4 Recipes for Takeout Packaging Design that Sells

From childhood, we’re all taught not to judge a book by its cover. It seems, however, that this rule doesn’t apply to product packaging. That’s what researchers from the University of Miami and the California Institute of Technology recently discovered, in a study showing that the visual attractiveness of a food product can play a significant role in consumers’ purchase decisions.

In the restaurant industry, your takeout packaging design is one of the best “business cards” you can offer. It can draw in new customers, encourage loyalty in existing ones, and generally drive business. Making this happen doesn’t need to be an enormous project—there are several simple ways to create packaging with a design that’s memorable and creates customer loyalty.

Of course, culinary businesses aren’t the only ones that can boost their marketing efforts using effective packaging and other functional materials. Anything from CDs to beauty products to office supplies can come in a package, presenting tremendous opportunities for attracting and retaining customers.

So whether you’re in the restaurant industry or not, it’s worth taking note of these four recipes for takeout packaging that sells:

1. Look Tasty

Everybody knows you eat with your eyes before you eat with your mouth, and the same goes for takeout packaging. Think about it like the special gift wrapping that gets your customers excited about the present they’re about to receive. Eating is a social experience, whether at work or out with friends—so when someone brings a striking takeout box to the table, it’s bound to attract attention and new customers for you. And take note: Tasty packaging is important for non-culinary business too. Even if what’s inside isn’t edible, a wrapper or case that looks delicious can get your prospective customers salivating over what’s inside.

Here are some tips for making your takeout packaging as appetizing as possible:

  • Get inspired. Start by opening your mind to existing ideas for beautiful packaging. Pinterest is an awesome place to seek inspiration and browse the amazing diversity of choices already out there. Some examples are simple, some are dazzling, but all of them are memorable.
  • Get recognized. Your takeout’s look should evoke your business’ brand identity. Colors, motifs, and shapes that already appear in your establishment should be incorporated into your packaging, so they’ll stick in your customers’ minds for the long run.
  • Get professional. Once you’ve looked at some possibilities and examined your own brand identity, you should seek professional help from a designer. Don’t worry: There are dozens of freelance designers and branding firms that are geared toward small and midsize businesses, with prices that these SMBs can afford. Check out their portfolios and pick the one that best fits your needs and price range.

2. Make Reusability Your Friend

These days, consumers are looking for extra value in every product they buy. Luckily, your takeout packaging can do so much more than just contain food.

Recycling isn’t just about creating new products from existing materials—it’s also about finding new ways to use old products. Glass jars and plastic containers are simply begging for reuse. Instead of just offering packaging, why not distinguish yourself from the competition by offering your customers new ideas for reusing that material?

pizza packaging
coffee packaging

3. Use Your Very Own Billboard

When you have your own packaging, you control a medium that will convey messages to your customers, whether you mean to or not. You can—and should—promote yourself through that medium, transforming packaging from your last interaction with a customer into the first of many.

How? One of the best ways is by promoting your mobile app. (If you don’t have an app yet, you can easily create one yourself.) Customers can then download your app via a QR code, put your brand on their smartphone, and order directly from your company.

Of course, just asking your customers to get your app probably won’t generate many downloads. Instead, focus on a short and feasible call to action that explains the value of getting the app, such as “Scan and download our app to save 25% on your next order!” or “Download our app for special offers and fast ordering.”

You could also prompt your customers to like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter, but be aware that these platforms will likely bring in less business directly than your app. To make the most of your social feeds, embed them in your app, letting your customers access all your social channels in one place.

qr code on packaging

4. Test the Waters First

Before diving in, be sure to present your packaging designs to members of your target audience. You can do this in the comfort of a focus group composed of your most loyal and trusted clientele, or you can simply select certain customers who will get the new packaging. Either way, follow up afterwards by checking in with these customers to hear their thoughts. Listen carefully to what they have to say, ask questions that can give you important insights, and, above all, don’t be afraid to make changes according to their suggestions.