November 13, 2009

Packaging: hot cups


We’re going to need to get more official over the next few months. You know: packaging, proper uniforms, etc. First up: the hot-cup.

Some of you may know that I have this dream of a restaurant where zero food waste gets caught up in landfills. So we’re designing our packaging to be 100% compostable. That’s right, compostable everything. That means no trash, no recycling, just a compost bin at our restaurant.

Another design goal: keep it simple. Fewer products, easier for us to keep in order, and lower the cost.

And of course, we want our packaging to work for you. Expect not to burn your hand when you hold a hot cup, to be able to take our food away, even when it’s raining, even if it’s a large order. We want you to be able to hold our food without feeling like you’re a juggler. And we want everything to feel and look pleasant and sometimes exciting. Most of all, we want the packaging to preserve the food quality.

More about cups after the break…

So we’ve decided to make our hot cup do a lot. I spent a bunch of time looking into re-usable cups, and breakeven (vs. paper) appears to be about 200 uses for plastic, and 300-500 uses for stainless. After taking a hard look at that, I don’t think we can offer reusable cups to our customers in good conscience. It’s sort of a bizarre conclusion, but realistically, there is no way our average customer is going to re-use their cup 200 times. And 500 uses?? I don’t care how hard core you are.

So oddly, re-usable cups would actually increase, rather than decrease our impact on stuff like CO2 output. Oh well…

So what do we do with paper cups? Well, first they need to be sturdy. We’re going to make them do triple duty: coffee, coup, oatmeal. Recycled materials, compostable.

Compostable lids became a huge project, but we finally found some that are going to work. And we’re thinking to do peel-up lids rather than dome lids (think Dunkin, not Starbucks). Why? Because we want to be able to seal the cup with soup in it.

Finally design. We’re going to print, but with a single color. Haven’t worked that all out yet, but here is a quick study, and rough ideas for our design:

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