Stiina using reusable coffee cup

A 7-step guide to building your reusables system

About this article

Unsure of the right reusables system for your foodservice business? Lauren Mooney, one of Verive’s Founders and current Head of European Brand Development at Bunzl, is here to help you navigate the numerous options step-by-step.  

calender 22 Apr 2024
clock 5 min
user Lauren Mooney

Step 1. Mapping your user environment and offering 

To begin with, it’s important to ask yourself where you are planning to use reusable packaging, and the items you plan to serve in it. The environment in which you operate impacts what reusables system works best for your business. For example: Is your environment ‘closed’, like an office building or theme park? Or is it ‘open’, like a hospital canteen or food truck festival? 

The need to understand the use environment is key to planning how to reach the highest possible numbers of packaging reuses. This is the starting point of your reusable systems journey. Further down we dive deeper into getting your reusables back (step 4).  

With each use environment comes a user. This means you need to assess whether your reusables are being used by professionals in a work environment or by young adults at a party. The users, plus the use environment, impact how the packaging is handled and thus what quality level you should opt for. 

And of course, in deciding on the most suitable hardware, the food or drinks you are offering up to customers are key. Do you serve different sizes of drinks? Are they hot or cold? What appearances would you like your meal boxes to have? And, something we will return to below, do you require ‘smart’ integrations like RFID chips? 

Check out Verive’s reusables range here 


Step 2. Choosing your branding 

Once you’ve found your ideal reusable food and drink packaging, it’s time to think about how to make it uniquely yours. Did you know you can personalise all of Verive’s reusables in a variety of ways? Businesses can simply add a logo to one of our off-the-shelf products or go all in with a custom Pantone-coloured cup or meal box to match existing branding. With Verive, we can make your packaging dreams comes true.  

While nearly anything is possible, it’s important to know that branding on reusable packaging may look and feel different than it does on disposable packaging. Would you like to see your branding come to life before you order? Our team is happy to provide you with mock-ups of how your branding can be translated into reusable food packaging that is uniquely yours. 


Step 3. Deciding to wash in-house or off-site

Using reusables means migrating to a fully reusable system. After your customer enjoys a delightful snack, tasty meal, or delicious drink, then the reusable packaging needs to be washed properly for reuse. In mapping out the ideal process, you need to consider whether you have the capacity to wash on-site or whether you prefer to have this done externally. When deciding what’s best for you, keep in mind reusables need to be washed within 72 hours after use. 

Importantly, for on-site washing you need the capacity and the right hardware. That’s why we offer you all the support you need. From rinse aid to help your Polypropylene, Polycarbonate and Composite reusables dry well – because they have different drying features compared to glass and ceramics – to racks that keep your packaging in place during washing.  

If you opt for off-site washing, then one of our external partners comes to your location and picks up the crates with stacked dirty cups and meal boxes. At the moment of pickup, they will hand you fresh, washed cups in return. This means you never run out of clean reusables. For more information on minimum volumes and processes, just reach out to us. 


Step 4. Choosing a return system 

Have you already decided what reusables you’d like to offer customers, and whether you will wash them internally or externally? Then the next step is thinking through a return incentive. For instance, how likely is it customers will voluntarily return their cups after use? Or do you think an incentive, like reward or deposit scheme, is needed? Calculating an expected return rate is important for determining whether a monetary incentive or possible penalty is necessary.  

These schemes can be either manual or ‘smart’. Smart systems make use of technologies with QR-codes or chips, like NFC or RFID chips, to track your reusables throughout the system and potentially implement a deposit, reward or penalty system. Feel free to reach out to us to help you find the perfect fit. 

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Step 5. Selecting hardware 

Depending on the reusables and washing system you choose, you will need the right hardware to execute your system. What do we mean by hardware exactly? Collection bins, crates to support washing operations, and tokens should you use a manual token system. 

With Verive 360, we have everything in place to support a hassle-free reusables kick-off. Read more about Verive 360, or simply get in touch for more information. We’re happy to think alongside you and design a system that works best for your business. 


Step 6. Communicating changes internally 

With every behavioural change, team communication is key. It’s important your staff knows what is expected from them to make the new reusables system work. For example, bar personnel may now have to scan the cups before handing them out, or ask the customer for a small deposit fee. Or perhaps the facilities staff have to empty the reusables collection bins separately. To get the most of out your reusables it is key everyone needs to be informed about changes, understand why they are needed, and adapt operations accordingly. 


Step 7. Market externally 

Something we commonly see is that customers are unsure of where to return their reusables after use. That’s why it’s important to make this step as easy as possible, and that begins with communication. This means having enough collection for cups and/or meal boxes, designing an intuitive system, and then using clear markings and signage to guide your customers.  

There are many ways of marketing your reusable system, and given the increasing awareness consumers have about environmental issues, the goodwill is there. Capitalize on this momentum in order to get the most out of your reusable system. 


Ready to get your reusables system up and running? 

Now is the time for you to switch to reusable packaging for your food and drinks. Our team, as well as our external washing partners, are here to support you every step of the way. Get in touch today to begin your reusables journey. 

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Lauren Mooney

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