How the Pandemic is Revolutionizing Takeout Containers

There are so many elements that go into designing effective restaurant branding. There are the materials that customers interact with before they enter the building, such as the website and social media accounts. There are the materials that help build an atmosphere for customers while they are dining, including menu design and interior décor choices. There are materials that help restaurants get noticed by the press, including strong photography and messaging strategies. But there is one area of restaurant branding that has been sorely overlooked, which has quickly become one of the most important elements of great foodservice design: the takeout containers and utensils.

Since the pandemic first hit the U.S. six months ago, bars and restaurants around the country have depended on takeout orders to keep the industry alive. While takeout containers used to be an afterthought for restaurant owners who simply ordered unbranded boxes and bags in bulk, industry leaders are now bringing in designers to enhance the at-home dining experience.

Influencers and food media brands also need safe ways to develop new content, and takeout meals are in the spotlight like never before. From magazines ranking the “prettiest takeout” to professional food stylists teaching customers how to plate their takeout at home, the latest social media trend is honing in on beautiful carryout orders.

High-end Japanese restaurants are really leading the way when it comes to stylish takeout containers. San Francisco’s Hina Yakitori, for example, is selling chic “Torima” bento boxes that deliver an inviting and elegant unboxing experience. Just one mile away, customers at Oma San Francisco Station get a taste of the bespoke “traditional omakase experience” and receive a note from the chef included with their meal.

Even fast food restaurants – which already relied on to-go ordering for most of their sales volume – have started rethinking their takeout containers. After all, with nearly every restaurant trying to win curbside customers, fast food companies have suddenly found themselves competing with a much broader range of options.

For example, White Castle’s® new “Crave Clutch” is the chain’s first new package since 2004. According to White Castle’s® vice president, Jamie Richardson, “The Crave Clutch has been something we’ve been working on behind the ‘Castle walls’ for a while. Faced with the pandemic, we decided that now is an ideal time to introduce this new size of Slider packaging.” He went on to say that “we’ll be here for Cravers when they need to feed a crowd, but today this is about taking care of their own family and close friends.”

With this massive shift towards at-home dining, many consumers are also interested in reducing their plastic waste. In addition to branded, attractive takeout containers and utensils, we can also predict that restaurants that can afford to transition to recyclable, biodegradable, and reusable materials will feel encouraged to do so.

Competition is fierce for restaurants looking to win takeout customers, and owners will need to get creative when it comes to delivering the best carryout experience. Beautiful, environmentally friendly takeout packaging is a great tool for building a consistent luxury experience for all customers. There is a good chance that takeout will remain a popular option even as indoor dining continues to reopen, and we don’t see this design trend going away any time soon.

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