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Meeting consumers’ food safety demands in a post-pandemic world

Photograph: Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised consumers’ awareness of health and safety, especially in public places, in unprecedented ways. For restaurant operators, while delivery and takeout remain a lifeline in an uncertain market, maintaining a focus on safety and sanitation in off-premise offerings is non-negotiable. According to June 2020 research from WestRock, 64% of consumers are more or much more concerned about food contamination when ordering delivery from a restaurant than they were six months ago.

Operators have an obligation to cater to consumers’ safety concerns. Pre-COVID-19 statistics from US Foods indicated that 30% of third-party delivery drivers admitted to sampling food while en route to customers. Of course, that’s an unacceptable number—but the solution isn’t to terminate relationships with third-party delivery services. In fact, consumers’ concern about food contamination is nearly the same no matter who is delivering. So how can operators put their customers at ease—and keep their food safe and secure until it is delivered to the customer?

Packaging provides peace of mind

Tamper-evident packaging is one easy solution, with WestRock’s research finding that 59% of consumers say their perception of a restaurant would be more positive if the restaurant began using tamper-evident packaging, and 59% say they would be more likely to order from a restaurant in the future if it began using tamper-evident packaging. Tamper-evident packaging—including bags that are stapled or stickered shut, pull-tab plastic containers, tamper-evident seal boxes and more—offer customers instant visible proof that their meal hasn’t been touched or contaminated by anything or anyone since it left the restaurant.

Among the characteristics of packaging that consumers find important, protection from being contaminated by the delivery driver ranks highest; and according to WestRock research, a majority of customers say they would pay an additional 5 or 10 cents (78% and 74% respectively) per meal for tamper-evident packaging. 

So, what should operators look for in this type of packaging?

Durability, transparency and safety

Using tamper-evident packaging is ideal for preventing contamination. But choosing the right tamper-evident packaging can save a lot of headaches, too. Containers should be durable and leak-proof, with a grease and moisture barrier to hold up throughout transport. Containers should also have see-through windows so staff packaging up orders can quickly see if they’re grouping correct dishes with each order. This way, staff do not have to open packages (and repackage meals) to check and make sure an order has been completed.

Tamper-evident packaging should also be safe. While stapling a bag shut is certainly one way to prevent contamination, staples can fall out into bags, get ripped off and otherwise be compromised, so they aren’t the most secure option. An adhesive strip on the meal’s packaging, however, ensures that the package stays closed the entire time, no matter what happens to the bag it’s placed in.

Since, according to WestRock’s 2020 Packaging Matters study, 84% of consumers say safe packaging impacts product satisfaction, putting customers’ minds at ease when they order takeout and delivery is key in a post-pandemic landscape. To learn more about tamper-evident Bio-Pak-Protect packaging, visit westrock.com. 

This post is sponsored by WestRock

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