It’s practically a given these days — especially among millennials — that people are going to snap a photo, even create a short film, to capture and share their food porn across myriad social-media platforms. One might argue that virtual food envy is more prevalent than ever thanks to the 2020 pandemic, which made takeout food the only way to make your consumption publicly conspicuous.
To that end, more and more restaurants are recognizing that memorable — even interactive — to-go containers can do more than boost brand awareness. They can also make you Insta-famous.
From witty slogans to brightly hued branded boxes, great packaging is becoming a viral phenomenon in itself. Think rainbow-colored macarons boxed up and delivered the same way you'd pull the ribbon off a baby-blue Tiffany’s box. The packaging is as important as the product, making each customer part of a community of patrons, one memorable experience at a time.
Across Miami, the number of beautiful, creative, and interactive to-go options is growing. With just a glance, these boxes can tell a brand's story during these times when a server or in-person dining experience can't.
If nothing else, it can make getting takeout on a Tuesday more of an event. Order takeout from LPM Restaurant & Bar in Brickell
and they'll pack your meal into a hand-painted canvas tote (along with one of the restaurant's signature fresh-baked baguettes). At La Mar, the Mandarin Oriental's haute Peruvian eatery, diners receive a card with a link to a Spotify playlist that evokes the ambiance of eating from its waterfront dining room. Get a to-go meal from Fiola and you'll receive a sturdy metal bucket, packed to the gills with fresh seafood.
Jennifer and Michele Kaminski of 2 Korean Girls
view the takeout experience as akin to receiving a gift.
"As a delivery-only brand, it wasn't enough to simply create a quality product," says Jennifer. "We knew we weren't going to be seeing people face to face, or offering a memorable sensory experience the same way you would with a dine-in model, so we decided to translate that tangible feeling of being connected to the brand with our packaging."
Jennifer Kaminsky of 2 Korean girls remembers what an exciting treat it was to get a Happy Meal from McDonald's.
Photo courtesy of 2 Korean Girls
The duo likens the experience of opening their bright pink boxes at home to the nostalgia you get from opening a surprise gift.
"It's a little bit of nostalgia," says Jennifer. "As an adult, I have no idea what it's like to get a McDonald's Happy Meal, but as a kid it was such an exciting treat. From the activities on the packaging to the toy you'd get inside, it elevated the experience beyond simply having a meal."
Equally important, she adds, is that the takeout experience is planet-friendly. Every meal is packaged using high-quality, sustainable materials, from bamboo utensils and chopsticks to compostable bowls, boxes, and napkins.
"With delivery on the rise — COVID or not — we realized every takeout experience is a huge dump of single-use plastic," Michele explains. "That adds a layer of guilt to eating at home. Instead, we love all of the kind words we get about our use of plant-based products. It's delivery people can feel good about."
Voilà! Fried chicken from Yardbird Southern Table!
Photo courtesy of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
In addition to creating an experience, others are just plain useful. Because it's designed for customers to eat on the go, the meal kit boxes from Yardbird Southern Table & Bar do more than just deliver you food — they also display it.
Priced around $100, Yardbird's themed meal kits are packaged in convenient grab-and-go boxes. Themes have included the Super Bowl-inspired "End Zone Wings & Scooby Snack Pack" and the "Bunny Brunch Bash Box."
Dos Croquetas' packaging, meanwhile, doubles as a serving platter, plate, and Insta-worthy unveiling experience. A new slide-out tray, designed with assistance from Wynwood-based Jastor Branding, makes opening your meal a special occasion.
"We wanted something that would speak to the quality of our product. At the end of the day, croquetas aren't much to look at — it's brown, fried food. But we still wanted to display them in an elevated way," Dos Croquetas co-founder Alec Fernandez tells New Times
. "When you get your food, it's like unboxing a piece of jewelry."
Croquetas aren't much to look at, but the unveiling can be fun.
Photo courtesy of Jastor Branding
Jastor founder and creative director Jason Torres says part of his agency's philosophy is to create an "Instagrammable" experience, whether its for a real estate condominium or a restaurant. To date, the company has also created photo-worthy packaging for Night Owl Cookies, luxury ice cream brand Quore Gelato, and the Versailles restaurant chain, among others.
"We transform their packaging into an engaging brand asset, which is important during times like these where consumers don't come in contact with the people or the brick and mortar side of your store," Torres says. "Packaging is the one experience where you can engage a consumer and provide them with your brand message."
Similarly, Miami's at-home sushi experience has gone next-level, from Omakai's picture-filled omakase boxes that show you what you're eating as you open the box to the bamboo bento box you'll receive (and keep) when you order lunch from Makoto in Bal Harbour.
While those are functional, others are eye-catching. Newly launched, delivery-only Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen
lets you order his most popular dishes — all of which arrive in boldly branded boxes designed to appeal to all your senses while keeping your meal hot and fresh.
Delivery-only newcomer Bubusan takes beautiful boxes to new heights. Order an eight-inch "Magic" sushi pizza or customizable omakase box and you'll receive a colorful work of art developed by Wynwood-based DeepSleep Studio
's creative director Alex Martinez, who drew inspiration from Japanese street art fused with Hindu and Indian design elements.
"We wanted to stand out from the many new delivery concepts that have opened in South Florida and thought, 'what better way to do that than with bright vibrant colors?'" explains Martinez, who plans to curate new imagery on a quarterly basis by collaborating with various photographers. "Bubusan is about art, because sushi itself is an art."
To make the dining experience truly unique, Bubusan has added an innovative technological aspect to its packaging. Within each omakase box, the team has integrated a virtual-reality component with a secret message that must be unlocked using a virtual key.
"It provides an interactive element that is usually missed in the takeout experience," Martinez says. "Re-creating that experience is what it's all about."