Customers today lead busy lifestyles, picking up food on the go and eating whenever their schedule allows. And while it is valuable to have a comfortable place to eat-in, slow down, and gather socially, it is also important to consider the opportunity for creating a convenient take-out food experience for those with limited time. A busy customer may look for portable food options that they can take to their workplace or eat while in transit, and some customers prefer picking up food to eat in the comfort of their own home.
Packaging design is one way that restaurants can address this need, since it has the ability to influence an experience. On-the-go packaging for grocery store items has long been a trend, but is take-out packaging in restaurants keeping up? Packaging can play a large role in the decision of whether or not to purchase certain items, as it can prevent spilling in transit and make food items easily accessible on the go. If an item is perceived as too much of a hassle to carry out, the result is a lost sale. The following four questions can help to identify opportunities for your packaging to create a more convenient take-out experience.
1. Can you easily carry or eat this food in its packaging?
Consider: Peel-away layers and handles
While navigating transportation and juggling bags and phones, customers may only have one hand free. Items like smoothies are naturally suited to these situations, but what about soup? Campbell’s solved this problem in the retail sector with its Soup on the Go packaging. Quick peel back sleeves or wrappings also help sandwich-type items to be eaten more conveniently. For example, Hero Burger offers a peel-away burger wrapping using PleatPak technology (that also retains heat). Adding handles and all-in-one trays can also help improve the portability of products to make take-out more convenient.
2. Does your packaging keep food fresh and prevent spills?
Consider: Secure lids and packaging insulation
Keeping a product ready to eat after transportation is important to the take-out experience. Coverings and liners that retain temperature, keep air out, and protect food can help take-out products remain equally delicious as their eat-in counterparts. Our team at Shikatani Lacroix recognized this need when designing take-out packaging for fried food items for Yum! Brands. Materials and formats should also be carefully considered in order to retain product freshness and quality during transportation. Professionals as ELITER Packaging suggest that ready meals in trays can either be packed in carton boxes or overwrapped by sleeve, and there are many packaging machines to automate this process.
Durability and functionality are also important. While lids are often standard, they may not be sturdy. Do they fall off easily? Are they resealable? These factors need to be taken seriously since spills and leaks will deter customers from making another take-out purchase.
3. Is assembly required after purchase?
Consider: Grouping items together through packaging
In an effort to prevent spills, items are often wrapped individually and placed into a larger bag, which leaves unwrapping and assembly up to you; an experience that is not convenient. If this is the case, take-out turns into a second-class service experience that is not as appealing. Packaging that groups items together makes them more accessible and visible, which can improve the experience. For example, Cineplex’s kid’s combo pack is served in a tray with spots for popcorn, a drink, and candy.
4. Can your packaging transform into a sit-down experience?
Consider: Foldable properties and added functionality
If not eaten on the go, it is helpful if packaging can remain convenient once a customer has arrived at their destination. For example, wrappings that unfurl into a plate or bowl can remove the need for an additional step after transportation. Shikatani Lacroix addressed this challenge through designing dual-purpose packaging for Sweet India South Asian Cafe that could function for both eat-in and take-out, and used distinctive shapes and multiple compartments for different items and uses. Condiment packaging that offers functionality, such as the Heinz Dip & Squeeze that allows customers to either use the package as a dipping container or squeeze the ketchup out of the packet, also improves convenience.
A worthy investment
While these improvements may be costly, they can bring in new customers and differentiate your business from competitors. Through our work with Dairy Queen Grill & Chill, take-out packaging was leveraged as an opportunity to extend the brand identity and advertise take-out offerings. It is therefore a worthy investment, however it is a difficult design challenge to create take-out packaging that is convenient for customers and also fits within your restaurant’s storage and operation requirements (i.e, stackable, collapsable, easy to assemble). Creating a better take-out experience can also help your business compete with other foodservice categories that are stealing customers. For example, there is a growing trend for delivery foodservice that has been made more convenient through digital technology and apps, as well as retail stores that are offering ready-to-eat and take-away food products. Furthermore, improving convenience can also help to build your brand image as customer-centric, and packaging updates provide an opportunity to shift to more sustainable materials, which both appeals to customers and helps the environment.
Has your foodservice business prioritized the convenience of your take-out packaging? How would improved packaging transform the customer experience? Let us know in the comments below and subscribe to receive the latest Shikatani Lacroix insights in your inbox.