Shortages of to-go packaging rank among the top supply concerns for restaurant operators right now. Prices, accordingly, have increased along with the shortages: A 2021 operator survey by Datassential found that 72 percent of respondents said the price of their takeout packaging had climbed significantly. Adding to the challenge is that some regions are cracking down on the use of packaging materials like Styrofoam, all while consumers are also taking greater notice of restaurant packaging and supporting brands that have managed to find environmentally friendly solutions to the problem. (One case in point: apps like Jybe, which enables consumers to search specifically for restaurants that are making Earth-friendly packaging choices.) Could this year be the year your restaurant gets into reusable packaging options? Increasingly, it’s becoming a feasible alternative for large multinational brands and smaller independents alike. For example, Restaurant Hospitality reports that in addition to Burger King testing reusable Whopper containers and Starbucks testing a cup-rental option, small chains like Tiffin in Philadelphia are offering delivery containers that can be returned to a delivery driver on a subsequent order. Other smaller operators are partnering with the growing number of third-party suppliers offering food and drink containers that can be used, returned and reused.
Has your restaurant resolved to use less plastic in 2020? It seems everyone has some plastic guilt nowadays – and there are businesses cropping up to help operators replace plastic and also find new uses for the plastic that already exists. Take Riegel Linen, which was among eight companies to win Restaurant Technology News’s “Restaurateurs’ Choice Award for Environmental Good” competition. The company, which makes linens for a range of industries, found a way to integrate leftover plastic bottles into its textiles. Riegel Linen collects, sorts and inspects plastic bottles, then sterilizes and dries them before crushing them into chips, Restaurant Technology News reports. Once melted down, the material is made into a new fiber that Riegel Linen uses to make napkins and tablecloths. Its RieNu napkins are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester.
At a time when even recyclable plastic often ends up in landfills or oceans, the presence of single-use plastic is still widespread in restaurants, most noticeably in the delivery space. The parent of Zume Pizza, the automated pizza delivery company that won accolades for developing a compostable, biodegradable, molded fiber “pizza pod” for shepherding pies to customers, is now helping other companies develop non-plastic packaging alternatives. According to a Forbes report, the company recently launched a new venture to develop plant-based packaging that is designed to have the performance qualities of plastic (and is priced to compete with plastic when used at scale). The packaging, a compostable blend of sugarcane fiber, bamboo, wood pulp and wheat straw, is classified as Type 4 Molded Fiber, the highest grade of molded fiber packaging.