter, all orders were curbside takeout only from the club, with no inside dining, due to COVID. 

This year, sit-down service is being added back in, but is limited to 200 guests, due to pandemic protocols. Those 200 guests will further be divided between three dining rooms over a six-hour period, and all CDC requirements will be followed, according to Chef Craig. 

It’s not all bad news, though.

This Easter, Chef Craig anticipates a gross revenue of around $28,000 in takeout sales, with an additional $6,000 in a la carte revenue. “Ironically, that’s around $10,000 more than we would see in a normal year,” he says. 

Chef Craig explains that profit predictions look more favorable because the club won’t be investing as heavily in linen, flowers, ice carvings, or spending as much on chemicals to wash so many dishes.

You may not run a large-scale kitchen like Myers Park Country Club, but there are still ways to provide a delicious—and safe–Easter supper to your guests, while ensuring additional profits for your restaurant. 

Menu Basics

Whether you plan to open part of your dining room or offer an Easter takeout menu for guests to enjoy at home, Chef Craig says that a Market Menu concept that offers takeout can work for any size kitchen. “If you have lobster tails in the freezer, put them on the menu and sell them,” he says. “Salmon is also profitable and can be dressed up so there’s greater perceived value.” 

In addition to proteins, Chef Craig suggests offering soups and salads, which offer a variety of options with early Spring ingredients and are generally very profitable. “Just communicate your on-hand quantities to the person taking orders so you don’t run out,” says Chef Craig.

Taking Orders and Making Reservations

On the topic of taking orders, Myers Park Country Club will begin taking its dine-in reservations one month out from Easter and continue up until the morning of the event if it’s not sold out. 

As for takeout orders, the cutoff for orders is five days before pickup, so that product can be ordered, items can be prepared, and orders can be packaged, according to Craig. “We take the majority of our takeout orders over the phone, which is helpful in that the interaction gives our members a chance to have their questions answered,” he says.

Prep, Packaging and Pick Up

In these times of social distancing, it’s important to plan out how you’ll prep and package so many orders, too. At Myers, the menu is packaged from two separate kitchens to allow for social distancing within kitchen teams. “We’ve spent time refining our takeout packaging, so all of our items are easily packaged,” says Chef Craig. “In terms of food safety, our items are blast-chilled when removed from the oven, so that they spend a minimal amount of time in the temperature danger zone, prolonging the life of the product.”

Pickup times are also important to maintain a good flow of traffic and social distancing. At Myers, pickup will be offered the day before Easter and the morning of Easter, with club members asked to select a 30-minute window in which they’ll pick up their order from under the club’s portico. Chef Craig says that orders are placed directly in members’ vehicles without them needing to exit, and they are offered complimentary coffee and hot chocolate during their wait.

Armed with these pandemic-proof tips and tactics, will you offer your own takeout menu this Easter?