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The Evolution of Takeout

Foodie and industry expert Mike Boyle talks about the changes restaurants have had to make to survive the COVID-19 pandemic

When we were in the planning stages of this annual food and drink issue, we knew we had to include Castle Rock resident Mike Boyle. The host of The Mike Boyle Restaurant Show since 1991, Mike knows what’s going on in the industry. So, we had what we thought was a brilliant idea—with the way many restaurants have upped their takeout game as a way to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought we’d ask Mike which restaurants had the best takeout in Castle Rock.

So, on a chilly but sunny morning, we met at Pegasus for breakfast burritos and to talk about the takeout scene. But it didn’t take long for Mike—a man who has never been accused of not stating his opinion—to mention that maybe trying to choose “the best” wasn’t our best idea.

“I don't do ‘best’ lists. I don't choose favorites—and I'll tell you why. Because food is as subjective as anything. Let’s say I say the best place for takeout is this place. The minute somebody picks up the article, they say, ‘We had a horrible experience at that place, Boyle doesn't know squat.’”

He’s right. Food is subjective; of course it is. That’s why there are so many “favorites” and everyone has their own opinion. So, instead of making a “best” list, our conversation drifted to how restaurants had to quickly rethink how they could get their food to customers who could no longer enter their establishments.

“Every restaurant was doing takeout on March 16, 2020. But for most—except maybe pizza places and Chinese restaurants—it was an afterthought. Sure, places like The Outback and Chili’s had curbside pickup, but it was still an afterthought,” Mike says. “But now the smart restaurant owners are focused on how to do takeout well. When you can’t let customers into your restaurant, what do you do? You find other ways to expand your walls.” And in March of 2020, the only way restaurants could expand was by getting their food out to their customers.

Mike explains that the shift to takeout worked for restaurants who quickly pivoted “because we're not a nation of diners. We're a nation of eaters. It’s true. That doesn't mean that we don't enjoy a nice, wine-paired meal at the Penrose Room at the Broadmoor, but most of us are just, ‘Give me something easy to eat on my way to work, and by the way, who's picking up the kids before dinner tonight?’ You know what I mean? So, we're eaters." In other words, Mike says, "If you're a restaurant and you're not doing takeout now, you’re not paying attention."

But even after admitting that he has found the “takeout thing” interesting and dynamic, Mike admits that he prefers dining in restaurants. “From the beginning of time, restaurants were a gathering place. They were the place where you met your friends, had a drink, and talked. It was all about the experience.

“You'd be amazed at how many people will call me and say, ‘My husband and I went out to dinner with an old army buddy who was in town. We just had this fabulous time talking about everything and catching up. I couldn’t even tell you what we ate.'”

So, are you a diner or an eater? There is no wrong answer, and because of adjustments dining establishments have been forced to made over the past two years, everyone can find a place that offers exactly what they need.