In the past 20 years, the percentage of customers ordering food to go has shown steady growth, but in the just the last few years, takeout has really taken off. Today, more people order food to go than stay to dine in, according to consumer research group NPD.
Whether in response to the economy or lifestyle changes, casual and theme restaurants increasingly offer curbside delivery to customers’ cars, and more fine dining establishments are introducing carryout programs. New technologies have helped to streamline the process for consumers, who can now order via cell phone and text messaging, and learn about daily specials and deals online or through Twitter feeds from their favorite restaurants.
While the food will always be the key focus in any operation, with takeout, how food is packaged is nearly as critical. Packaging can make or break a takeout program for a restaurant and turn off consumers considering takeout as a viable and satisfying meal option.
The container is part of the whole takeout package
First, consumers want the basics covered. Packaging must be convenient to carry, seal well and not leak out the sides or bottom. Containers must keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold – all while keeping individual meal components separated from each other. Over 83% of consumers cited the quality and performance of packaging as one of their top concerns regarding their takeout orders, according to a recent study by Technomic, Inc. Satisfied customers are return customers, so ensure that a meal brought home from a restaurant is as pristine on arrival as it would if served in-house.
Today, however, there is one other important consideration for many consumers: environmental responsibility. Surveys indicate that at least half of consumers say they want eco-friendly packaging for to-go foods, according to Technomic, Inc.
â€˜Greenâ€™ is an important consideration
Consumers are growing suspicious of some sustainability claims. If they sense restaurants are just paying lip service to the green trend, they’ll resent it. Savvy operators may attract and retain customers â€“ as well as better the earth â€“ by switching to environmentally friendly disposables.
Packaging selection should reflect an operation’s commitment to sustainability and local patrons’ devotion to the environment. There are several packaging options made from renewable resources, such as 100% biodegradable options like plant-based products or Monogram Sustain Bagasse sugarcane dishes, a U.S. Foodservice sustainable packaging product. Operators often package takeout with plastic cutlery and handful of portioned condiments. A creative few even include a note suggesting customers use their own groceries and utensils.
Reference these sites to learn more about various sustainable disposable products.
Solo Cups offers disposable products called BARE (Bringing Alternative Resources for the Environment) for both consumer and restaurant use.