Takeout Tetris

The emphasis on takeaway shifts again.

Screenshot of Tetris game, trying to fit different shaped blocks of blue, orange, yellow, red, and green together.
Get ready to reshuffle...again.

All through the pandemic, the proclamations, “Takeout is here to stay!” and, “Diner behavior is forever changed!” rang through the industry. But now, with dine-in ramped up and patio season in full swing, do the to-go and delivery menus hold as much power? Nope, says chef-owner Elise Wiggins of Cattivella in Aurora. “Based on what my regulars say, they don’t want to eat out of a to-go container for a long, long time.” While Cattivella’s menu will still be available to go, Wiggins doesn’t plan on actively promoting it. 

But this comes from a restaurant that didn’t have much of a takeout or delivery presence prior to the shutdowns. What about eateries originally conceived with takeaway in mind? Take Steuben’s in Denver, which since opening in 2006, has had a nook dedicated to carryout. At the height of the pandemic, the Uptown restaurant had a staff of 10 managing curbside and delivery orders, and it was so busy that owner Josh Wolkon says he had to set up Metro shelving to handle volume. 

While to-go is still a viable source of revenue, Wolkon is keeping a close eye on third-party delivery fees. “We negotiated below 15 percent, but if those go up, that’ll be the first thing I get rid of,” he says. He also explains it would be chaos to continue filling takeout and delivery orders at pandemic levels while also balancing a full dining room. Wolkon’s rule of thumb: “We prioritize in-house tickets…[and] we turn off delivery almost nightly.”

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