The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things for the foodservice industry. Businesses have been forced to find alternative ways to bring in money with the decrease in in-person dining.

Do-it-yourself meal kits became a huge hit with customers during the initial months of social distancing, while helping restaurants and bakeries bolster their sales in a unique way. For those looking for something relatively simple for themselves or their children, these businesses have offered kits for many different products.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, with the massive changes that the hospitality industry has recently undergone because of COVID-19, restaurant owners are looking for ways to modify their business models to adapt and overcome new challenges as they arise,” says Vincent Barcelona, director of culinary and corporate chef for Stratas Foods. “Even as dine-in restrictions begin to lift, off-premises dining continues to remain the top revenue-driver for restaurants nationwide because of the safety, convenience and family fun it brings consumers. One of the new restaurant trends benefiting both owners and customers in today’s evolving industry is build-your-own meal kits.”

Many big names in the industry have offered their own kits to set as an example for retail bakeries. For example, just in time for the return of (home) school, Magnolia Bakery launched a fun and educational DIY Banana Pudding Kit. Fans and aspiring bakers can make their own version of the bakery’s popular treat using the ingredients and directions in the kit.

The kit, which makes 16 servings, is filled with vanilla pudding mix (Jell-O brand), sweetened condensed milk, Nilla Wafers, Magnolia Bakery pudding cups and spoons.

Another example of a major foodservice name getting in on the meal kit fun is Shake Shack. The company partnered with Goldbelly to launch ShackBurger meal kits. The ready-to-cook boxes contain all the ingredients needed to recreate its signature burger at home, including eight fresh patties made from the same beef blend that’s used in stores, cheese, buns and Shake Shack sauce.

What goes into putting together a meal kit that will appeal to individuals and families? Barcelona says that you should make it as easy as possible for customers.

“A build-your-own meal kit contains all the ingredients needed for customers to prepare, cook, and serve their favorite dishes from your favorite restaurant or bakery establishments in the comfort of their own homes,” he says. “It provides exact measurements for each ingredient as well as instructions on how to prepare the dish at home, make-at-home pizzas, brunch, tacos and more to deliver to housebound consumers.”

When a bakery or bakery café considers offering this type of product, they should factor in that simplicity, but also fun. Mitch Riavez, certified master baker and senior national accounts manager for Stratas Foods, says that it should not be complicated. All ingredients should already be measured up for the consumer, and it should be fun for the children to be involved with the preparation.

“Bakeries have been doing this already for the holidays, such as gingerbread houses and frozen cookie dough pucks,” Riavez says. “The bakery should be looking at creating kits for building cakes at home as well. The layers could be baked and the filling and icings can be included in disposable decorating pastry bags. Almost anything a bakery currently produces could be sold in kits.”