With so many restaurants now offering takeout and delivery, newcomers to the market are striving to make their to-go packaging a point of differentiation.
The goal is to improve the quality of the food that’s brought to customers—not only to best the competition, but also to ensure consumers’ impression of the brand isn’t tarnished.
That’s why Red Robin revealed its new generation of to-go packages last month, including a special “fry cup” that’s intended to bait customers from inadvertently letting the rest of their orders degrade.
Here’s a deeper look into that initiative and other to-go strategies that pivot on new packaging.
Red Robin’s hot and aromatic bait
The full-service burgers and fries chain doesn’t want consumers munching in front of the TV to forget where they got their meals. The food containers are Red Robin red, and they’re packed in transparent bags so takeout customers can visually check what they’re taking home without any effort or unpacking before they leave the restaurant. It’s an old trick from the quick-service sector, where both CEO Denny Post and COO Carin Stutz spent part of their long restaurant careers.
But the real differentiator is the fry cup, a combination amenity and deflection lure. A cup of the chain’s signature fries will be provided as a complimentary treat to whoever is picking up a takeout order, Post revealed during the chain’s annual investors’ day. But the treat purposely won’t be put in a bag with whatever else is going home with the guest.
When someone picks up a burger and fries, “The first thing you do is put your hand in that bag and start grabbing some fries and eating them on as you are taking them on your way to your office or to your house,” said Post. The cup “protects our product, because our guests aren’t going in, opening the box with the burger in it that we want to stay hot and fresh, and letting that cold air in to grab those fries.”
IHOP’s packaging plans
DineEquity’s pancake specialist has kept its new takeout packaging under wraps, but it’s stressed the containers will a key part of a to-go initiative that’s currently being tested. The family-focused chain is also exploring delivery.
The packaging “ensures that the same great IHOP food that's enjoyed in our restaurants will be just as delicious when taken off-premise,” IHOP President Darren Rebelez gushed to financial analysts last month.
Denny’s green custom carriers
An essential part of the diner chain’s new Denny’s on Demand initiative is a line of packaging developed specifically for the brand’s food, according to headquarters. The containers are microwaveable and recyclable. Denny’s is also touting the boxes as being sustainable.
The boxes are covered in 140-character quips from Denny’s Twitter account.