February 10, 2024
3 min read
by Author
Get started implementing reusable foodware options for your business.



Note: for this guide, we’ll consider ‘foodware’ as receptacles that hold food - this covers plates, trays, bowls and lidded/unlidded containers.  

It’s certainly possible to reduce your consumption of foodware items, and it’s easier than you may think. Here are some practical tips.

Menu optimisation

Examine items for opportunities to reduce packaging. Question if some items are overly packaged, for example, are you using a burger box, when a paper bag will do? Could thick sauces be directly poured into containers to eliminate the need for sauce cups?

Offer your customers to opt-In

Sometimes customers may not need a lid, or they don’t require sauce with their meal. You can instruct your staff to ask before automatically providing these items.

Offer reusable condiments

If you provide sauces, consider a self-service station where the customer can help themselves from refillable squeeze bottles.

Provide reusable items for dine-in

Reusable plates and bowls elevate the dining experience and are sustainable and cost-effective.

Encourage dine-in  

Assess how welcoming your dine-in environment is - could you create a more desirable atmosphere? Comforts like coffee table books, newspapers, plants, ambient lighting, music, cushions, blankets, free wifi etc. may encourage people to stay rather than takeaway.

A dine-in discount could also be offered.

A bonus is the opportunity to upsell... “would you like another drink?”

Encourage BYO takeaway containers

Not just for cups, many people want to BYO their containers for refill. You can allow and encourage this from your customers.

As reusable containers come in different sizes, portion your food based on weight or portion size, rather than basing it on container size.

Then let customers know you will accept their containers through signage near your POS.

You can add incentive options  -  some ideas are:

  • BYO discount - you can make this the same or less than the price of the single-use container to avoid any financial loss
  • Single-use surcharge - this has been shown to be more effective in changing behaviour than a discount. You don’t need to increase your prices -  just separate the cost of the packaging out and give the customer the option of not paying for the packaging.
  • BYO loyalty cards - Customers get their 10th meal free (or a discount) when they BYO container or dine-in.

Sell branded containers

Sell your own branded, quality reusable containers and offer the first refill free or discounted.

Provide reusable items for takeaway

This is best used with your regulars. Have some reusable containers on hand. Your customer pays an initial deposit for use of the container, which is refunded on return, or swapped with another full container when they order again.

For high volume cafes - consider a container swap network. This is a third-party system where cups/containers are provided to you, and you offer them to your customers (usually through a deposit or app).  Customers can return the item to any business participating in the network.

Staff empowerment

Train your staff on the importance of reduced packaging and reusable alternatives. Their support will resonate positively with your customers.  For example:

   "We’re championing reusable containers - did you BYO container today?”

    "If you haven’t, we have a container swap system you can choose to use.”

    “Just bring it back clean next time you come.”

Training can be included in the normal FOH induction procedures. You can incentivise this and reward staff who do it well, e.g., staff member of the month.

Monitor and adjust

Regularly evaluate the impact of your efforts and make adjustments as needed.

Celebrate and communicate your efforts

Share your commitment to reducing single-use on your menu or in-store signage.

Recognise and celebrate milestones in reducing single-use items.

Utilise social media and other marketing channels to inform customers about your initiatives and showcase your cafe as a leader in sustainability, attracting like-minded customers.

By implementing some of these straightforward measures, you can actively contribute to a more sustainable future while fostering a positive reputation within your community.

If you’d like more detailed information and implementation guides for each reusable option, see our guide library.

Please note: the content of this guide is the advice of Boomerang Alliance. It may not reflect the view of your state government and you are encouraged to seek your own independent advice. Boomerang Alliance is an impartial non-profit organisation, and we don't benefit commercially from any information we provide, or brands or products we identify'.

Plates / Trays
Bowls / Containers (bases)
T/A container (EPS foam)
Lids for Bowls / Containers


Plates / Trays
Bowls / Containers (bases)
T/A container (EPS foam)
Lids for Bowls / Containers

Want to save this for later?

Simply click on the button below to print off this page so you have have a copy to refer to later.