Delivery and Takeout Supplies Checklist
As every restaurateur who’s had to pivot to takeout has discovered this past year, not all food containers are created equal. Different foods require different packaging if you want them to get to their destination at the right temperature and in the right condition. But before you stock up on a selection of disposable portion cups and clamshells, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Size & Shape
Choose the right size container. Too small, and the food may be crushed. Too big, and the food risks shifting around and being damaged in transit.
Choose the right shape. That might mean a bag for a burger, a bowl with a secure lid for ramen, a foil baking pan for lasagne, deli containers for salads and Chinese takeout containers for noodles.
Choose the right material. Each has its pros and cons. Foam, for instance, is effective at keeping hot foods hot and cold ones cold, but it is typically not recyclable, nor can it be used to reheat food. Paper, on the other hand, is convenient and eco-friendly compared to foam or plastic, but it can be leaky and flimsy.
Plastic is durable, versatile, leak-proof and microwave safe, but it is more expensive and less eco-friendly than other materials. Bagasse, a sugarcane by-product, is secure, effective, recyclable and compostable, but it is also relatively expensive.
Stay on Brand
Choose the right container for your food service business. Packaging offers opportunities for branding and promoting your restaurant’s image. For instance, a fine-dining restaurant could opt for containers that are sturdy, elegant and subtly branded; on the other hand, a casual diner might choose an inexpensive and cheerful retro style.
Choose the most sustainable packaging possible. With so much garbage accumulating from delivery and takeout, more and more consumers are concerned about waste. If possible, choose packaging that is reusable, recyclable and/or compostable.
Takeout and delivery supplies may not be top of mind for consumers when they order online or pick up a grab and go. But it makes an enormous difference when the food lands on their table. Disappointed consumers are unlikely to give a restaurant a second chance. Choose wisely. Use our checklist as a handy reference.
The main act of the meal deserves a package big, sturdy and temperature-safe enough to get it to its destination in good style.
Clamshells made of sugarcane material are practical and convenient, with easy-to-use hinged lids; they look attractive, come in various sizes, and are compostable, too. They are ideal for a variety of foods, from burgers to pasta dishes.
Large plastic deli containers, on the other hand, have removable lids that form a seal when they are closed, making them terrific for drippy dishes such as curries and pho. But remember to check if they can be recycled in your area.
Recyclable food boxes made from kraft paper, with grease-proof PE linings, are an attractive option for a variety of dishes, and their size makes them ideal for a main and side served together.
Salads, sauces and sides
Temperature control is less of an issue than leakiness when it comes to salads, dressings and sauces.
In almost all cases, sauces and dressings should be packaged separately from the food they are designed to enhance. Small, leakproof portion cups with snug lids are ideal here.
Small clamshells or deli containers work well for salads and other room-temperature sides. However, French fries need to stay warm and crisp; breathable paper bags, trays or boxes are a much better choice than containers that trap moisture.
Beverages (hot and cold) and soup
Since the pandemic began, consumers have been discouraged from using reusable cups. But they still crave that java to go, whether hot or cold. That means paper coffee and beverage cups are an important consideration once again.
They should be able to retain the temperature of the liquid, with a well-sealed lid that allows someone to drink from it. And remember cup carriers if your customers order multiples.
Similarly, soup portion cups should keep their contents hot or cold as needed, with a sturdy lid and leak-proof materials. And don’t forget the spoon!
Depending on the food being served, and where it’s going, a restaurant may also want to include plates to serve it on and cutlery to eat it with. Workplaces, for instance, may not have tableware options, and guests at home may be yearning for a break from doing dishes.
Many Asian eateries especially are diligent about including chopsticks, spoons and napkins with their takeout, but disposable tableware can always be an option for any cuisine. New developments in sustainable options make this a much more attractive idea, especially with today’s compostable corn-based plastics.
In the kitchen
Containers need to be practical and functional for the restaurant as well as the consumer. In the kitchen, the cooks and staff who package the food need to keep food safety in mind. That means wearing gloves and masks at all times, and frequently washing hands or using sanitizer.
It also means investing in worktables or stations that allow ergonomically safe packaging of food, especially in an assembly-line situation. Containers should be easy to assemble. Restaurants should also consider tamper-evident containers, seals or stickers to assure that food has not been contaminated.
On the delivery route
To get your food safely where it’s going, insulated delivery bags are not just convenient, but they maintain food’s temperature, keep moisture under control and protect containers from being bashed around (as long as they are properly packed). There are several styles of bags to choose from.
Pizza delivery bags, for instance, are ideal for more than transporting ’za: they also work well with wraps, subs, wings and fries. But they typically have side openings.
Top loading delivery bags might be more practical for your operation. Packing and removing combinations of containers is easier.
Insulated delivery bags typically come in nylon or vinyl—nylon is more breathable, so steam can escape and food stays crispy, but it is also more expensive, so if your food only goes on short journeys, vinyl may be the best choice.
Remember to consider the types of closures (hook-and-loop, zipper and side-release buckles) and handles that best suit your needs. Important features to keep food in place for secure transport.
With care and consideration, offer your patrons the customer service they would expect from your dining room. Use the right packaging - size, shape, material and style - to deliver the quality and flavour they crave.
Written by Joanne Sasvari