A restaurant makes reusable to-go packaging mandatory

Zuni Cafe in San Francisco is serving all of its off-premise dishes in stainless-steel bowls and boxes, which must be returned after use.
Photograph courtesy of Zuni Cafe

San Francisco’s venerable Zuni Cafe is now packaging all of its to-go orders in reusable stainless-steel containers.

The restaurant said it is the first in its area to switch to entirely reusable takeout packaging.

Zuni Cafe, a farm-to-table restaurant for more than 40 years, partnered with Dispatch Goods, a startup that provides restaurants with containers, collects used ones, cleans them and returns them to the restaurant.

Zuni is rolling the cost of the reusable boxes and bowls, fitted with silicone lids, into its menu pricing.

Customers are responsible for returning their empty containers to the restaurant or by texting Dispatch Goods to arrange a home pickup. Dispatch Goods also has collection bins around San Francisco.

“Garbage is convenient,” Zuni Chef Nate Norris told Eater. “I keep telling my team, this is going to be inconvenient, relative to garbage … We’re asking people to take on more responsibility here. But everyone is familiar with the issue with landfills and plastics. We want to show what’s possible that this can be good for us, and good for the customer. Not only that we can do this, that we should do this.”

Dispatch Goods is working with several smaller restaurants in the San Francisco area, as well as with corporations and campuses to increase adoption of reusable containers.

The pandemic, with its increased focus on off-premise orders, is sparking many concepts to examine their takeout packaging.

In October, Burger King said it would begin testing reusable packaging n New York, Portland and Tokyo starting next year. The packaging comes from TerraCycle’s Loop service, the same program McDonald’s is slated to roll out in the U.K. in 2021.



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