As delivery and catering grow in share of restaurant sales, the packaging that gets the food to the customers has drawn increasing attention and become more sophisticated.
Restaurant industry leaders say the packaging has to reflect the brand, serving as an extension of the restaurant. The packaging also has to maintain the quality of the food; making transport safe and easy; and provide a solution that makes recycling easier for the end user.
“Taste and test; taste and test,” advised Sheri Miksa, president and CEO of Tulsa, Okla.-based Mazzio’s Italian Eatery. “Ensure you frequently use your own product to be sure the delivered/catered product is indeed excellent once received.”
Off-the-shelf packaging doesn’t always fill the bill, Miksa said.
“Custom packaging may be needed to be sure the product stays as fabulous once delivered (or carried out, and brought home/to the office/to the event), as when served in the restaurant,” she said.
Maintaining the quality of its grilled cheese offerings was why The Melt chain, based in San Francisco, worked with Eco-Products Inc. to keep sandwiches hot, crispy and “ooey gooey” until they’re delivered.
The company developed compostable containers, transported in a software-laden “Smart Box” that balances humidity, heat and air circulation.
The container helps maintain the quality of The Melt’s sandwiches, both grilled cheese and burgers.
“We want to ensure the best product experience for our guests in store, at the office or for any occasion,” Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of The Melt, said in a statement.
“We just couldn’t find an existing catering delivery solution that could do the job, so we invented one ourselves.”
The container has ridges to elevate the sandwich off the base and allow air to flow around the sandwich, preventing moisture from being trapped underneath, which would make the bread soggy. It also includes ventilation slots to allow moisture to escape.
Miksa said 133-unit Mazzio’s has long-standing relationships with its packaging providers “and they are able to turn around creative new packaging in weeks, not months.”
Recent additions to the Mazzio’s packaging portfolio were salad bar trays and cardboard container sleeves for foil items.
“Own the delivery experience,” Miksa said. “How a product is delivered or delivered and set-up (in the case of catering) is a direct reflection on your brand, and guests don’t care that a bad delivery experience may have been from a contracted third party. Take it seriously and own it to be sure the delivery experience is as excellent as the in-restaurant experience.”
Considerations for packaging delivery
Mazzio’s has offered to-go and delivery for a long while, Miksa said, but the pace has increased in the past few years. The brand, she said, is “seeing more competition every day, with others trying to get into the space.”
The supplier relationship is especially key, she said, saying Mazzio’s WestRock Co. provider was especially accommodating.
“We had asked the WestRock team for a cardboard tray that would hold a foil half-pan and would display a professional, branded look for our hot pasta for catering (Mazzio’s Pasta Bakes),” Miksa said.
“The hot pan wrap design they came up with also resulted in some air space between the foil pan and the cardboard, which acts as an insulator to keep some of the heat from passing through the box itself,” she said.
The process went quickly, going from brainstorming to a finished packaging product in four weeks.
3 considerations for packaging delivery
From Sheri Miksa, president and CEO of Mazzio’s Italian Eatery:
Functionality. The packaging must protect the product temperature and integrity.
Branding opportunity. Think of it as a “logo’d leave-behind,” Miksa said.
Good suppliers. “Find great suppliers and build strong, long-term partnerships,” she said. “Then, when you identify a need, they can easily and quickly fill it in a very satisfying and brand-reinforcing way.”