Putting a Lid on it – Making takeaway spillages a thing of the past
Remember the days of picking up a takeaway from a shop, transporting it home in the car only to find at the end of the journey that one of the metal containers had leaked. Now your faced with a soggy disintegrating brown bag and a stubborn food stain all over your passenger seat!
This was one of the probems that I wanted to solve when opening the first Top Wok Chinese takeaway in 1994. Along with using superior quality ingredients, I knew preventing this situation from taking place would help us to stand out. To find a solution it took countless failed meetings and a 6,500 mile plane journey halfway around the world.
The first idea to solve this issue came from using Tupperware boxes. The plastic containers had become widely available in the 1980s thanks to the popular homeware parties. These would’ve made a more practical solution for transporting food home than the metal trays; plastic containers were better equipped to keep food sealed fresh and importantly prevent nasty accidents. But as with all innovations there were many barriers and one in particular; cost. The price of over £2.00 per tub meant these were completely impractical for one-off use in the restaurant delivery market.
Top Wok required a plastic container which would be resilient enough to transport the food, but not last years. I approached a number of British packaging companies to see if they would be able to manufacture a container which was thinner and cost less to buy in. The UK manufacturers couldn’t see that there would ever be any demand for such a product; ‘Who would use this. No one would buy these’ was the response at numerous meetings around the UK. Because of this, they weren’t willing to invest in a machine mould to put this item into production. Although I had a vision for the item I still had no means to manufacture it.
After many months of failed meetings by pure chance a Chef friend heard about an innovator who had just left London to return to his homeland of Malaysia. Here he’d setup a new plastic packaging company which was making resealable plastic trays to sell food items at market stalls, this could be perfect I thought. After phoning to get a description of the item (this was before the days of picture messaging remember!) and if manufacturing and exporting the product was viable I arranged a flight to Kuala Lumper. After seeing a sample of the short-life plastic containers Top Wok immediately signed up to perform the UK trial of the product. A few pallet loads were then shipped to Dorset the following week.
The trial was of course a great success and customers loved the new containers which they were also able to re-use. We committed to buying the product making Top Wok the first takeaway in the UK to use the resealable plastic containers. Hopefully we played a small role in making passenger seat sauce disasters a thing of the past.
We continue to innovate at Top Wok Parkstone as part of our core philosophy to be the best. Recently we spent a considerable investment on improvng our kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment. We’re also trialling a new scheme giving local youths the opportunity to train as chefs which we look forward to telling you about in due course.
Hope to see you soon at Top Wok Parkstone soon,