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Takeout Tuesdays: Evolving Engagement in Dining Experience, Part 4

A Guide to Disposables for Your Takeout & Delivery Operation in the Era of COVID-19

In the era of COVID-19, ordering takeout has become more challenging for the consumer. What used to be as simple as ordering and unpacking is a now a multi-step process: find a place that is still open, order from a limited menu, and deal with the added stress of trying to keep the eating experience germ-free. In this environment, operators have an opportunity to make their takeout experience a differentiator and help ease the minds of consumers. One way to do that is to ensure proper packaging of to-go foods in disposable products that are fit for the intended purpose.

When it comes to food safety, you’ve probably heard the importance of keeping hot food hot, and cold food cold. These food safety basics are no different for dine-in or take-out operations. Given heightened concerns of food safety measures with COVID-19, it is important that operators are mindful of what packaging is being used for certain applications. Foodbuy’s manufacturing partners, Pactiv and Dart, have helped provide a breakdown of four key types of disposable materials and their functional benefits to help guide operators.

Recycled PET (RPET)

RPET is produced from post-consumer recycled beverage bottles. RPET disposable products are sturdy yet flexible, provide exceptional clarity making product identification easy for the operator and consumer, and are ideal for colder temperature applications like icy beverages, fruit bowls, and salads. Products range from tamper resistant containers to bowls, shelf-savers, and cups.

Key Features and Benefits:

Provides product visibility making it great for grab-and-go options
Durable, strong material resists cracking and breaking
Smooth, glass-like finish is wipeable
Environmentally friendly option that requires less natural resources to produce

Mineral-Filled Polypropylene (MFPP)

MFPP contains an average of 50% less plastic than standard polypropylene containers, which reduces plastic usage. MFPP trends to be less expensive than RPET, and there is an assortment of options available for hot and cold applications. From SmartLock-hinged containers to chicken roasters, and dishwasher-safe bases and lids, operators are sure to find solutions that best meet their needs.

Key Features and Benefits:

Exceptional temperature endurance with options designed specifically for hot or cold applications
Stackability of bases and lids
Locking seals on select options help reduce leaks and extend shelf life
Textured sidewalls and bottoms on select options help provide more secure handling and prevent food from sitting in juices

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

PLA is a clear, natural plastic material made from corn that is 100% renewable. PLA does not retain heat well and will actually melt or deform if stored improperly in warm climates. That said, this material is generally best suited for cold applications, although there are some products designed specifically for hot beverages and soups. It is important to note that PLA is compostable in commercial facilities only, which may not exist in all areas.

Key Features and Benefits:

Superior strength and a variety of sizes available for cold and hot beverages
Customization capabilities for select products
Made with 100% plant-based renewable resources
Fully compostable in municipal and industrial compost facilities where available

Polystyrene

Polystyrene is one of the most versatile and inexpensive materials available—think of those foam containers and economy clear containers. Polystyrene is a non-sustainable material, but there are product options available that are 100% recyclable.

Key Features and Benefits:

Inexpensive, value option
Variety of cups, bowls, and containers available with stock print options
Foam accessory options available like malt collars, dessert sleeves, and pitcher handles

General Tips

While there are several different types of disposable options available in the marketplace, operators may be most familiar with RPET, MFPP, PLA, and Polystyrene products. Regardless of which products an operator decides to utilize for their take-out or delivery business, it is important that they only be used as intended. Here are some general tips to follow when selecting to-go packaging for your operation.

Maintain Food Temperature

Food temperature is just as important as food flavor. Maintaining temperature is as easy as picking the right packaging solution for the type of food or beverage being served. As a best practice, be sure to keep hot and cold foods in separate packaging and in separate delivery bags. If together, it compromises  the integrity of the cold food. In addition, use appropriately sized containers when packaging food. Using a container that is too large not only impacts temperature, but can destroy food presentation as food moves around in transit.

Preserve Food Integrity

Be sure to select the right size and type of packaging for the portion you are preparing. Partially filled packaging can leave a bad impression and imply portion sizes are shrinking or to-go portioning is not as sufficient as what a customer would receive dining in. For sauces, consider using portion cups to avoid over-saturation and mess. Lastly, consider the value of food when selecting a to-go container. For example, if you’re serving a steak dinner, think about using a quality, high-end container.

Prevent Leaking, Spilling, and Sogginess

Reduce the risk of leaking by carefully choosing the right type of package for the food being delivered from your establishment. For instance, soups should always be delivered in a container with a snap tight, leak resistant lid and portion cups are great for transporting applications that come with sauces or dressings. Products with locking seals are also great for reducing leaks and extending the shelf life of packaged foods. Aside from preventing leaks and spills, it’s important to keep foods crisp and invest in containers with ventilation to prohibit foods from getting soggy. I think we can all agree that French fries should be crispy and not mushy.

Deliver a Difference

By properly packaging foods for to-go or delivery, operators can do their part in keeping consumers safe, especially given the heightened awareness with COVID-19. While operations are limited to take-out or delivery only, now is the time to be creative and think about how you can make your operation stand out and deliver the difference consumers are looking for.

*To learn more about disposable options, visit www.Pactiv.com and www.DartContainer.com.

References:

https://datassential.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Datassential-Coronavirus-4-03-24-20.pdf

https://datassential.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Datassential-Coronavirus8-04-03-20.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-stay-at-home-order.html

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