I recently read an article in Restaurant Hospitality that made me jump up and yell, “Yes!”

The article, "Grocery retailers poised to steal more market share," was based on research from the NPD Group. I was excited because the predictions it made are exactly what I’ve been telling restaurant owners to do for the last several years to increase their revenues.

Specifically, NPD said prepared food purchased at retailers for at-home consumption will increase by 10 percent over the next decade compared to a 4 percent increase forecast for restaurant traffic.”

This segment of prepared food for at-home consumption is what I refer to as “take-home catering.” I’ve been offering it in my large Dallas-based catering company through our retail locations for more than 12 years. It’s a huge revenue stream for us and it’s what kept us going through the 2008 recession. For restaurant owners on the hunt for the next best way to trim costs and increase sales, I say look no further than take-home catering.

Take-home catering is the food that is packaged for easy pick up to serve at home with little preparation. Take-home catering is not carryout from your menu. It’s not food from your regular menu. Instead it’s your style of food prepared in unique ways that will make you a daily necessity to your customers.  

For example, let’s say you are a barbecue restaurant and your menu includes smoked chicken, pulled pork, brisket, ribs and sides. A few of the items you could sell for your take-home catering menu are smoked chicken salad, pulled pork quesadillas (not cooked), or pulled chicken macaroni and cheese. All these items would be pre-packaged and ready for pick up. All your customers have to do is assemble a few things and/or heat it up when they get home. The options are limitless in what you can sell with this concept. And it works in any restaurant.

Think about how this affects your bottom line: less waste, lower cost of goods sold and increased profits. You’ve got the staff, the recipes the kitchen space, the downtime and most importantly— the customers.

Why do you think grocery stores are chasing this segment? They have all the same resources at hand that you do. But you can do it much better and your customers will reward you for it.

For example, I have customers for my company, The Festive Kitchen, who tell me they eat something at home every day that they’ve purchased from one of our food shops. What do they purchase? Egg salad for lunch, chicken spaghetti for dinner, Outrageous Brownies for dessert and Basil Pesto Torte for weekend guests. They also love my Freakin’ Awesome Snack Mix for whenever. Get it? Festive Kitchen is their daily necessity!

There are many things to consider, such as recipes that transition well from restaurant to home, what packaging to use and how to use your restaurant’s in-store real estate to present the option.

But like the NPD Group is predicting, you’re going to be fighting for customers from many places, including well-developed fresh food sections at your local grocery store. It’s in your best interest to develop as many different options as you can for your customers to choose your food.

To prove my point, I’ll offer this example. Remember when the big chain restaurants started advertising carryout orders? They even added parking spaces for on-the-go orders. Picking up to-go orders from sit-down restaurants wasn’t a mainstream idea before this. But now it is!

Whether you call it take-home catering or prepared food for eating at home, this idea should sound so exciting to you that you want to start selling something tomorrow!  It’s a game changer, an untapped revenue stream, and big business! I can also guarantee you that if you don’t start selling retail from your restaurant, your competitor will.

Don’t procrastinate. Get ahead of the curve, follow the trend and sell take-home food.

Sandy Korem is the c.e.o. and founder of The Festive Kitchen, a one-of-a kind catering company based in Dallas. Her other company, The Catering Coach, helps restaurateurs maximize their off-site catering potential and, establish a take-home catering revenue stream. For more information, visit www.thecateringcoach.com.