Operators are finding other ways to enhance dining experiences as more consumers choose to eat off-premise. Delivery, takeout, drive-through, catering and other to-go orders contribute almost $200 billion in restaurant sales. On top of that, more than half of consumers used delivery or takeout at least once per month in 2018, with 18% making more than 10 of those purchases each month. With all this transport, packaging is becoming an increasingly important detail. It can make or break a patron’s delivery experience, as well-designed packaging prevents food from changing temperature or becoming soggy or messy.
In the wake of changing regulations and increased consumer demand, delivery packaging is becoming more inventive and innovative. 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, especially during the summer, 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. The type of packaging used, how well the food travels and the overall delivery experience are all reflections of an operation. A smooth delivery can not only boost off-premise orders but also provide patrons with the same quality service they would receive if dining in.
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