New York Eatery Rents Bowls to Diners

It’s good for the environment, the customer and the chain.

November 01, 2019

NEW YORK—To help the environment and save money on take-out packaging, Dig, a fast-casual chain, is testing reusable—not recycled—dining products, according to Restaurant Hospitality. Instead of relying on the customer to bring back the cleaned bowl on every visit, Dig is doing the work for them, including clean up.

Customers can participate in this pilot program via the Canteen by Dig phone app, which lets them rent take-out containers. The packaging is rented, returned and tracked via the app for $3 per month, which is paid through the phone app. At Dig, customers show an employee their app, and the employee places the order in the reusable container. The customer keeps the container and brings it back on the next Dig visit. Then, it is cleaned and returned to Dig’s stack of containers.

All containers are made of black melamine, a hard-shelled material, with a white plastic lid. The reusable bowls avoid the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, typically used as a “grease-proofing” agent that have been called “forever chemicals” because they do not degrade quickly. PFAS have been found in compostable bowls from several chains, including Dig, which has committed to being PFA-free by the end of 2020.

A growing number of companies are creating reusable options for foodservice operators. One of them, GO Box, serves as a dishwashing and sanitation service in Portland and San Francisco. Restaurants can distribute take-out containers to customers who can in turn deposit the containers at one of the 40 designated GO Box drop-off points in the city. The containers are then sanitized and returned to the restaurants.