As if the pandemic hasn’t presented restaurant owners with enough conundrums over the past 16-plus months, Bungalow 44 co-owner Peter Schumacher had another one drop into his lap several months ago.
“Through the course of the pandemic, we obviously leaned heavily on takeout because we were so limited with indoor and outdoor dining for long stretches,” Schumacher says. “But takeout is really hard – it’s so many boxes and packaging and it’s impossible to avoid it. And it’s just so bad for the environment.”
He learned about Dispatch Goods, a San Francisco-based firm founded by Maia Tekle and Lindsey Hoell, from Susan Hopp and Plastic Free Marin of the Sierra Club, a font of great info when it comes to reusable materials and strategies to reduce waste, including the CommUnity Cup, an innovative, community-centered pilot program born right here in Mill Valley that seeks to replace single-use café cups with a lending system of reusable cups for Mill Valley’ans and others to enjoy.
Dispatch Goods provides businesses with reusable containers for take out and is running a pilot program in Marin. Containers are primarily stainless steel and glass. Bungalow 44 pays Dispatch Goods $5 per order and charges customers $2 per order, and thus takes a $3 hit per order.
But not surprisingly, Dispatch Goods’ program won’t last beyond a pilot unless more than one restaurant in Marin jumps on board. Bungalow 44 has a drop-off kiosk on site, but Schumacher acknowledges that he’s gong to “give it a few months” to see if his fellow restaurateurs join the program.
“We need critical mass in an area to expand our operations. We are looking at two to five restaurants in Sonoma County to make Dispatch their default. When we get that, we will expand there,” Hoell told the North Bay Business Journal.
At Bungalow 44, Dispatch Goods containers are used for locals, while others get a compostable product. The restaurant puts a to-go order in Dispatch Goods products, not leftovers. This is because people have signed up for the service, agreeing to pay $2 for up to 10 containers per order.
“Our regulars, they caught on really fast. They don’t have to wash it or anything; just bring it back in the bag,” Bungalow 44 manager Leslie Morgan told the NBBJ. “It is really easy for us. We just had to create space to store everything.”