When Capital Region Living readers voted Canali’s Restaurant in Rotterdam the best takeout in the area at the end of 2019, no one had any idea just how crucial takeout would soon become for the food industry as a whole. As restaurants were forced to close their doors to in-house dining due to the COVID-19 crisis, many had to scramble to put together online ordering systems from scratch and figure out how to facilitate new curbside pickup options.
But did COVID-19 simply accelerate an already existing trend? “It seems to be even before COVID that it’s been growing in our industry—at our place, especially,” says Henry Alteri of takeout orders, who owns Canali’s with his brother Peter (who is also the head chef ).
Canali’s isn’t alone: In 2018, Restaurant Business magazine reported that 86 percent of consumers were using off-premises dining services at least monthly, and that food delivery was projected to grow 12 percent over the next five years. With the rise of food delivery companies such as Uber Eats, Doordash and Latham-based Mealeo, as well as with shifting consumer attitudes toward getting everything from Amazon purchases to groceries delivered, restaurants have had to adapt to this new “to-go” world order.
The key to a successful takeout operation, Alteri says, is to serve the same food a restaurant would serve in its dining room, but even more quickly and efficiently. “One of the things we never do is cut back on quality and quantity,” says Alteri of the Schenectady establishment’s takeout service. “We always make sure we use the best ingredients.” For Canali’s, that means organic chicken from Tyson, triple net zero flour and only the best tomatoes, from California farmers.
Canali’s has been offering its delicious Italian food to go for 30 years, so it’s no surprise the restaurant has perfected the craft. But COVID-19 or not, it seems the takeout ball is just getting rolling. Are you ready, Capital Region?