Promoting Through Packaging

Written by Bill Tanzer


If you’re dining in a fine restaurant, and love the rack of lamb that’s been served but too stuffed to take another bite, you’re most likely going to ask for a doggy bag. Maybe you will share a piece with your dog when you return home later, but the leftovers are likely for you and your stomach.

I’ve worked with a lot of restaurants so I know this offhand, but snazzy statistics from restaurant associations point to an uptick in take-out over the last 20 years. More specifically, the 2011 Restaurant Industry Forecast predicts record high sales for this year, $604 billion in total revenue, with $195 billion coming from full service restaurants (an increase of 3.1% over 2010).

Let’s forget statistics for a moment. Imagine there are no bags. No one has even heard of such a thing. Your server asks you to hold open your palm and whatever fits in your hands is what you can carry out. That’s “take out.” Who would enjoy that?

When you walk into a grocery store, do you pour a cup of milk, spoon out some Cheerios from a giant bin, and grab a slab of meat from the butcher pile? Of course not. Everything comes in a package, a bag or a box designed to safely contain food without letting it rot before a due date.

Sure, some large scale grocery outlets don’t offer shopping bags, (BJs doesn’t – most bulk items are carted off to a car in the parking lot, Albertson’s recently went bagless, etc.), but I know of one only grocery in the United States that doesn’t actually package its food. It’s not even open yet. A store called In.gredients in Austin, Texas, will offer all items with zero packaging starting this fall. Consumers must bring their own containers or can use compostable containers offered by the store.

This may sound great on paper and be a phenomenal failure in practice, or it may sound stupid in ink and be a wild success. Either way, I cringe at how many shoppers will be sneezing over the sugar and spices and inadvertently adding their own strains of bacteria to the yogurt. I’m all for farmer’s markets and supporting local industry, by the way. But even local farmers carton their eggs and offer bags for fresh vegetables. Although many consumers promote minimalism, with smaller packaging being ideal instead of large, bulky unnecessary wrapping, most consumers still want products contained and not exposed to the elements all day long.

The Bottom Line

Custom printed grocery bags and restaurant take out boxes are not only convenient for your customers, but promote your business!

Ever go to a trade show? I’ve been to many, many, many over the years, and there are always hundreds of vendors, different entrepreneurs, small businesses and big behemoths all participating and vying for attention. One thing they have in common is their need to promote to a new audience and retain standing with old clients. They certainly can’t do this by handing out items without a logo, items without a recognizable name.

Giving out generic promotional materials to prospective distributors and consumers is like throwing cash out the window, with products getting lost along with your company name. (I know several vendors opt for packaging their items in custom-printed euro-tote promotional bags, available in various sizes. It’s one way to keep your items separate from the rest, along with promoting your brand through the trade floor.)

Same principle with dining establishments. Your restaurant has an image, so why shouldn’t your bags be a part of that?

July 29, 2011

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