An image of a customer unpacking a food delivery, unpacking food boxes, delivery boxes, in an article on food delivery boxes & customer safety

Food delivery boxes & customer safety: An essential guide for restaurant owners

With a never-ending demand for services and thousands of new establishments opening each year, the restaurant industry is one of the world’s most dynamic and influential markets. As food continues to be transformed and experimented with in more contemporary and abstract ways, restaurant customers expect quality service and delicious meals. 

More so, as food delivery methods advance, it is essential that restaurant owners not only provide excellent service and products but also follow safety guidelines. These requirements will apply to all areas of the establishment, from the amenities and dining area through to the kitchen, to ensure both customers and employees are safe. 

While consumers have embraced innovations in food delivery, regulatory authorities require more time to keep up. As a result, there is likely a gap in best practices and guidance in the area. Here is a short guide that can help ensure your business is delivering food to customers in a safe and healthy manner. 

The importance of customer safety

In front-of-house areas, customer safety will look like properly stocked bathrooms, clean and dry floors, as well as tables, chairs, menus, and utensils that are sanitised regularly. Alternatively, back-of-house safety is likely to focus on factors such as food temperature control, preventing cross-contamination, and cleanliness across all surfaces. 

It is important to note that both front and back-of-house employees are responsible for ensuring customer safety, as it is essential to a restaurant’s operation and reputation. There are two main reasons restaurants focus on customer safety: to prevent accidents and injuries and to ensure customer satisfaction.

Injuries and accidents in a restaurant are inevitable: it is the way in which a restaurant handles them that directly affects its reputation and success. For example, one case of food poisoning can have repercussions for the entire business as well as the affected individual. 

The victim could choose to take public legal action, and the response from the restaurant may trickle down to influence customer perception and trust. While some say “reputation is everything”, customers are more likely to return to an establishment they trust and feel safe in. 

An image of back-of-house restaurant staff packing a takeaway order into a kraft paper food delivery box in an article on food delivery boxes & customer safety

Ensuring safe food delivery

Over the last few years, the number of food delivery services has increased tremendously. Notably, the US saw a 58% increase in the use of food delivery services between 2020 to 2021. In order to succeed in the industry, restaurants must ensure means are delivered to customers safely. 

That said, once the meal has left the restaurant, that can be difficult to control. Variables include whether the restaurant is using a third-party delivery service, as well as the construction and material of its food delivery boxes and how the food presents inside.  

In addition to how the food is presented, the way in which it is packaged will be a critical aspect of a restaurant’s delivery services. Packaging must be designed to meet food specifications, which include maintaining food quality and temperature, and it must be  spill and leak-proof. Leaks or spills during transport can contaminate other food in the same bag or put the customer and delivery personnel at risk. Therefore, it is essential that a restaurant’s food delivery boxes are properly sealed and secured. 

While food plated for a table will look different from that delivered to a customer, the quality and standards must remain the same. Investing in suitable delivery boxes can help businesses maintain quality and ensure the delivered food is presented appropriately. Notably, in order to remain grease-proof, some food boxes may contain adhesives or coatings that react with heat. As this reaction is likely to alter the taste and quality of the food, it is essential your boxes are non-reactive and free of harmful chemicals and toxins.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are manufactured chemicals that have been used across various industries since the 1940s and remain in the environment for years. PFAS contains fluoride, which helps to create non-stick, oil, water, and grease-resistant surfaces. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorised the use of certain short-chain PFAS as grease-proofing agents on food contact paper and paperboard packaging, it may lead to various health issues over time. It is advised restaurant owners familiarise themselves with the list of PFAS and fluoride-free options before investing in food delivery boxes.   

Another critical point is maintaining the proper temperature of food during transport. Food that has been left for too long before being delivered or consumed may cause harm to customers. More so, food and beverages must be transported at a temperature that is unlikely to harm the customer or delivery personnel. As determined from the infamous 1992  “McDonald Coffee Case”, restaurants must be aware of the potential hazards temperature can cause. 

An image of a back-of-house restaurant worker stapling a receipt onto a takeaway delivery bag, paper delivery bag, in an article on food delivery boxes & customer safety

Tips for restaurant owners 

While it can be difficult to track the quality of food once it has left the restaurant, there are measures that can be taken to minimise the risk of injury or customer dissatisfaction. Food handling guidelines often include securing food properly while in transit, keeping a clean environment free of contamination, and ensuring delivery to the correct customer. 

These measures include:

  • Proper training in transportation and delivery. If delivery personnel can transport food properly, there is less risk of contamination. They can also educate customers on how to handle food to avoid injury. Training employees on proper delivery methods increases the likelihood the food will arrive in a presentable manner.
  • Using suitable food delivery boxes. For example, soup and liquids should go into a container with a secure, preferably airtight lid and not a box that closes with a flap. 
  • Maintaining a clean and safe environment from the kitchen to the home.

Restaurant owners must use their menu knowledge to make effective decisions when choosing packaging for food delivery. The process can be narrowed down by sampling a variety of styles and sizes in conjunction with the current menu items. More importantly, a proper protocol must be in place to manage customer dissatisfaction. All employees, from entry-level to upper management, should understand the hierarchy system and report when issues arise. 

With food delivery services growing rapidly, it may be safe to conclude that delivery services are here to stay. Additionally, customer safety has been and will always be a priority for restaurants. Restaurant owners must choose appropriate food delivery boxes, train employees on food handling safety and techniques, and create guidelines for potential customer dissatisfaction. By following protocol and making appropriate decisions, restaurants can provide quality food and service to customers both in and out of the restaurant.