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Food Delivery Packaging and Container Tips for Restaurants

To-go food packaging impacts restaurant food quality, costs, and sustainability — and is key to a positive delivery customer experience.

8 min read
12/14/2023
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Food packaging and takeout containers that are optimized for delivery are key to making sure restaurant food arrives in its intended condition. Following these essential tips on to-go packaging types and designs will help restaurants ensure their food not only travels well, but looks good on arrival.

Factors to consider with to-go food packaging

Takeout packaging that is optimized to preserve quality and ensure a seamless pickup will help a restaurant's delivery business thrive. Following are particularly important points to consider:

  • Food quality: The primary function of takeout packaging is to preserve the food’s temperature, flavor, and texture. 

  • Presentation: Food containers should remain tightly closed and delivered upright. Customers appreciate receiving their food presented as closely as possible to your menu photos.

  • Ease of handling: Choose packaging that is easy to handle so that drivers, known as Dashers, can quickly and efficiently pick up orders.

  • Cost: Food delivery packaging costs can add up, so be sure to regularly review your restaurant P&L and decide how you want to balance this expense with the quality of the containers.

  • Eco-friendly food delivery containers: Consider minimizing your carbon footprint by using recyclable, reusable, or eco-conscious materials where possible.  

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7 tips to prepare to-go packaging for delivery

A quality food delivery experience begins in the restaurant kitchen. To package your dishes efficiently and effectively, try focusing on these strategies:

1. Choose the right containers

Select food packaging that complements its contents — for example, containers for hot soups and stews should be visually distinct from those used for cold salad or ice cream. Invest in high-quality containers that don’t leak or rip, and choose containers made from heat-resistant materials to avoid warping.  

2. Apply labels

Train staff on which types of containers should be used for different items on your menu, and then clearly label the to-go packaging with details of its contents.

3. Secure each package

Tape or use stickers to close to-go packaging, which also helps maintain temperature and keeps containers securely shut.

4. Organize each order

Prepare takeout packages so that separate courses or meals are organized in takeout bags, with relevant condiments or side dishes packed with their paired meal items.

5. Utilize drink trays

Cold drinks should be kept separate from bags with hot food to ensure optimal temperature retention. Investing in sturdy drink trays keeps liquids upright and away from warm dishes.

6. Properly store food until pickup

Use a hot tray or warming equipment to ensure orders stay hot while they await pickup.

7. Standardize the process

Standardize the to-go packaging process to ensure consistent presentation and food quality, and listen to your staff and Dashers for ideas on how to increase efficiency in pickups

Gianluca Pesce

We didn’t want to make things like espresso drinks right when the orders came in, since they lose quality while waiting for pickup. Highlighting the beverage on the receipt has really helped our staff remember to grab them and decrease the amount of missing drinks.

Gianluca Pesce, Director of Marketing & Communications, Yolk

Use food delivery packaging as a marketing tool

Branded packaging can set you apart from your competition with eye-catching and memorable designs. While there is a higher cost for branded food packaging, here are some benefits that could make the investment worth it for your restaurant:

  • Drive brand awareness: Uniquely designed to-go packaging elevates your brand identity, helping create a special experience for delivery customers.

  • Impress customers: Interesting or unusual containers, like a distinctive multi-section to-go bento box, can create a fun unboxing experience for customers at home.

  • Build community: Napkins and packaging with inspiring quotes or illustrations can charm customers and show you care about their satisfaction.

  • Call to action: Branded packaging offers opportunities to encourage customers to follow your restaurant on social media or direct them to leave a review

How restaurants can work together with Dashers 

Dashers understand the importance of to-go food presentation and delivering orders in perfect condition — as they’re also aiming to provide your customers with a great experience. Houston-based Dasher Leo Ney suggests, "Restaurants can help themselves by asking Dashers to use hot bags, especially for bigger orders, and to place the order in the bag right away to keep it hot."

DoorDash delivery algorithms are optimized for efficiency, minimizing the time between an order being ready for pick up and its delivery to the customer. But to ensure a smooth pickup for every delivery order, here are a few tips on working together with Dashers:

  • Understand the value of Dasher-restaurant relationships: Treat Dashers just as you would your own staff. As Teresa Cerino of the Water St. Cafe in Geneva, NY, says, “The Dashers are truly an extension of our restaurant — they really represent us. It’s not just another service; they’re making sure our customers have a good experience.” Simply saying hello or offering them water will help Dashers feel welcome in your restaurant. 

  • Prepare food packaging for pickup: Bundling orders with clearly labeled bags for easy pickup by Dashers makes the process efficient and minimizes mistakes. Using food bags or boxes with handles makes to-go orders easier for delivery drivers to carry.

  • Simplify your layout: Consider creating a designated pickup area with clear signage to guide Dashers when they enter your business.

  • Expect quality: With DoorDash, you can expect Dashers to bring their own insulated bag and be prepared with order information. 

  • Rate your Dasher: Restaurants can rate Dashers and provide positive or negative Dasher feedback in the Merchant Portal. If you experience a severe issue with a Dasher and no longer want them to fulfill deliveries for your restaurant, you can block that driver and leave detailed feedback.

Prioritize quality food delivery packaging and to-go containers

Restaurants want delivery customers to experience fresh and well-presented dishes — just like dine-in customers. Using quality to-go packaging suited to your menu offerings will help you maintain control over the presentation of your off-premise meals. 

Use these tips and our free guide on optimizing for delivery and pickup to ensure your food delivery packaging delivers the experience your customers expect.

Author

Sara DeForest

Sara DeForest

Copywriter

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