Foodservice Trends: Sustainable Packaging, Improving Delivery and Ordering Innovations

Among the food, beverage, technology and innovation trends seen at the 2018 National Restaurant Association Show, Euromonitor International identified four highlighted throughout the Show in the foodservice space.

1. Sustainable packaging

Whether marketed as “compostable”, “recyclable” or “bio-degradable”, sustainable packaging was front and center at this year’s Show. This is no surprise as brands, especially those in industries like consumer foodservice that utilize large amounts of packaging, look to reduce their environmental impact and align their efforts with changing consumer attitudes. Packaging types came in a variety of natural components, including wood and bamboo, among others.

Alcas, an Italian brand with North American headquarters in Florida, displayed their bowls, plates and spoons made of corn starch. The company is renowned for their chocolate and ice cream packaging. O2GO went a step further by showcasing their recyclable boxes, which can be recycled in their very own vending receptacle that pays consumers for recycling with tokens.

2. Improving the delivery experience

There is no doubt that delivery and catering have grown astronomically over the past few years with fast food and full-service restaurants utilizing third-party delivery services like UberEats and GrubHub or going the independent route. In addition to keeping up with demand, chains need to ensure delivery and catering experiences replicate the in-store experience, so consumers see an added value beyond simply convenience to the extra cost.

Sterno is meeting these value propositions by introducing a flameless heating system to keep catering orders warm, while reducing risk. Designed to fit in the brand’s insulated bags, the heating system uses water and activated packets to emanate heat. The steam from the water keeps food warm for 30-45 minutes. The packaging is easily discarded in recycling bins.

Anchor Packaging’s “Crisp Food Technologies” focuses on a long-time consumer pain point: soggy fried food. Using specialized air vents, the company’s packaging keeps fries fresh and crispy from restaurant to doorstep. The packaging is also microwavable.

Wave Cup uses an innovative design to do just the opposite. Wave like indents on the side of the cup retain the internal temperature of the beverage similar to foam, but in a more eco-friendly manner. Wave Cup is owned by Taiwanese based company, President Packaging Industry Corporation, the Wave Cup joins a product portfolio that includes coffee and soup containers of a variety of sizes that are compostable.

3. Independent online ordering

Many chains adopted third-party delivery early on as a way to minimize risk in what was still a burgeoning field dominated by pizza and Chinese food. Today, many chains are finding that ever-growing commissions are cutting into profits. At the same time, the high demand for delivery and takeaway cannot be ignored. Many see bringing online ordering in-house as the solution.

One company at 2018 National Restaurant Association Show, Upserve, markets such a solution by offering software and other products for chains and independent restaurants alike to manage their own delivery offerings.

4. Self-ordering kiosks taking over

One couldn’t walk far in the 2018 National Restaurant Association Show without coming face-to-face with a vendor offering self-ordering kiosks. Entering the consumer psyche after McDonald’s rolled them out last year, some believe self-ordering kiosks are on their way out. The number of vendors suggest otherwise. Offering cost savings by eliminating cashiers or moving them to other roles, self-ordering kiosks make service quicker and easier in the same way that self-cleanup did years ago.