If there was one thing that the food and beverage industry learned in 2020 – 2021, it was the importance of take-out service. Faced with ever-changing rules and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses only survived due to take-out. While dine-in sales plummeted, take-out sales rose by an astounding 59%. With more to-go options than ever before, it is clear that take-out is here to stay as a primary source of revenue for restaurants.
Given this new reality, it is more important than ever for restaurants, bars, and other eateries to have well-designed packaging for to-go orders. What may have been an afterthought in the past is now at the forefront for many businesses. Having a great design on custom take-out bags can make a big difference in marketing your business and even increasing sales.
If you’re looking to up your take-out game, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered a list of some of the most creative to-go bag designs to inspire you. Once you’re ready to get started with your own printed disposable products, we are here to help.
Tell a Story
The take-out bag designs for the fast casual burrito chain Chipotle are notable for a reason: customers actually want to see (and read!) them. Each bag (plus cups and other disposable items) features original art, short stories, and even poems. While the designs themselves are simple, with brown ink on craft paper brown bags, the content is memorable.
For example, in 2015, Chipotle commissioned authors like Augusten Burroughs, Julia Alvarez, and Barbara Kingsolver to write short stories for their bags and cups. This drew national media attention and spiked interest in to-go meals from the chain – which is an incredibly effective marketing strategy.
Of course, the average mom-and-pop restaurant can’t necessarily afford to hire Jonathn Safran Foer to write a piece for their take-out bags. But there are less costly alternatives, like asking local artists to draw something, or even holding a contest for students to write a short story or poem, which will then be featured on your bags. In this way, you can get attention for your take-out bags – without breaking the bank.
Modern, Clean Style
If you have an upscale or trendy eatery, your best bet for a take-bag with an impact may be something that inspires your customers. With the right design, you may even find that customers will do your marketing for you, by taking pictures of the bags and posting them on social media.
For example, consider this bag design for the fictional bakery Keisari. Broken black lines on a white background create an intriguing grid pattern, with an opening in the center for the bakery’s name in bold black type. The design is simple, yet eye-catching and intriguing.
Bright, Bold Colors
Another great way to get your customers to do your marketing for you? Use bright colors that catch the eye. As your customers walk away from your restaurant, everyone will notice these take-out bags – and want one (filled with delicious food) for themselves.
Take this bag mock-up for Mediterraneo. The design uses four basic colors – deep blue, golden yellow, punchy red, and classic white – to make a strong visual impact. The bags are relatively simple, with text printed in one of the signature colors on top of the other color. Yet little details, like an alternating color that shows when the bag is folded over, make this a winning design.
Make It Funny
One of the best ways to create a splash with your to-go bag design? Make your customers laugh. Depending on what type of food you sell, this could involve anything from a play on words to a humorous drawing.
A great example is this gnome bread bag. The bakery used the natural shape of its products – bread loaves – to create a takeaway bag that is both cute and funny. Who wouldn’t want to get a bag that looked like a little gnome with a bread cap?
Go with a Theme
One way that you can capitalize on trends and appeal to your local customer base is by using different take-out bags throughout the year that correspond with important events or milestones in your area. For example, if your business is in Pittsburgh, you could create your logo in black and gold – and then use those bags whenever the Pens, Steelers, or even the Pirates are doing well in the play-offs.
Many larger corporations do this on a broader scale. McDonald’s offers special rainbow themed bags for LGBTQ+ Pride Month each June. If you want to do the same, such as adding pink ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness in October, just ask your bag supplier to add those elements for use during specific times of the year.
If you want to get people talking about your restaurant, one way that you can do so is by adding some intriguing elements to your to-go bag design. Like the mysterious “33” on Rolling Rock bottles, these design elements can become a conversation piece in and of themselves – and make people want to get take-out from your establishment.
Take the “Illegal Burger” bag from Bandit Burger Joints. The design was inspired by the fact that the restaurant space itself used to be an unlicensed bar. Drawing on this history, this burger joint in Oslo, Norway created packaging that features fast food crooks – making people wonder what it all means.
Make It Practical
The internet is full of lists of how we should REALLY be using packaging (are you really supposed to flip the tab on your soda can around to hold your straw?). The bottom line? People love innovative, dual purpose packaging – and you can take advantage of that with your takeout bag design.
One great example is this tearable takeout bag from a New Zealand designer. The bag is simple, but has a not-so-hidden feature: when you rip off the top, you can use the bottom portion as a “basket” from which to eat your food.
You don’t have to invest in a fancy bag with different materials to take advantage of this trend. Just print instructions directly on the bag itself (like a dotted line and text that says “tear here to enjoy) and watch your customers be delighted by your ingenuity.
Make It Obvious
One of the best take-out bag design ideas is also the simplest. In bold, graphic font or using photos or illustrations, your bag can convey the contents with just a glance.
Cup of Joe Coffee Company does this in a straightforward way. It’s name is written on its takeaway bags in bright yellow and white font…shaped to look like a coffee cup. Depending on what you serve, you can do something similar with your own bag designs – like putting your business name inside of a graphic fish illustration for a seafood restaurant.
Go for an Artistic Flair
Most to-go bags are relatively simple, with text printed on a plain white or brown background. These types of bags are practical, and can be well done. Choosing a different background color, however, can make your restaurant stand out from the crowd.
The El Almacén take-out bags are a great example. The restaurant offers a variety of take-out bags in different colors – including turquoise and soothing blue options. Each bag features beautifully drawn font and minimalist illustrations to complete the look.
Try a Cheeky Message
How your packaging looks can say a lot about you – and the type of business that you are running. A playful take-out design can go a long way towards showing people that you are invested in your business…but don’t take yourselves too seriously.
Take Brooklyn Fare, for example, This gourmet store created its own font to use on its take-out bags and other products. Each item contains a fun message – like “We’re Ready for You to Take Us Out” on the to-go bags. The end result is simple, eye-catching, and effective.
Sometimes, less is more. That can be true of to-go bag design, too. While there is something to be said for vibrant colors or bold graphics, sometimes the simplest design is the best.
Take Sqirl Los Angeles. The brown craft paper bags feature their logo in a plain font on the front. Along the sides of the bag, the restaurant’s phone number and location are printed. This bag does its job in a straightforward way – but that doesn’t make it any less effective.
Focus on What Makes You Different
Each restaurant is unique in its own way. These attributes are part of what can attract customers – like having the friendliest staff or authentic flavors. Using what makes you different for your to-go bags can help you stand out from the crowd.
For example, if you operate an ethnic restaurant, you can use this culture to inform your bag design. Firewoks is a good example of this type of design. This Asian restaurant uses elements traditionally associated with China – like dragons, bold reds and yellows, and a waving cat statue – to make its bags. The result is memorable – and tells patrons exactly what they can expect.
Inspired? Give Us a Call to Get Started
Having well-designed take-out bags can help your business thrive in a challenging market. Whether you choose a simple logo or a more complicated design, Budget Branders can help you bring your ideas to reality.
We offer a full range of custom-printed disposable products, available in quantities and at prices that make sense for small and medium sized businesses. Our team will work with you to help you make a take-out bag that boosts your marketing to the next level. To learn more or for a quote request, press the live chat button, or fill out our online contact form.