This easy switch can make off-premises programs more effective.

Sponsored by Huhtamaki.

More American diners are opting to skip the dining room and eat at home. In fact, the NPD Group reports that by September 2018, restaurant meals consumed in the home made up 32 percent of all restaurant traffic and delivery had actually increased the number of restaurant visits by 2 percent.

While 2 percent may seem like a relatively small difference now, Forbes reports a study conducted by UBS, which predicts delivery sales could grow at an average rate of 20 percent per year, increasing from a $35 billion industry to $365 billion worldwide by 2030. Not only is delivery a growing piece of today’s restaurant landscape, but it’s also the future of the industry.

Yet while many restaurant leaders know delivery will be a vital piece of their brands’ futures, delivery brings new challenges to restaurants. Not only must they manage new staff or third-party partnerships, but brands are also tasked with translating their in-house dining experience into an equally satisfying at-home experience despite having less control over the brand experience.

When customers no longer come to the dining room, restaurants have fewer touchpoints to convert guests into lifelong fans. That means every element, such as the food’s temperature, taste, and presentation, must be as close to perfect as possible upon arrival to protect a brand’s reputation. Of all the elements contributing to guest satisfaction during delivery or take-out, one of the most important is packaging. Not only does it serve as a receptacle for food in transit, but it helps brands ensure their food maintains its quality outside the four walls of the restaurant.

“Restaurants are being put under the microscope to make sure food is delivered intact,” says Marcus Roque, product manager at Huhtamaki, a foodservice packaging provider. “When you partner with third-party delivery services, you know how food looks when it leaves the restaurant, but you have to put your faith in someone else to deliver it in the same condition.”

Packaging is a crucial part of ensuring food quality remains high when it arrives. Not only must temperature remain consistent despite delivery times, but food must also be safely transported without spilling or getting crushed. While styrofoam has long been a major part of the delivery landscape due to its sturdiness and ability to insulate foods, some jurisdictions are passing laws banning the material. Additionally, today many restaurants no longer want to associate their brands with products without an environmentally sustainable image.

“Different materials work for different brands, but many are moving toward more sustainable options,” Roque says. “And while some like plastic and it is in many cases recyclable, there is still the perception that restaurants could be doing more for the environment with other materials. That’s one reason why a lot of people like packaging made from molded fiber—it has a green story to it.”

Dependent upon the raw material source, molded fiber is either made of 100-percent renewable material, or from 100-percent recycled material. It’s also 100-percent compostable in composting facilities, which helps restaurants reduce their environmental footprints and win over environmentally-conscious consumers. Plus, these added environmental benefits don’t come at the expense of functionality—molded fiber packaging could actually help restaurants solve many delivery challenges at once.

“Molded fiber also provides good insulation to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold for longer, and it reduces condensation,” Roque says.

Additionally, molded fiber is sturdy, helping to protect food in transit. And with the right design, it can help save space.

“We’ve designed our molded fiber containers so that the lids and bottoms are stackable so restaurants can save storage space in the kitchen, and full containers can be stacked inside bags for secure transportation,” Roque says.

Though delivery still remains a complex puzzle many restaurants are working to solve, one small detail, such as packaging, can have lasting impacts that ripple throughout the brand. “All of these benefits of molded fiber really help make delivery very easy,” Roque says. “It’s one simple change restaurants can make that has a massive impact on delivery programs.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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