Good packaging is always in demand but even more so during the pandemic, as more foodservice providers offer takeout and delivery. Acquiring adequate supplies at a reasonable price is challenging, reports Restaurant Hospitality.

Packing has always been a tough thing for us, said Chris Smith , owner of Zunzis, a South African-inspired, fast-casual concept in Georgia. To meet the demands of his two locations, Smith stocked a storage unit with a months supply of takeout packaging at the start of the pandemic, and hes already dipped into that bank.

When one of his suppliers, Babcor Packaging, ran out of the sealable plastic bags that Zunzis uses for to-go orders, Smith rushed to find another vendor.

"As quickly as things go out, [were] trying to monitor inventory levels," said Jim Joyce, national sales director for Babcor Packaging. Ultimately, the company is limited by manufacturers capabilities.

The family owned packaging company has seen a 15% increase in stock orders during the past three months and a 90% increase in customized/branded orders over the same time last year. The company's top seller right now is those same sealed to-go bags that Zunzis had trouble accessing.

There is a very high demand for the packaging that has tamper-resistant capabilities, said Joyce. Demand was just overwhelming. We ultimately ended up running out of them.

Even when operators can find the right packaging products, they know they will have to pay more and wait longer to receive them. Fine-casual restaurant Angelina's Pizzeria Napoletana in Irvine, California, recently teamed with a company in Italy that makes boxes to carry Neapolitan wood-fired Italian pizza.

"Because they are an imported box, we typically have to purchase large sums anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 per order," said Angelina's owner Sho Fusco. We had just placed an order pre-COVID, so we were OK on supplies.

But the next time she orders, Fusco expects it to take longer and cost more. 

When it comes to sourcing during the pandemic, its a take-what-you-can-get situation. Yet, some operators remain committed to sourcing sustainable packaging.

Last year Brooklyn Chop House, an Asian steakhouse in downtown Manhattan, responded to customer requests and switched to biodegradable products for its then-limited carryout business. When the pandemic hit, the takeout business increased exponentially. The restaurant was ready to deliver its offerings in biodegradable rice-paper boxes, with wood cutlery inside a craft paper bag with the restaurant logo.