Assessing the top pandemic-era foods and the best packaging for off-premise dining
By Cal Cary
Is it time for a menu refresh?
Maybe you’re worried you’ve tapped out your current customer base and need to attract new ones, or you just want the chance to surprise and delight your most loyal patrons again – something we all took for granted a year ago.
Creating a plan to prop up your takeout and delivery program can help you do both, even as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions put in place to slow its transmission in our communities.
Let’s start with a few simple action items:
Step 1: Food
Listed below are the items customers have ordered most since the beginning of the pandemic. If you don’t already, consider offering one or more of these proven-popular dishes. You can do so with the confidence that these are the foods people want to buy (improving sales) while also infusing energy and interest in your business that perhaps you feel has been missing lately (for you and your customers).
No matter which items you choose to add, make sure to put your own special spin on them! There’s a reason people come to you for their gastronomic satisfaction – whatever you do, make it your own.
Step 2: Packaging
Customers expect the food they order to go to be just as good as if they dined in-house, and the right packaging can make all the difference in delivering a high-quality meal.
One way to preserve food quality is to use containers specifically made to meet the challenges of dining off-premise. There’s no need to search for it – we’ve identified some options below.
Step 3: Get the word out
You’ve got your recipe down and your packaging up on the shelves, ready to be used. Now it’s time to let people know about the new additions to your menu.
Schedule a few social media posts highlighting a new item. Just make sure to include nicely styled and well-lit photos.
Another idea? Announce the new offerings on flyers packaged up with all takeout and delivery orders. If no one on your team has the design chops to make it look great – in turn, making you and your restaurant look great – consider hiring a pro designer to lay it out. Websites like Fiverr.com can connect you with freelance designers willing to help you at rates starting at just $5 per flyer. You could also use a PDF of the flyer as one of your social media posts!
Without further ado, here are our menu ideas, based on reports of the most-ordered foods for takeout and delivery, along with packaging options for the best possible customer experience.
AMERICAN: Burgers, chicken wings
Have you been wanting to switch to plant-based packaging but haven’t yet made the leap?
No matter what you’re serving – including traditional fare from our neighbours to the south – there is a variety of great options for upping your sustainable packaging game. Items like Bare® by Solo® Sugarcane (Bagasse) Hinged Containers are made from 99 per cent plant-based renewable resources, are compostable in a commercial compost facility, and are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).
Additionally, these all-purpose containers have a wide temperature range and are microwaveable. Their excellent rigidity and soak-through resistance will stand up to the rigour of heavy and saucy foods, while their lock tab design ensures easy, secure closure in one motion for operator ease.
CANADIAN & ITALIAN: Poutine, pastas, salads
Innovative plant-based options help to support your sustainability goals and your most robust dishes. And that’s not all, as they’re also great for your grab-and-go and salad items.
Checking many sustainability boxes, all-purpose containers such as Dart’s Eco-Forward® Kraft Paper Food Container with Clear Polypropylene Lid are made with at least 80 per cent renewable resources and are 100 per cent unbleached, chlorine-free and PFAS-free. They also feature built-in stackability, helping you save space and avoid dreaded takeout and delivery disasters caused by unstable packaging.
MEAL KITS, SNACKS & BAKED GOODS
Want to use one container but need to keep foods separated? There are choices out there for that, too.
Packaging like Dart’s TamperGuard™ Snack Boxes ensures there’s no migration of contents across dividers. With multiple tamper-resistant and tamper-evident features, these multi-compartment options also give your customers peace of mind that the container hasn’t been opened before it’s safely in their hands. Designed to maximize freshness and prevent leaks, this line of products is even great for frozen foods, showing exceptional performance in temperatures down to -22°F (-30°C).
SOUPS & CHILIS
There are also solutions for liquid-based menu items, from chilled gazpachos to the heartiest stews. Dart’s Flexstyle™ DSP Paper Food Containers are made from 85 per cent plant-based renewable resources, they can be used for hot and cold applications ranging in temperature from 32°F – 205°F (0°C – 96°C). Their lids are designed specifically to prevent leaks and to avoid steam escaping. Vented lids are also available.
Tired of double-cupping? Insulated and lidded hot cups are the answer.
For example, Dart’s ThermoGuard™ Insulated Paper Hot Cups offer thermo-touch insulation that eliminates the need for a cardboard cup sleeve or wasteful double-cupping, saving you money. Made with at least 92 per cent renewable resources, cups like these come with fully reclosable lids and features that prevent contamination and create a leak-resistant seal to reduce spills and splashes during transport. But their many benefits aren’t only for customers: with a 1-lid-fits-4-cups system, 12- to 24-ounce cups have a common lid to reduce storage requirements and increase operational efficiencies for your business.
Cal Cary is VP Sales International of Dart Canada.