Many restaurants moved to use to-go and takeout containers since the pandemic. While many businesses went belly up due to state closures and safety concerns, switching to takeout-only is what kept many restaurants and bars from losing the fight. Doing what they could to survive was the most important thing at that moment, but as we've seen, there has been a sharp increase in the amount of single-use plastic waste. It's as good a time as ever to revisit your business packaging in turn for more environmentally-friendly options. Here are the pros and cons of implementing eco-friendly packaging in your restaurant.
Prevalence of Plastic in Take-Out Food Packaging
Plastics have been around since the 1900s and they’re used in everything from the siding on a house to life-saving medical devices. In the service industry, we see plastics in the form of straws, utensils, carry-out containers, drink cups, coffee lids and more. It’s rare these days to walk into a restaurant and not see some sort of to-go container, and with hundreds of thousands of restaurants just in the United States alone, all of that packaging really adds up!
The Problem with Delivery and Take-Out Containers
Many of the cheap plastics we use for our food and drinks contain byproducts that are harmful to human health and the environment. It’s worth considering other avenues for take-out containers that aren’t single-use plastics for this reason, but each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.Styrofoam
- Pros - Styrofoam keeps food insulated well, is fairly sturdy, and won’t cost you much.
- Cons - Not only is styrofoam not biodegradable, but the production and the product itself produce dangerous byproducts.
- Pros - Aluminum is oven safe, retains high heat, and it’s recyclable. Aluminum also doesn’t contain PFAs, a harmful byproduct that comes from non-stick items.
- Cons - Aluminum can’t be microwaved and it can get extremely hot.
- Pros - Since molded fiber is made from natural and recycled paper products, it’s compostable. Molded fiber is also microwave-safe.
- Cons - Molded fiber is known to make food soggy if it’s left for too long, and to keep the food from sticking to the box, many molded fiber containers contain PFAs.
- Pros - Cardboard and paper products are generally pretty easy on the wallet, biodegradable, and the perfect material to print a logo!
- Cons - Unfortunately, cardboard and paper can start to retain moisture over time and get soggy, and it’s not as sturdy as some of the other options.
- Pros - Plastic comes as a low-cost, leak-resistant, and non-absorbant option. In most cases, these types of containers can be recycled as well.
- Cons - Plastics contain byproducts that are harmful to your health and the environment, which also means they’re definitely not biodegradable. Plastic is prone to making food soggy as well.
How to Limit Plastic and Non-Eco-Friendly Materials in your Take-Out / Delivery
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and reduce the number of harmful byproducts that come in and out of your bar or restaurant, here are some ways you can start the transition.
- Making plastic tableware only available upon request. Instead of including cutlery and straws with every to-go order, you can give people the option to request them as needed. This can greatly reduce the number of plastic products you use — for some, it’s as much as 88%. That’s saving you a bunch of money, and it’s helping the environment!
- Opt-in recyclable/biodegradable single-use items. A lot of people are interested in paying a little extra if it means they’re helping. While it costs more to provide biodegradable and recyclable options for your takeout containers, these single-use items are:
- Better for the environment. The containers and utensils you use won’t be here for hundreds of years.
- Often more premium-looking. It makes a difference when people notice you went the extra mile to spend a little more on containers.
- Appeal to a wider audience. People will either never notice the packaging you’re using is eco-friendly, or you’ll have people who notice and love you for it. It’s a win-win.
- Use paper/cardboard food packaging whenever possible. One of the pros we mentioned for cardboard and paper products is how cheap they are compared to other environmentally friendly options. You can add sauces to food instead of providing it on the side so you don’t have the separate plastic ramekin. Using things like a paper bag or a paper cup with your logo printed on it makes your business look a little fancier too. If you really want to look fancy while cutting carbon emissions, you can hand stamp your paper products. Customers love the small touches you provide, and you can be environmentally friendly while you’re doing it!
- Ditch paper receipts. During the pandemic, many restaurants have already implemented this. On most POS systems and apps, you can have customers choose an emailed or text receipt. It saves money on paper, and most people don’t want a paper receipt anyway. QR codes are also becoming popular for receipts and even menus.
Other Benefits of Going with Eco-Friendly Packaging for your Restaurant/Bar
Everything you provide at your restaurant will be an extension of your brand, and that includes your packaging! People are not only looking for good food and drinks, they’re looking to invest in businesses that align themselves with the same values they do. Eco-friendly packaging is a huge way to bring in and retain customers.
Provi Can Help!
If you’re looking for great eco-friendly, organic options for your restaurant and bar, Provi has reps that can guide you to any brand or specification you’re looking for. Provi’s intuitive all-in-one inventory tracking and analytics can help you reduce waste by getting insight into your stock. If you’re interested in learning more about how Provi can make running your business easier, go to Provi.com/bars-restaurants and make a free account today.
While it won’t change the world overnight, giving people the option to make choices toward a better and cleaner planet will positively affect your business. Now you can consider what options would work best for you and make choices your customers will love.