Lighthouse — Brooklyn, N.Y.
Naama Tamir and her brother launched the concept Lighthouse in 2011 with the goal of being a truly sustainable restaurant. From ingredient procurement to paying fair wages, she said, “the idea was that we could use this as a pilot to do things better for the industry at large.”
For takeout and delivery, the restaurant uses compostable packaging. But Tamir said containers taken off premises were probably just ending up in the trash since the city doesn’t have a residential composting collection program. “It felt like green washing,” she said.
Then Lighthouse was approached by DeliverZero, a New York City-based third-party delivery provider using reusable containers. “I thought this is perfect. It was a connection that allowed us to achieve something we wanted to do for a long time,” she said.
Guests order takeout or delivery through the DeliverZero app or website and the food is delivered in durable plastic reusable containers. DeliverZero tracks the numbers of containers used per order, and they can be returned to participating restaurants (or to the delivery drivers) where they are washed and sanitized.
If the containers don’t get returned, guests are charged $3.25 or so per item. Lighthouse pays a percentage of each sale to DeliverZero, as they would any third-party provider, and the cost is comparable to Grubhub and the other big players, she said.
The only problem is that the number of orders that come through DeliverZero is still very small, said Tamir. The restaurant only gets about five orders per week. “There isn’t much awareness yet, or people might be leery of having to bring things back,” she said.
Still, said Tamir, “I’m a believer in systemic change.”
Either cities get behind a composting system that accepts food packaging from businesses and residents in an energy-friendly way or they figure out a system of reusable packaging that works, she said.
“We have to go with one system and stick to it,” said Tamir. “I would love for this to be the system. It’s like a library of containers. I love the philosophy of it and I really hope it works.”