Off-premises dining—especially delivery, take-out, and catering—makes up a rapidly-growing portion of all restaurant purchases. While this is a boon for operators in many ways, because it reduces certain labor costs associated with waitstaff, it also presents new challenges when it comes to presenting food and ensuring product quality, even if the meal changes hands more than once from the kitchen staff to the delivery driver to the customer.
“Convenience drives everything in foodservice these days,” says Dan Plunkett, vice president of foodservice sales for Garner Foods, the makers of Texas Pete hot sauce. “Today’s consumer skews younger and that audience views restaurants differently. They are happy to order delivery or take-out and eat the food wherever they want—and more frequently, they don’t want to be in the restaurant.”
One of the biggest challenges faced by operators in the off-premises era, is how to package food that would normally be plated and still ensure the customer’s meal is up to standard.
For example, a chicken sandwich delivered to a dine-in customer may already be dressed with hot sauce or a signature aioli. However, if that sauce travels, it is likely to soak into the bun or spill off the sandwich, making the food less appealing for the customer who receives it. It is therefore necessary for operators to package sauces individually for to-go orders, but that can oftentimes require additional time and labor from the kitchen staff.
“By choosing menu items that transfer well and arrive hot and delicious,” Plunkett says, “operators can better ensure brand reputation. In addition, making sure that packaging prevents leaks during transport is critical to making customers happy.”
According to a recent survey by Datassential, only 30 percent of operators currently use portion-controlled hot sauce packets for their off-premises orders, while 50 percent use significant time and labor to fill plastic ramekins.
“Plastic ramekins are a liability when it comes to potential leaks during transport, which can negatively impact customer satisfaction,” Plunkett says. “Operators need portion-controlled condiments, such as packets or plastic mini-bottles, in order to maximize efficiency and ensure the best food quality possible.”