How Can Restaurants Manage the Disposables Dilemma?

This edition of MRM's "Ask the Expert” features advice from Buyers Edge Platform. Please send questions to Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at

Q: How can restaurateurs get their hands on the right disposable products and packaging to support off-premise dining and ensure operational costs don’t increase with the high demand?

A: While customers love the experience of meeting their family and friends at their favorite restaurants, restaurant dining and game day celebrations are looking a little different these days. Once thought of as temporary solutions to an unexpected pandemic, we’ve seen an increased mad rush on take-out and delivery supplies – which doesn’t look to be slowing down. 

Due to higher demand for off-premises dining, suppliers of disposable products have reported supply chain issues and have even run out of inventory –resulting in increased costs and price fluctuations.

Whether it’s gloves, sanitation supplies, or the right packaging to support a new experience for take-out and delivery, operators can cut costs in other areas and lock in prices on the necessary items. Here are three areas of consideration. 

Secure Packaging for Off-Premise Growth

Take-out and off-premises dining aren’t going anywhere. If you are an operator who normally invests in the guests’ dine-in experience, tends to regulars and pays attention to plating, then you need to do the same for the off-premises customer. This can be reflected in the quality of to-go packaging you purchase.

The quality of the packaging you chose should match the quality of the food you are serving. An investment in higher-quality and premium quality packaging is going to be the equivalent to providing a heightened guest experience moving forward. The right packaging can mean the difference between crispy or soggy french fries, hot or cold food, stable or leaky sauces.

Quality packaging doesn’t only apply to food. As more bars and restaurants have closed completely or partially for indoor dining, several cities and states have started to allow foodservice operations to sell cocktails and wine for takeout, too. Instead of single-serve beverages, imagine selling mojitos by the gallon? Hello, money maker! 

Secure Inventory and PPE

Your staff requires them and your customers appreciate them. They are a necessary function of operating a restaurant for both the on- and off-premises dining experience. Running out of inventory such as masks, gloves and disinfectant sprays can negatively impact your business and turn people away. Not something you want as a business owner – especially when capacity limitations prevent you from running at a 100%. You need every customer and every dollar that comes through your doors. 

“Hygiene Theater” is important to the customer experience because it lets them know you care about their safety and are taking steps to provide them with a clean environment. This can mean the difference between someone choosing your restaurant or another. 

Secure Your Contracts

Unfortunately, with tight supply comes higher prices. Operators are being asked to spend money on additional supplies and materials they aren’t usually purchasing. Work with your suppliers and/or distributors to shore up costs on future purchases. By joining a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO), you also can lock in prices and secure inventory. When you invest in analyzing your contracts and rationalizing skews, you can decrease costs and optimize savings in areas you never thought of.

As the new business model for foodservice continues to shift, tap into the growing off-premises revenue channel and invest your time in establishing contracts for disposables like gloves and to-go packaging.