Dishcraft, the automated dishwashing as a service startup, announced today the launch of its reusable takeout container program, Serve it Safe. The new service aims to help restaurants reduce waste by serving takeout meals in sanitized, reusable containers.
Dishcraft first announced its reusable takeout container service just under a year ago. The company developed the Serve it Safe containers in collaboration with environmental nonprofit UPSTREAM. The first Serve it Safe containers will be available at Tootsie’s at the Stanford Barn in Palo Alto, California in a pilot program that will run for four weeks beginning today.
Tootsie’s will place takeout orders in the new reusable containers. When diners are finished, they can drop off the empty container in one of the Dishcraft collection bins located at or near the restaurant. Dishcraft then picks up the containers daily for cleaning and sanitizing before bringing them back to the restaurant the next day.
The reusable container service is similar to Dishcraft’s initial line of business, which is dishes as a service. Prior to the pandemic, Dishcraft was working with restaurants and cafeterias to collect, clean and return dishes on a daily basis. Dishcraft built a robot that used computer vision to automate the dishwashing process.
But then the pandemic hit and restaurants closed their dine-in operations, shifting towards delivery and takeout options. This helped the restaurant generate much needed revenue and stay in business, but definitely came at an environmental cost as single-use containers were used to package food.
It also meant Dishcraft didn’t have restaurant dishes to wash. So as startups do, the company pivoted and began developing its reusable container program. Dishcraft says the cost of its reusable containers includes daily service and is similar to what restaurants pay for disposable containers.
This is obviously a limited pilot program, but hopefully it can begin to answer some issues that immediately come to mind. Cost and ease will be paramount to both restaurants and consumers. For restaurants, the price of the containers can’t eat too much into their already-thin margins, and the containers will need to be readily available. For consumers, the process of returning the containers will need to be dead simple. No one really wants to carry around dirty dishes in their bags or backpacks when throwing out old containers is so much easier.
There is reason for optimism, however. Restaurants are already signaling their willingness to break up with single-use plastics and consumers are more aware of our plastic crisis than ever before. Perhaps Serve it Safe is actually serving itself up at just the right time.