Automatic sealing equipment can help restaurants recapture lost off-premises sales.

In 2020, restaurants saw massive growth from all delivery channels. MarketWatch reports DoorDash, for example, saw 543 million orders in the first nine months of 2020, which is triple the number of orders on the compared with the previous year. Meanwhile, Uber Eats saw 135 percent year-over-year growth and saw revenue increase by 125 percent. Grubhub noted that it had 30 million active diners in the third quarter of 2020 alone, which was 41 percent higher than the year prior, and its revenue had grown by 53 percent.  Yet despite these astronomical increases in order volume, fountain beverage sales decreased, and for good reason.

According to research conducted by GP PRO in April 2021, 34 percent of respondents previously received a fountain beverage that had totally or partially spilled in transit, while 34 percent received a beverage that appeared messy or unclean. Meanwhile, 21 percent said they had reason to believe their beverage had been tampered with, and 46 percent of consumers report being somewhat concerned that a fountain drink ordered for delivery might be tampered with in transit.

These fears of tampering are further compounded by the fact that consumers are more wary of potential health and safety risks than ever before amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While these statistics may be eye-opening, Michelle Auda, senior director of insights for GP PRO, believes this doesn’t mean restaurants should write off fountain drink sales yet.

“If restaurant leaders understand this is the experience consumers are having, they can make changes to processes and give visual hygiene cues that delight the customer and give them peace of mind,” Auda says. “In turn, restaurants may see increases in those fountain drink sales.”

While many restaurants have tried to offset these worries with various in-house tactics, few have proven successful.

“We’ve seen lots of operators tape lids on so they don’t pop off while others have tried double lidding and using drink carriers to try to compensate for lids popping off,” says Alec Frisch, vice president and general manager of foodservice at GP PRO. “But both of these options have added costs, and they increase waste and may require extra labor.”

To help restaurants combat guest perceptions, provide a better delivery experience, and recapture those lost beverage sales, GP PRO recently launched its new Automated Sealing Machine (Auto Sealer), which applies a secure, heat-activated—and tamper-evident—plastic film that seals to paper and plastic cups.

“All employees need to do is fill the cup, place it under the machine, and in two seconds they have a cup sealed so tightly they can turn it upside down and it doesn’t leak,” Frisch says. “Additionally, the Auto Sealer can help restaurants save space, because one case of sealing film produces 5,000 lids—that’s the equivalent of five large corrugated boxes of lids, and it saves employees time since they don’t have to go back and forth to refill the lids.”

Frisch added that the Auto Sealer film lids also use 60 percent less plastic than snap-on lids, which can help brands meet their sustainability goals.

Additionally, the seals shrink to fit cups from eight ounces to 44 ounces without any residual waste, and, while strong enough to help keep beverages from leaking, they are easy for guests to puncture with a straw. They can also be custom printed in various quantities so restaurants can add logos or advertise LTOs. The seals are approved for cold and hot beverages, as well as alcoholic beverages.

“We’ve seen restaurants gain real traction from advertising the sealed film lids on their websites or mobile ordering platforms to make consumers aware of the benefits,” Frisch says. “By doing so, restaurants can increase the likelihood that a guest will order a fountain drink, allowing the store to recapture those add-on sales.”

Auda and her team’s research agrees. GP PRO’s proprietary study showed that 88 percent of consumers felt restaurants using the Auto Sealer showed they were doing their part to reduce the spread of germs, while 87 percent said the Auto Sealer showed restaurants cared about hygiene. Meanwhile, 69 percent of patrons said knowing a restaurant uses the GP PRO Automated Sealing Machine would make them more loyal.

If there were any doubt that those numbers would translate to real sales, Auda says operators testing the Auto Sealer have already seen 33 percent incremental lifts in beverage sales with delivery orders.

“This isn’t just a dispenser,” Frisch says, “It’s a sophisticated piece of equipment that’s very easy to use, and it has applications in the back-of-house, in guest-facing environments, and in the drive thru. It’s going to get even more powerful as the world opens back up and people begin traveling more. Not only does the Auto Sealer help operators deliver a better experience, it also drives drink attachments and, ultimately, sales. We’re optimistic about how this technology has the potential to change the industry.”

To learn more about recapturing your restaurant’s delivery beverage sales, visit the GP PRO website.

By Peggy Carouthers

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