How to pack fine dining?

How to pack fine dining?

The decisions to close restaurants have made it hard for many companies and entrepreneurs to survive. Luckily, restaurants have been able to sell food and drinks to customers as take away. Many restaurants, that hadn’t been selling food out before, have now started to sell take away.

- We started to sell take away last April just because of the pandemic, says the chef and restaurateur of the Ora restaurant Sasu Laukkonen from Helsinki.

Luka Balac, a restaurateur of the Nolla restaurant located in Helsinki, agrees with Laukkonen.

- We started to sell take away food, because of the pandemic.

Both top restaurants as well as other restaurants had to come up with new ways to reach their customers. Because five-star experiences are difficult to deliver to the customer’s home, many changed their menus. This meant that fine dining restaurants began to serve pizza or sushi, simply because they sell better as take away food. Restaurants also began to prepare meals for grocery stores to sell. However, some of the top restaurants, such as Ora and Nolla, stuck to their concept and started offering customers multiple course meals as take away.

Switching to take away food automatically means that the food has to be packed, as the food must be protected during the delivery. Packing also ensures that the food remains hot or cold enough during the delivery and that the food is safe to eat. The packaging has to also look good as well as have other suitable qualities.

Environmental friendliness is a growing trend in the restaurant industry, and this can also be seen in the packaging choices of take away food.

Photo: Mostphotos

- When choosing the packaging, the most important criteria have to do with ecology and recyclability, and only after them comes appearance and functionality with the food. For example, the possibility of heating the packaging, Laukkonen says.

Environmental friendliness and the promotion of the circular economy are also reflected in the concept and values ​​of Restaurant Nolla. Their goal is to prepare tasty food without waste, which also means that the packaging must be recyclable or reusable. They are using Duni take away boxes which, according to the manufacturer, are made of environmentally friendly materials.

The packaging material and recycling possibilities are therefore focused on in restaurants. Plastic is a popular material for take away packaging because plastic boxes are cheap, lightweight, and have excellent barrier qualities, making them well-suited for transporting food. Another important feature is heat retention, of which, the now banned polystyrene box is an excellent example of. However, the popularity of biodegradable plastics has been growing, which has also been reflected in take away food packaging.

In addition to environmental friendliness, the choice of packaging is also influenced by price.

- In Ora Restaurant, the cost of packaging per serving is 1.30 euros higher than the price of washing plates, Laukkonen says. He adds that this is a big expense, because in general, the selling price of take away portions should usually be as low as possible.

Luka Balac also states that price is one main criterion when choosing the packaging, but only after the ecological factor.

A year ago during the spring, there was an acute shortage of take away food packaging and many entrepreneurs had to pick up their boxes even from other cities. This caused concern among entrepreneurs, as without packaging food could not be sold out. Luckily, the Helsinki-based restaurants Ora and Nolla have not suffered much from accessibility problems.

- There have been problems with the availability of packaging on a few occasions, as the supplier had not ordered packaging to their own warehouse, but luckily, I received the same products from another supplier, Laukkonen says.

- There have been some problems, but availability has mainly been good, says Balac.

Photo: Mostphotos

In the packaging industry, the peak in demand for take away food did not compensate the decline caused by the weakening of the restaurant industry. Helsingin Sanomat reported in May last year that the turnover of companies manufacturing food packaging decreased, as customers no longer visited restaurants or cafés. The increase in demand for take away food packaging was also not sufficient to compensate for this loss, as restaurant orders were relatively small compared to normal orders. This meant that the industry also had to adapt to the changes caused by the corona virus.

The importance of packaging has been emphasized in this global pandemic. From the restaurants' point of view, there would be no sales without packaging, as the food enters the restaurant and leaves to the customer packed. Entrepreneurs that face difficult situations also try to take the environment into account in their choices by choosing the most environmentally friendly packaging in their own budget.

The environmental friendliness of packaging will be more emphasized in the future, for example through new legislation. Restaurants will have to consider the restrictions imposed by, for example, the EU Single Use Plastics Directive.

Article originally appeared in Pakkaus-lehti, issue 4/2021 "Miten paketoida fine dining?". Original article written by Hanna Kiventöyry.

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