Have you ever spent extra on delivery, only to receive your food cold, soggy, or worse—all over the inside of the bag? No one wants to receive sloppy take-out. It’s important to make sure that, as a restaurant, you’re doing everything you can to properly package your food—ensuring an arrival that properly reflects the quality of the food you are making. In other words, you worked hard to make that food! Make sure it arrives to your customer in tip-top shape.
Today, we’ll discuss some tips on how to improve your delivery packaging. With proper care, your food will be delivered fresh, hot, and crispy.
What To Look For In Packaging
Before we unpack the specifics of how to package certain foods successfully, it is important to address your specific packaging needs. When deciding which type of packaging to purchase, think about what type of food your restaurant serves and how it will travel. Think through what comes with every dish on your menu.
You’ll probably need to get packaging for a wide array of different items such as drinks, side dishes, sauces, small appetizers, etc. In general, there are five characteristics you should look for in packaging.
Look for take-out containers that are sturdy. You want your delicious food to be safe on its journey to the customer’s home. Remember these containers will be riding in a car, likely being moved up, down, and every which way in between. Pack your food so that no matter what, your food shows up looking its best.
Not all packaging materials are created equal. Opt for packaging materials that suit your restaurant’s individual needs and are environmentally friendly. There are three basic packaging materials typically used for take-out: styrofoam, cardboard, and plastic. However, all three of these options have drawbacks.
- Styrofoam: It’s good for insulating cold or hot foods, but it is not very durable and can be crushed easily, often causing leaks. Styrofoam is also terrible for the environment, as it is not biodegradable.
- Plastic: It’s as popular as it is cheap and durable. However, it is not biodegradable and can even leach toxins into your food or into the earth when thrown away.
- Cardboard: It’s biodegradable, which makes it a more sustainable option. However, it doesn’t insulate well and doesn’t hold up to wet foods. Cardboard boxes are best when used for pizza—hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Luckily, there are several newer materials that have gained popularity for their eco-friendly design.
- Recycled Paperboard Containers: Look for containers that are compostable and fluorine-free. They will be marked with a green seal. This means they are made from 100% recycled paperboard. They also make cups and soup containers out of recycled paper.
- Bioplastics: These containers are made from a material that looks and feels like plastic but is biodegradable.
- Foil: Aluminum foil containers are also an eco-friendly option.
- Recyclable Containers: If you can’t find any of these compostable options, at the very least, use a container that is recyclable after use. These products will be marked as recyclable with the recycling symbol.
Size is an important factor in deciding which packaging suits your needs best. You will need containers that are not too big for your food. You don’t want your food sliding around during delivery. This can cause your food to arrive in a messy, unappetizing pile.
Similarly, you also don’t want containers that are too small, leaving your food cramped or spilling out the sides. You’re looking for the Goldilocks of containers—not too big, not too small, but just right.
Pick your packaging with the customer in mind. Make sure they are easy to open and reclose and don’t have pesky, sharp edges. If you want to score bonus points, use containers that can safely be put in the microwave for easy leftover reheating.
Make sure your packaging represents your brand. By creating packaging that is unique to your brand, you are creating a lasting impression on the customer. It’s the small details that make a restaurant stand out. Branded packaging is a great way to market your restaurant. You may even consider hiring a professional to design custom packaging for your restaurant.
How To Package Food
Now that you know the ins and outs of packaging types, it’s time to learn how to utilize your packaging to achieve the best results. These are the ABCs of packaging for delivery success!
Oftentimes people order drinks to go with their take-out food. It is important to keep cold items separated from hot items. No one wants a hot soda or food that has become cold after being right next to an iced drink.
Keep drinks separate, and make sure to secure them for travel with tight lids and a drink carrier. You do not want the drink to spill, ruining food in transit. If you are packaging a frozen beverage, such as a milkshake, make sure to use an insulating bag and cool packs to keep the drink frozen.
If you deliver any glass bottled drinks, be it soda or wine, make sure to wrap the glass bottle in newspaper or a paper bag to keep it safe in transit. If delivering wine, make sure the corks are secured. Also, make sure to let your delivery person know that there is a fragile item that needs extra care—maybe even use a “fragile” sticker.
When packaging hot, cooked meals, it is very important to keep that food hot from the time it is prepared to the time the customer receives it. Keeping food hot is paramount for food safety and the happiness of the customer. Make sure to package your food and keep it under a warming lamp until it is picked up. Remember, the less time your food spends sitting around, the better.
Put your meal in an appropriately sized container. Then, seal the lids with strips of tape to make sure the lids are secure, preventing any transport messes. If you are packaging a sauce-based dish, wrap the container in foil to further secure the sauce.
Keep hot and cold items separate for success. If you are packaging something crispy and fried, try to package it right as the customer picks it up. This will preserve its crispness. Also, use a to-go box that has some ventilation to make sure the steam doesn’t make the fried item soggy.
Keep all fresh items away from hot items to ensure that they don’t get soggy. If you are transporting a fresh item that needs to stay cold, package it accordingly and let the customer know to refrigerate it upon receipt.
As previously mentioned, keep frozen foods separate from hot foods. Package frozen foods in an insulated bag. If your item needs to remain completely frozen, you can use dry ice or ice packs. If you opt for dry ice, make sure to take proper precautions.
Remember that dry ice—although useful—is a hazardous material. Whenever you use any kind of ice pack, make sure they are not defective or leaking before usage—you don’t want any chemicals to make their way into the food.
Sides and Sauces
If your meal comes with sides or sauces, make sure to package them in leak-proof containers that are separate from the main dish. If you’re worried about containers leaking, wrap them in foil or plastic to prevent them from making a mess inside the delivery bag.
In an effort to be eco-friendly, you should only give out utensils when the customer requests them. If you are including utensils in your delivery, make sure to properly package them. Ensure that they are clean and don’t have any sharp edges exposed.
Now you’ve learned everything you need to know about properly packaging food for restaurant delivery. Remember to take great care in packaging your food. The better job you do at packaging, the better your food will be received. After all, you’re putting in hard work to create delicious, beautiful meals.
You should try your best to make sure the customer gets them in the condition you created them and not some sloppy pile. Take care with your food packaging, and customers will be raving about the quality of your delivery service in no time!