1. Take a lesson from Food Manufacturers: Food manufacturers often have a competitive edge when it comes to selecting proper packaging for fresh food products as they understand how great labeling, views of the food / ingredients, and choosing packaging that properly fits the food inside. This idea has two parts. The first is don't hesitate to work with companies that allow you to bring in great tasting packaged foods into your program. The second is look closely at how food manufacturers execute this grab and go challenge. Rarely do I find any manufacturer offering a hacked away at slice of cake in a package 3 times it's size with smeared frosting on the lid! For groups looking to do everything in-house consider how consistent and well displayed your offering will be day in and day out. Sure there might be a little more margin. Is it worth it?
2. Sandwich 101 - Show me the ingredients: How many retailers who still show very little of their delicious food ingredients in a sandwich are shocking. Show me the colorful and delicious tomatoes. A sandwich is more than just bread! Test different plating and presentation techniques. Slice a few samples in various cross-sections and see what manner looks best.
3. Build Standards - Document the process of how your products are displayed in clear packaging. A simply method is to take photos and share them with kitchen staff to ensure regular consistent plating of items in your package. Without standards every day might offer a different "mix-up" of sandwich visuals. Keep in mind some items are on display from a prior day alongside items made the same day.
4. Date the Packages - Make sure a rigorous coding or customer-facing date label is visible. Protect your guests and yourself from food born illness. Make food safety a priority by "culling" or hands-on touching every item in the cooler and checking dates every day. This program must be consistent and understood as a key priority by all staff. Ensure a double check your cold cases for "outdated culprits" by having employees review during a non-peak business time.
5. Labels - Do something unique and fun. A label should have all proper required labeling requirements, but also communicate what's inside. Consider adding a few selling points to the label and selecting a design and color that represents your brand well to the customer. Consider how to place the logo consistently in the same location day to day. Take photos of label placement as a standard and supply to responsible team members.
6. Don't overthink it: I've seen groups bring in custom or special order packaging materials for a small project. The freight costs alone might make a package an unprofitable means to package your food items. With a proliferation of options consult your packaging supplier closely. Suppliers may buy from specific manufacturers in volume and be able to pass along savings. Other packages may be manufactured 1000 miles away and offer little affordability due to all the freight costs involved. For key items you will be selling volumes of over the year, a little extra front end research will likely pay dividends in getting packaging costs to a workable number to make small grab and go side items or main entrees a profitable reality.
I was recently in a grocery store known as a market leader down south. I wasn't impressed when I reviewed their in-house cut-fruit program. While the food looked fresh, every single package had a round label strewn across the top in a different location reminding me more of my 3 year old's activity book than a professional packaged fresh food product.
I've often repeated the age old phrase, successful retailers do the things unsuccessful retailers don't want to do. Retail truly is detail. When it comes to packaging I would take your in-house program seriously. Research great affordable packaging materials and build systems for consistent best-in-class food presentation to build a successful program.