Take home food, bring back the dish: North Bay restaurants look at reusable containers to reduce waste

Naomi Crawford, owner of the Lunchette restaurant in Petaluma, uses plant-based fiber bowls for everything.

She believes reusables are the future. So that’s why she wants to be part of a pilot program with San Francisco-based Dispatch Goods.

Dispatch Goods’ business model is to provide businesses with reusable containers for take out.

Containers are mostly out of stainless steel and glass. The pizza pan is aluminum.

The company started servicing Marin County in the spring. It is eyeing Sonoma County as a trial location before committing to it full bore.

“We need critical mass in an area to expand our operations. We are looking at two to five restaurants in Sonoma County to make Dispatch their default. When we get that, we will expand there,” explained CEO Lindsey Hoell.

Eight products are available through Dispatch; they come in circles, squares, rectangles, jars for soups and broths, and a sheet tray.

Products today don’t stack inside each other, which can be problematic for companies needing to store inventory. That is why Hoell said her team is working to design its own containers.

The company has about 130,000 items for its 40 restaurant partners to choose from; with more businesses coming on board regularly.

“Customers are getting takeout in our reusable bags and containers. We offer a collection service. We go to neighborhoods once a week, then take it to our processing facility and it’s cleaned and ready for a reorder,” Hoell told the Business Journal. “Customers that haven’t returned our containers will get a text as reminder after four days.”

She expects a single container could be used thousands of times.

While Hoell believes the best solution is for a restaurant to use only their product, that isn’t always what’s happening.

At Bungalow 44 restaurant in Mill Valley the Dispatch Goods containers are used for locals, while others get a compostable product. The eatery puts a to-go order in Dispatch Goods products, not leftovers. This is because people have signed up for the service, agreeing to pay $2 for up to 10 containers per order.

“Our regulars, they caught on really fast. They don’t have to wash it or anything; just bring it back in the bag,” said Leslie Morgan, manager of Bungalow 44. “It is really easy for us. We just had to create space to store everything.”

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