While it’s uncertain whether takeout and delivery in the wake of COVID-19 will reach its previous levels, customers are adjusting to their new normal and are still looking to order from their favorite restaurants. Operators must find ways to enhance the takeout and delivery experience of consumers while they’re limited to off-premise dining. For that reason, packaging is becoming an increasingly important detail that can make or break a patron’s experience. Food safety is a high priority to them, and operators can take steps to alleviate concerns by implementing tamper-proof packaging, as nearly 30% of consumers say their biggest worry is how food is packaged.
In addition to reassuring customers that their orders are safe and protected, well-designed packaging can keep food from changing temperature or becoming soggy or messy. Sogginess caused by condensation within the container is an issue that foods—particularly French fries—face. Staff at Idaho-headquartered Lamb Weston combated this challenge by conceiving Crispy on Delivery, a fry cup container with venting technology. The packaging is made of virgin food-grade paperboard with air vents along the bottom half of the cup. Whereas the allure of conventional fries usually decreases after five minutes, these Crispy on Delivery fries maintain their freshness for roughly half an hour. Pizza boxes are getting a makeover too; Apple patented a circular box with holes on top for moisture to pass through, and GreenBox offers environmentally conscious boxes that double as plates and storage for leftover slices.
Another way to ensure that orders arrive exactly as intended is to compartmentalize ingredients. Separating cold ingredients from hot ingredients helps maintain the food’s proper temperatures. This is especially relevant as we approach warmer months when there may be higher demand for cold or frozen options. Joseph Mahon, owner of California-based restaurant Burger Parlor, created a special container for his burgers. This FuzionBox features a middle divider, which keeps the bun and toppings apart from the patty, preventing a soggy burger. Sealable bags and takeout cartons that won’t spill are great for liquids such as dressings and sauces. Splitting up these components can also reduce the risk of cross-contamination, which is important for customers with allergies or dietary requirements.
Choosing the best container for an operation starts with a preference of material, and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Styrofoam excels in keeping hot and cold foods at their respective temperatures. Plastic is strong and can prevent its contents from leaking. Cardboard is biodegradable, but it’s not ideal for wet ingredients, nor does it keep food insulated. Some consumers are concerned about the environmental or health impact of using Styrofoam or other types of plastic. As a result, options manufactured from recycled materials are emerging. Forward-thinking designs—for instance, the biodegradable, Styrofoam replacement Nanowood—signal a future of new packaging concepts.
A thorough off-premise strategy is a chance to extend a brand while reassuring customers about the safety and quality of their orders. The type of packaging used, how well the food travels and its security upon arrival are all reflections of an operation. A smooth delivery can not only boost off-premise orders but also provide patrons with the same level of service they would receive if dining in.
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