How Reusable Food And Beverage Programs Work

We all understand that reusables are hygienic and sustainable, but how do they work?

Our collective of restaurants, cafes, schools and business centres are making reusable takeout containers and cups accessible across Canada.

Here is how we're doing it!

Need definitions? We've got an updated list of definitions for reusable takeout container programs.

Types of Reusable Models

Deposit and Return Systems

Customer A walks into the foodservice business and asks for a meal in a reusable container. The business asks for a $5 deposit for that container, which is refunded back to the customer when the container is returned undamged. The customer re-visits the business to return the container and is likely to re-purchase, and re-deposit for another container. The customer puts the used container in a bin marked "Returns" after placing their order. This ensures that the server can credit for the return and does not touch a used container while serving. Benefits: - Simple, customer gets their $5 back and gets to use a reusable in the meantime. - If a reusable doe not come back then the customer paid $5 for it, and it is no loss to the vendor. Challenges: - Reusables should not be taxed in Canada, and therefore the Point Of Sale system must be able to not charge tax on that item. - Hard to predict what the rate of return will be, no tracability. - Vendor must honor the cash back return and therefor must have cash on hand, unless they want to return fee to the users card which may come with additional service fees. - What if the reusable is broken? Do you still honor the return? Some examples of this concept include: - Here at DreamZero, our event services work like this. We ask that event attendees place a $2 deposit on each cup, which is returned to them when they return the cup. Our cups are then washed and dried according to Toronto Public Health standards and used at another event. - At Unboxed Market, customers are asked to place a $5 deposit on meals that come in a Reusable Container. This is returned to the customer once the container is returned. Unboxed has a sticker on the container to indicate that the container indeed came from their store. Unboxed has been featured in the CBC for this program. -

Store Credit For Return

Charging the customer a fee for the container and not offering that fee back in cash, but offering that value of menu items or in exchange for a clean container is reffered to as a Store Credit For Return program.

The concept of store credit for a returned container helps the foodservice business retain the dollar value of the container. This system is generally designed to get customers back into the business and continue to frequently visit.
Benefits: - Businesses can leverage the return of the container for a next sale or upsell opportunity - Businesses recoup the cost of the container if it is not returned Challenges: - Some customers may not appreciate not being able to recieve the cash value of the purchase back, however if you clearly post the rules most customers get it and appreciate that you are trying something new. Examples: - Earls Court BBQ included container prices in their menu and allowed for exchanges of containers, and/or a store credit with an immediate purchase or through a gift card with the value of the container placed on it.

Closed Programs

Closed programs work very well for businesses whose customers are less mobile (meaning are likely to stay in the facility for an extended period of time) or are already a "member" or recieve exlusive access to your service. Benefits: - Easy for customer, by providing the reusables at no cost their is no barrier to use. Challenges: - With no deposit taken, sometimes customers are not incentivised to return the reusables. Examples: - The Toronto Badminton and Racquet Club have an affluent membership that values sustainability. Members requested alernatives for single use containers, water, beer and coffee cups. - Happy Trails Racing produces race events for trail running in Southern Ontario. They have a strong environmental ethic and a thin budget. By providing reusables at aid stations they reduce waste and overhead costs, and runners are not likely to keep cups with them for duration of the race so their return rate is very high.

Discounted BYOC

Bring Your Own Container programs are pretty simple, allow customers to bring their own CLEAN containers and foodservice business will serve the customer in their own container. Many establishments offer discounts to these customers. Some locations were beginning to explore the option of having their own branded containers that could then be sold to loyal customers. When customers bring their own CLEAN container in they recive a loyalty discount.

There are many more program models in use, including Membership Models, Free-Share, Dinner Club and more. We'll expand on all reusable frameworks in the future.