Takeout Food Packaging: Why You Need to Make Smart Decisions at Your Restaurant?
Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the number of people ordering food online has increased significantly. In response to rising consumer demand, many restaurant owners and managers are working with food delivery marketplaces to provide to-go versions of menu offerings. Providing your customers with a safe and high-quality meal is easier to accomplish when they consume the meal in-house.
However, when delivery is in the equation, you must implement key measures to ensure a similar level of safety and quality. When you order your favorite meal, and it’s delivered to you cold, the chances are that you will reconsider ordering from the restaurant again. For restaurant operators, one of the best ways to navigate this challenge is by implementing proper food delivery packaging.
Important Considerations for Delivery Food Packaging
Your choice of delivery food packaging will be informed by several crucial factors. The most important factors include temperature control, type, and cost of material, food safety concerns, food delivery packing trends, and your brand personality.
1. Temperature Control
The majority of customers consider food temperature and freshness as an essential factor in food order delivery. You have to package hot and cold food separately. When delivering food to off-site locations, the food items must arrive at your customer’s door at the temperature they intend to enjoy it.
2. Type and Cost of Material
Probably the most important consideration in food delivery packaging is selecting the right materials. You have a wide range of materials that you can go for, including cardboard, plastic, aluminum, Styrofoam, and biodegradable and recyclable materials (environmentally friendly and sustainable).
More consumers today have concerns about sustainability, and the impact food delivery services have on the environment. Below is a break-down of restaurant packaging aspects of different materials:
- Plastics – Provide great protection for food. However, they aren’t environmentally friendly and retain moisture, which may result in soggy meals.
- Aluminum foil – Is non-absorbent, sealable and durable. It also retains heat well, so it’s suitable for packaging meals that need to stay hot. The cons are that aluminum is on the costly side.
- Styrofoam – is cheap and has great insulation properties making it ideal for food temperature control. However, it’s not good for the environment.
- Cardboard/paper – Is cheap, biodegradable, good for temperature control, and easily customizable (great for branding). The only downside is that it’s less durable than other materials.
- Sustainable materials – You have several options when it comes to sustainable packaging materials, including bioplastics, recyclable containers, compostable containers, stone paper (calcium carbonate), and even palm leaf packaging if you’re feeling adventurous. Bioplastic or plant-based plastics are made from bagasse, bamboo, corn, wheat, and wood pulp. They produce quality plates, bowls, and cups.
Overall, you have a wide variety of delivery food packaging options. Some items in your menu will require more than one packaging material. Your restaurant’s specific needs, customer needs, and brand policies will inform your choice.
3. Food Safety Concerns
With the Covid-19 pandemic still ongoing, food safety has become a significant concern for most consumers. Cross-contamination can happen at any point between meal preparation and delivery.
As such, proper food packaging is vital in preventing cross-contamination at any point along this process. Below are some steps that you can take to ensure food safety:
- Use tamper-proof or tamper-evident containers for your restaurant packaging.
- Increase frequency of disinfecting areas where food items are packaged for delivery.
- Use suitable utensils and food dispensing tools when handling to-go meals.
- Whenever possible, use disposable packaging.
- Ensure insulated bags used for food delivery are sanitized and disinfected.
- Implement and follow food safety practices.
How to Package Food Properly for Successful Delivery
1. Cooked Meals and Fast Food
For cooked meals and fast food, you have to select purpose-designed containers. The order has to remain hot from pick-up to delivery. Ensure cooked meals stay hot under warming lamps before pick-up.
You can use vented packaging to reduce moisture build-up, thus tackling sogginess and perceived low quality. This can help preserve the crispiness of fast foods such as fries. Wrap your containers in foil for sauce-based orders for further protection.
2. Fresh Foods and Frozen Foods
Always keep fresh foods separate from hot food as they may become soggy. Package fresh foods that need to be cold accordingly. This also applies to frozen foods.
You can use insulated bags, ice packs, or dry ice, taking the appropriate precautions (such as checking for leaks) for these purposes. Also, keep cold foods items in a cooler as they await pick-up.
3. Beverages and Bottles
No customer wants a cold meal that was placed right next to an iced beverage. You must give thought as to how hot and cold food items will travel in the same package. You should keep beverages separate and secured using tight lids and a drink carrier.
To keep frozen beverages frozen, utilize cool packs or insulating bags. If necessary, you can provide instructions on how to put the segregated food components back together. If your order includes glass-bottled items, wrap the items with paper to ensure their safety.
4. Sauces and Side Dishes
Sauces and side dishes like dressings can be tricky. Ensure you package these food items in leak-proof containers or sealable bags and separate them from the main food items. Also, wrap these components in plastic foil to avoid making messes.
Stop automatically including utensils in your takeout. Ask your customers if they want utensils with their orders. Most customers at home don’t need all that extra stuff. If a customer chooses to have cutlery, ensure that they are clean and well packaged with no exposure of sharp edges.
6. Prevent Food Tampering
Delivery persons can be tempted to sample orders before delivery. As such, you should explore restaurant packaging solutions that discourage food tampering. Automated sealing machines apply tight tamper-proof and spill-resistant seals on beverages.
7. Collaborate with Reputable Delivery Companies
Ensure that your delivery service providers, whether outsourced or in-house have the appropriate equipment and tools that support fast, efficient, and satisfactory food deliveries.
Food delivery has become critical to the survival of many restaurants today. Maintaining food quality is pivotal to keeping your delivery customers happy. With proper restaurant packaging, you will be able to deliver your menu items to your customers intact, at the correct temperatures, ready-to-eat, and most important of all, safe to consume.