Food delivery is here to stay. The astronomical growth of the category is leveling off, but what once was a luxury paid for in the name of convenience and comfort has now become a staple and routine for many consumers.
With food delivery turning into habit, adjustments to brand building, menu design, food preparation and packaging are imperative because the experience of your brand is no longer solely dictated by consumers’ interaction with your brick and mortar. Even the sit-down eatery titan, Applebee’s, is now seeing that one in every five transactions is for off-premises consumption.
Precious brand experiences are now being passed from cook to expo to driver to consumer, and brands must start thinking differently about how they package everything for consumers. Here are the top four “F’s” you should consider when packaging your food brand experience for optimal off-premises consumption.
Let’s set the record straight, while packaging is an important consideration for off-premises consumption, no consumer in the history of consumption has sat around the table thinking to themselves, “I’m really craving some awesome packaging tonight. Let’s open up DoorDash and get some of that good packaging delivered to us.”
Consumers crave food. Packaging ultimately is a vessel to deliver the food that they crave, from restaurant kitchens to their coffee tables. Restaurants must first focus on making exceptional food designed for delicious delivery and how packaging can contribute to an expectation-exceeding eating experience at home.
When thinking about packaging for prepared food-delivery, start with the function of the package and be maniacal about sourcing solutions that will best keep the integrity of the food. Example, consumers, for some reason, still love to order fries for delivery. Don’t believe me? Look at DoorDash’s 2022 restaurant ordering guide. The most ordered item? You guessed it—French fries.
These lovely, starchy sticks of potato goodness taste amazing when they come fresh out of the fryer, but after sitting in a box inside a bag inside a delivery driver’s Toyota Camry for 45 minutes, most fries lose all of their greatness and instead are cold, soggy, sad, mushes of messiness.
So it is essential to have packaging that allows steam to release from the lid while also retaining heat to ensure fries are still crispy, crunchy, and kind of warm 45 minutes after someone smashes that order button.
That’s just fries, but every item ordered for delivery should be packaged in something that ensures the integrity of the food remains of the utmost quality in the 45 minutes it takes from you ordering it, to it arriving at your door.
Once you’ve found the right function to maintain the integrity of the food you’re delivering, you must start to think about the right shape, size, and experience of the package for optimized at-home eating.
Nextbite recently conducted 45 hours of ethnographic research examining how consumers think about, order, and eat prepared food at home. In nearly every interview, consumers enjoyed their UberEats, DoorDash or GrubHub delivery in front of their TV from the comfort of their coffee table, rather than the kitchen table. So when thinking about form, think through how the package best shows off the food being delivered when displayed on a coffee table as well as the other bells and whistles you can provide to optimize the in-front-of-the-TV eating experience.
The finish, the proverbial icing on the cake, includes branding and graphics on the packaging. In many ways, packaging is the only ownable brand touchpoint when consumers order food for delivery through delivery platforms, so make sure to apply great graphics, interesting messaging or even exciting calls-to-action to get consumers to further engage with your brand.
While amazing graphics can’t save a bad food experience, quality graphics combined with good food can create a new “brand-fan”—someone who will continue to order your food for delivery and also dine-in at your restaurant.
Packaging it Up
As you start your 2023 brand growth planning, give serious thought to new ways you can provide “the complete package.”
With more than 15 years in the restaurant industry, starting as a waiter at a local mom and pop Colorado restaurant, then moving into innovation and advertising with large restaurant chains and multi-national CPG companies, Mickey Citarella understands all facets of the business. Today, he heads the brand team of Nextbite, a leader and innovator in virtual restaurants. Mickey has focused on elevating national and international brands and companies, including driving demand Hershey, McDonald’s, Chipotle, California Almonds, Qdoba, Subway, and MillerCoors brands. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.