The pandemic changed so much. From Ghost Kitchens to the importance of tamper-evident packaging, things will never be the same. But they are leveling off into some sense of normalcy – and while people are clambering to get back to going out to eat, enhanced takeout is here to stay … as are the sustainability issues that come with it.

As much as folks love going out, they also have increased their awareness of the impact of disposables on the planet. As you begin to think less about how to survive the pandemic, you will need to think more about your footprint and sustainability efforts to keep customers coming back.


For the last two years, single-use everything has been a necessity, but as we look forward, many diners are turning their focus back to sustainability and food waste. More than half of all consumers claim to use a disposable plastic bottle, bag, cup and straw at least once a week, but 62% of consumers say they’ve tried to reduce their use of disposable or single-use plastics in 2021 (Sustainability Report, Datassential 2021).

As an operator, you’re probably already doing the math in your head on the hit your bottom line could take by adding sustainable packaging. The good news is, according to Datassential, 41% of consumers are willing to pay up to 50 cents more for sustainable single-use items, and 43% are willing to pay between 50 cents and $1 more. This means when you incorporate sustainable products, raise prices on your menu to compensate – and tell the sustainability story to help diners understand the increased cost. Here's a quick how-to guide to help you.

Making the switch to responsible disposables doesn’t have to be a challenge you need to tackle alone in 2022. Make an appointment with our Food Fanatics® Chefs and Culinary Equipment and Supplies® (CES) Specialists to help you find the right products for your operation that address the rising concern over single-use plastics. And if you need more convincing on why it's the right thing to do, read this.

But it is a challenge, not just to switch to more responsible packaging, but to reduce the amount of package waste in general. The takeout boom has only exacerbated the problem. Read this to learn about what you can do and some watch-outs about gimmicks that don't perform as advertised.

US Foods® is continuing to expand our offerings of sustainable products in our Hungry for Better portfolio, including sustainable seafood, products with responsible agricultural practices, responsibly sourced proteins and products that contribute to waste reduction. With the rise in takeout and delivery during the pandemic, responsible disposables have become more of a concern for both consumers and operators.

To be fair, between the buzzwords, packaging codes and symbols, the options can be overwhelming. Here's a quick guide to help you make sense of it all. Then you need to find the right products for your food. Like maybe Molded Fiber Hinged Containers. They are made from sugar cane fiber (bagasse) which has been specifically engineered to be functional and durable, yet inexpensive in comparison to both non-sustainable alternatives and other molded-fiber options in the market today. We offer them from Valu*+Plus™ in both 6x6 and 9x9 sizes. We also offer 100% compostable bowls, plant-based straws with no plastic and a fully compostable cutlery kit. Not to mention the first compostable glove on the market, helping you reduce your back-of-house waste.

See our full line of responsible and sustainable disposables here.

73% of consumers are interested in new product designs that
eliminate the need for plastic disposables when purchasing
food or beverages away from home

67% are interested in switching to products that do not require the use of plastics

56% are interested in switching to paper/biodegradable disposables for a small surcharge

Trend Two: Takeout and Ghost Kitchens Experience

The restaurant scene suddenly changed in early 2020, thanks to COVID-related dine-in restrictions, and many operators had to act fast – optimizing their takeout and delivery services or pivoting rapidly to retail. According to Datassential’s Restaurant of the Future Report, 59% of consumers report that restaurant meals in the last year have been consumed off-premise. Savvy operators have doubled down on their off-premise strategies – redesigning their takeout experience through enhanced websites, new ordering apps, improved carryout packaging, and even launching new virtual brands.

Virtual brands, or Ghost Kitchens, are foodservice facilities set up for delivery-only or carryout meals. They can provide a double door to profits with a lower investment cost than existing brick-and-mortars, the ability to use your existing kitchen, and expanded customer reach with a higher profit margin. With Ghost Kitchens projected to reach a $1 trillion global market by 2030, this is not a passing fad. If you’re looking to add a new revenue stream to your business in 2022, the award-winning US Foods Ghost Kitchens Program can make it easier than you imagined.

The rise in third-party delivery also meant an increased demand for tamper-proof packaging, as consumers were skeptical of the security and safety of their food in transit. US Foods has launched a line of tamper-evident to-go products that meet the needs of both consumers and operators alike. From bags to labels, and containers to beverage pouches, we have you covered. You can even find marketing support material to promote your newest food safety strategy here.

Digital Front Doors were the only operator doors open for many months, and our team of Social Media and Digital Marketing Restaurant Operations Consultants (ROCs) helped thousands of operators optimize Google Business Profiles, find the perfect hashtags on Instagram, and set up Call to Action buttons on their key social accounts to keep the revenue coming in.  We’ve compiled all of their best practices for strategy and content creation here, in this Guide to Social Media Marketing for Restaurants.

The rise in virtual kitchens has also sparked a need for innovative tech solutions to help streamline both online and third-party delivery orders. Our CHECK® Business Tools partners can help you simplify and streamline your digital order management, improve your online ordering interface and help drive more digital traffic by enhancing and optimizing your website.