December 09 2013 – Robert Fiumara
As chefs, you might hear a lot about “conscious packaging”, which could make one think we’re talking about green or eco-friendly doggy bags and food containers. Especially during the holidays, the idea of conscious packaging and preserving takeout food can be a good sell to customers who are leaving your restaurants with the rest of a meal. Rather than just going green, conscious packaging is all about giving your customers something that will keep them happy, healthy and could increase the orders of carryout or take-home a la carte items.
Kitchens could all use a little more cost-effective planning. When cost reduction is also about keeping the health of customers intact, giving a striking presentation or increasing carryout orders, it’s a win-win situation for both restaurant and customer. There are ways kitchens can reduce the amount of refuse from carryout boxes as well as strategically increase revenue from post-dinner orders.
For starters, many people out there haven’t watched enough Kitchen Nightmares episodes to know that still-warm food stashed in the fridge is a breeding ground for bacteria. As a chef or kitchen manager, you can alleviate this issue by working with carryout containers that release more heat. Cold or room temperature food that a customer will stash in the fridge upon returning home isn’t a bad thing if it reduces the likelihood of foodborne illness.
Mixing food is another issue. Many restaurants nowadays have wait staff box the food for full customers. This provides less of a chance of customers combining food willy-nilly in take home boxes that could cause gastric upset for food-sensitive customers. If wait staff box the food, overuse of containers might also slow down, saving your kitchen a little money.
Reduce the amount of materials you use when packaging carryout by asking customers if they need a plastic carry-bag rather than furnishing one upfront. Also consider having wait staff include recommended reheating instructions for food that comes out of your kitchen. Food poisoning could result in a customer not returning to your restaurant, when the reality could be that a customer hasn’t reheated or taken care of food properly that they took home in a carryout box.
With more money saved on packaging and higher revenues, you can update your line with smart chef attire that keeps staff safe and makes for a more palatable working environment. And hey, who doesn’t want to save more money in general? The better and more cost-efficient the service you provide to customers, the easier it is to retain a thriving business and employment – both for yourself and for your restaurant owner.