Many delivery drivers admit to taking food from orders, and tamper-evident packaging could keep them out of the chicken nuggets

California passed a law requiring tamper-evident packaging for restaurant food delivery, and it may catch on everywhere
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4 min read

In January, TikTok user @doordashtips2 posted a video from his car in which he said a DoorDash customer had left a measly $1 tip when placing an Arby’s order—an order the driver had not yet delivered and was rifling through. When he sees fries, he says, “Oh, man, that’s my favorite,” reaches into the bag, and eats one. “Thank you, $1 tipper,” he said in the video, which has garnered more than 889,000 views.

The driver told Bored Panda he’s been delivering for DoorDash since 2016.

But Julian Crowley, DoorDash’s director of trust and safety communications, told us in an email that the company has “strong reason to suspect this video is fake and forms part of a trend where people staged videos about dashing for social media.” He added that DoorDash is “serious about food safety” and has “robust safeguards in place to help ensure food is delivered safely.”

Whether or not that particular TikTok video is real, though, surveys suggest that delivery drivers do give in to temptation.

  • 79% of food-delivery drivers admitted to eating customers’ food, according to a 2022 survey by Circuit, a last-mile tech startup. (In the same survey—let’s hope they had hand sanitizer—10% said they had urinated in a bottle while delivering.)
  • A 2019 survey by US Foods found the practice less prevalent, with 28% admitting they’ve taken food from orders.
  • 85% of consumers said they’d like restaurants to use tamper-resistant labels on packaging, the US Foods survey also found.

A California law that went into effect in 2021 requires that restaurant orders delivered by third parties use packaging that is “tamper-evident,” the term for methods that don’t prevent contamination, but indicate when something has been opened.

With California often a bellwether for laws adopted in other states, packaging companies are developing tamper-resistant methods for their restaurant customers.

The dawn of protective packaging came in 1982, after seven people died from taking Tylenol that had been laced with cyanide. Today, there’s not much left in the supermarket, besides the produce section, that has not been sealed for your protection. So tamper-evident packaging for restaurants could be the norm soon, too.

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Containment strategy: Natha Dempsey, president of trade association the Foodservice Packaging Institute, told us tamper-evident packaging for prepared foods first caught on for “grab-and-go” items, like sandwiches or salads in sealed clamshell containers at the airport.

But with the surge in restaurant delivery during the pandemic, Dempsey said there’s more demand for tamper-evident packaging, and suppliers are trying to outdo one another with new options.

“Are we seeing more people come out with products on the market that are tamper-evident based? Yes.” Dempsey said. “Are we seeing various shapes and sizes? Yes. And do I think we’re going to see more of this? Yeah, I do.”

Connecticut-based Inline Plastics developed its familiar tamper-resistant clamshell packaging, Safe-T-Fresh, which seals when closed, more than 15 years ago. It claims on its website to be the “first tamper-evident & tamper-resistant polypropylene packaging product family on the market.”

Ohio-based Inno-Pak takes a different approach, with a bag-sealing cardboard product: Handle Cuffs. Once a paper bag with handles has been filled with an order’s items, the product folds over the top to seal it and can be opened once it’s delivered by pulling a strip, like the one on a FedEx envelope.

“What’s nice about Handle Cuffs is that you don’t have to provide a tamper-evident package for every food item,” Nathan Kraatz, marketing specialist at Inno-Pak, told us. “You can provide a tamper-evident solution to your bag and that protects every food item inside, so you don’t need five or six tamper-evident cartons… It’s cost-effective in that sense.”

Dishing the dirt: Kraatz said restaurants should be keeping food protected on deliveries irrespective of whether customers have seen viral videos or read stats about delivery drivers sampling orders. Worse than someone suspecting someone’s stolen some fries, he told us, could be them not suspecting.

“You’ve got a mad customer who probably thinks that you shorted them or that you’re overcharging them for too-little portions,” he said. “They don’t know what happened. And so they are pretty much always going to blame it on the restaurant.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.