It’s Time to Step Up Your Packaging Game
The quarantine in the United States has forced restaurants to adapt to a system entirely reliant on take-out and delivery. As takeout becomes the new business model, it becomes ever clearer that the success of restaurants will hinge on each component of the take-out experience. Owners and employees are scrutinizing everything from advertising, to the ordering process, to the safety of pick-ups and deliveries to the quality of food after 20 minutes of transport. One aspect of takeout has often been overlooked, despite its importance to the customer experience is packaging. The takeout container affects everything about the customer experience.
Packaging is a particularly practical issue for businesses accustomed to table service. The food produced by the kitchen is meant to be eaten only minutes later. Amongst the greatest concerns for businesses moving to take out is the challenge of maintaining the quality of the meal from the moment it enters the take-out container to the moments it is removed. This means that cold food needs to remain cold and hot foods need to remain at serving temperature without sweating. Your “doggie bag” packaging is no longer acceptable. The new normal can involve wrapping hot items in aluminum to keep them warm or allowing for breathing holes in the top of a package for moisture to escape. An example of great packaging is a small restaurant group, Firebirds. They use aluminum foil covered trays to keep steaks hot and high-quality plastic to keep their salads moist and cool. Bread is in a paper bag.
Great presentation is nearly impossible to accomplish with take-out, nor should it be the priority. If presentation is particularly important to the image of a restaurant, it can be accomplished with packaging instead of the food. Krispy Kreme uses colorful and patterned boxes that have become synonymous with their brand. Sweetgreen incorporates eco-friendly containers into their takeout. Some restaurants have even drawn inspiration from the stylistic bento boxes of Japan.
Packaging should provide both the employees and customers a hassle-free experience during pick up. Tightly wrapped meals with no labels can result in confusion and easy mix-ups. When mistakes can only be discovered after the customer gets home there’s going to be frustration and disappointment. One answer to this predicament is to label containers by their contents. Another solution may be to use packaging that is easy to open and reseal, so that employees and customers can easily check the food before it makes its way to the home.
Which ever direction you decide to go with your food packaging, it is more important then ever to be thoughtful of how your packaging impacts the guest experience. Order take out from your own restaurant, drive it home then sit down to dine. You can then ask yourself, “Is this the food quality and experience that I want my guests to have?”
Brian J Blum