Thinking Outside of the Take-out Box

Mitch Schneider
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After being hit hard by the first and second wave of COVID, restaurants throughout the country keep shutting down. Aside from the ever-increasing unemployment numbers driving the demand down to dine out, the kiss of death was outlawing sit-in guests, while intermittently allowing takeaway orders.

Social distancing initiatives, movement restrictions, and lockdowns had many restaurant owners rethinking their business plans and marketing strategies. Few have been successful, but only one establishment, in my humble opinion, was able to really think outside of the box. Here’s what they did. They brought the restaurant experience to your home.

Sounds simple enough, right? I’m sure you’re thinking that this is exactly what takeaway food is. You call up or place your order online, and in about an hour the food is delivered right to your door. Then you open the bag, devour your food, and 30 minutes later you’re left with empty cartons, bags, and sloppily opened condiments, sauces, and accoutrements that came with your order.

Mitch Schneider

Sure, they could’ve also taken this route. They could’ve played it safe and easy, but they didn’t. They took it many steps farther than any other restaurant did. They essentially delivered their restaurant’s experience and ambiance, their heart and soul, right to your door.

Bodega saw an amazing opportunity. Lockdowns and movement restrictions had many couples spending a lot more time than they ever did with each other, which naturally turned into searching for activities to do together.

We all know that good food can create feelings of happiness and contentment, and those feelings are magnified when you cook the food yourself. Bodega, staying true to their brand, wanted to create that exact happy experience at home for the masses. After all, anyone who has ever been to Bodega knows that you’re treated like family the moment you step foot into their establishment.

As you step inside Bodega, you’re greeted with a warm welcome, a friendly smile, and an aroma that simply engulfs you and tickles your senses.  After you’ve placed your order, which is no easy task because their menu is unique and enticing, you’ll find yourself listening and enjoying the amazing soundtrack playing on the speakers. It’s a wide range of artists but any establishment that can play Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, and Jimmy Hendrix within a few minutes of each other is doing something right in my books. The music adds a lot to their charm.

Once your order is ready, you pick up your perfectly plated items and head straight to your seat. They say you eat with your eyes first, and in this case, your eyes are drooling. You immediately dive into the best smash burger you’ve ever had. Your taste buds are exploding! The vegan cheese oozing over the burger coupled with the smokiness from the crisp lamb bacon married together with their creamy home sauce brings an experience the kosher world has only heard about. How is this kosher burger even possible?

The artist behind Bodega is none other than Chef Todd Aarons. I’ve known Chef Todd since Herzog Wine cellars, a former employer of ours, brought him to California to create Tierra Sur, a new upscale kosher dining experience. He’s a professionally trained chef whose career started off in non-kosher kitchens in Italy, France, New York, and San Francisco. If there was anyone who could take kosher dietary restrictions and craftily make fine dining accessible to all, it was Chef Todd.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the heart and soul of Bodega, the man with a vision, James Oppenheim. James can be found inside and outside of the restaurant schmoozing it up with his customers. A large part of the Bodega charm is because of James. Remember the warm smile and greeting I spoke about earlier? Those came from the offspring of James. You never know if his daughter will be welcoming you, or maybe one of his sons taking time off the plancha to say hello. One thing is for certain, the Oppenheim family wants you to feel welcome. You really are home when you visit Bodega.

What does all this have to do with bringing the restaurant experience to your home? Let’s put all of this together now.

Earlier I spoke about creating a shared experience at home for couples so they can bond in the kitchen and bring happiness into their homes. Instead of delivering lukewarm/cold food to your door, Bodega packaged kits filled with the ingredients you would need to recreate their famous menu items from the comfort of your home.

Let’s say you wanted to order a Bacon Double Cheeseburger Survival Kit. This kit would include quarter-pound beef patties, vegan American cheese, cherry wood smoked lamb bacon, Bodega sauce, bread, butter pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a seeded bun.

OK, but I’ve never worked at Bodega. How can I recreate the burger using the ingredients they supplied me with? They took care of this too by creating a video starring Chef Todd showing you the tools you’ll need, which can be found in every household, and reveals the secrets of how to make the juiciest and meatiest classic kosher bacon smash cheeseburgers like a pro in your home using said ingredients. Just FYI, don’t bother searching for this video, it’s not public. The video is only shared with those that placed an order.

Let’s go one step further now, creating the Bodega musical vibe in your home. It’s said that “food is music to the body, music is food to the heart”. To complete this truly joyous experience Bodega also supplied a link to their playlist on Spotify so you can enjoy the same music while preparing your bacon double cheeseburgers and Coney Island hot dog kits. They’re carefully curated for fun times, and it’s also the same playlist they play in Bodega.

While some may argue that when they pay for takeout food, they want it cooked and ready to go, I’d argue they’re missing an opportunity of creating a shared moment with their significant other. Cooking together not only improves your relationship but also deepens the foundation of your bond. If cooking is in the very foundation of being human, then working together toward that shared enjoyment of eating is in the very foundation of what establishes the bond.

The Bodega model is a great lesson for marketers on how to adapt their marketing plan during COVID. They showed us how you need to rethink logistics and processes while staying efficient. They put the customer experience first and made sure that every kit sent out had all the ingredients needed to create a memorable experience.

About the Author
Mitch Schneider is a seasoned marketing professional whose helped many Israeli hi-tech startups grow globally. In his free time, you can catch him snapping photos of his meals and speaking with chefs throughout Israel. The love for food and wine runs through his veins.
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