An app-based reusable packaging system that has been piloted in restaurants this year might provide a model for how sustainable packaging can improve sales and loyalty (and harness the valuable guest data that comes along with it). A company called R.ware (an offshoot of the reusable R.cup often found in stadiums) allows restaurants to get propylene hard plastic packaging in a range of sizes and styles that can be washed and sanitized multiple times. Restaurants are given a small collection bin equipped with an iPad. After guests are finished with a take-out container, which is labeled with instructions on how to download an app and scan a QR code, they can return the container to the collection bin and start earning rewards. Participating restaurants have freedom to customize those rewards to entice guests to return. In the process, they are reducing waste – and likely gaining some fans who want to reduce their takeout waste too.
As more quick-service restaurants look for ways to remove friction from the food-collection process, expect to see more vehicle-recognition technology in use that can detect the arrival of a customer and prepare their order for a quick pass off. It might become a useful tool for other restaurants that have adopted curbside collection for the long term too. White Castle, which has adopted a range of technologies in both the kitchen and at the point of sale, is adding vehicle-recognition tech to its lineup. Mastercard is providing it through its new AI-Powered Drive Through Platform.