Increased demand for meal delivery means big business for those restaurants that do it right! One often overlooked but critical aspect of a successful restaurant delivery or take-out program is the packaging. For this month’s Expert Interview I teamed up with Dade Paper Marketing Assistant, Kayley Holloway. We spoke with Lynn Sosnowski, an Inside Sales Consultant with specialization in foodservice packaging. With almost 20 years of experience in helping customers source packaging for their restaurants and grocery stores, Lynn has a passion for finding the perfect solution every time. Lynn joined Dade Paper in early 2015 and currently serves customers in the Tri-State region.
LC: How big is the delivery and take-out market in the US?
LS: It is over $70 billion a year! And that number is expected to grow fueled by our “on-demand” culture. This includes food that is picked up by the customer, delivered by a restaurant employee and those orders that are placed via an online service and delivered by that same service.
KH: Delivery is really popular with Millennials, especially the online ordering services.
LS: That is correct. According to the National Restaurant Association, 80% of Millennials have meals delivered on a regular basis compared to 60% of other adult age groups.
LC: Why is packaging such an important element of a restaurant’s delivery and take-out program?
LS: Customers expect a restaurant-quality experience even if they are eating their meals at home or at their office. Operators will be much more successful in this competitive segment by investing in quality packaging and developing the right assembly process which protects the taste, temperature and appearance of their food. It only takes one bad experience for a customer to take their business elsewhere.
KH: What advice do you have for a restaurant manager that wants to improve their customers’ delivery or take-out experience?
LS: This is what I recommend to my customers:
- Separate hot and cold foods into their own containers to keep items at their proper temperature.
- Choose your packaging based on your specific menu items. Use containers with various compartments to keep sides from mixing with entrées. Make sure your containers have a tight lid-fit to protect against leaking. Vented containers allow for steam to escape and help prevent food from becoming soggy. Microwavable containers are handy for customers who wish to reheat food.
- Use the correct size container for each application. One size does not fit all! If the container is too large, the food will shift and could break apart. If the container is too small, the food will be crowded and will be prone to leak.
- Choose the right ancillary items. Bags must allow for containers to stack neatly inside which will prevent tipping. The bags should also be the right weight and have sturdy handles that ensure safe carrying. Wrapped cutlery kits keep the cutlery and napkins sanitary. The correct soufflé cups will keep condiments, dressings and toppings intact.
- Brand your packaging. By adding your logo to containers, bags, cups and napkins you reinforce your brand. Also include your phone number, website and social media information so customers can connect with you.
LC: Are there any other trends that should be considered?
LS: Yes, consider environmentally-preferable packaging and supplies. Many customers are interested in sustainability and patronize like-minded establishments. However, there is a lot of confusion about what types of packaging items are truly more sustainable.
LC: Absolutely. One issue I often see is the use of compostable packaging where no composting facilities exist. If the packaging ends up in a landfill that “compostable” attribute is no longer advantageous. Hopefully there will be more commercial composting facilities available in the future which would allow those items to be diverted from the landfill.
LS: That is why I recommend choosing containers made from PETE, Resin ID Code 1. That type of plastic is the most commonly recycled in both residential and commercial recycling programs. There are also containers made from recycled resin or recycled pulp material.
LS: In summary, an experienced supplier partner will be able to design a packaging program around a restaurant’s menu, brand image, budget and any other specific business requirements. That is what we do and why I enjoy my job so much. I have always felt pride and gratification in knowing that a customer’s needs have been satisfied and that they are happy with the end result. I do not rest until that is accomplished.
Lynn is available to consult with restaurateurs about their take-out packaging program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.