Meals on a plane

20Dec07

I often buy food at the airport so I’ll have something to eat on the plane (or while I’m waiting at the gate area). Every time, I run into the same problem: The restaurant never seems to have a plate or tray to place the food on, or the plates they have are very cumbersome. So, the food gets shoved into a plastic bag, and I end up using the bag itself, or the product packaging, or even a napkin as a makeshift eating area. Clearly, there is an opportunity to provide something better — and charge customers accordingly.

What I’d like to see is quite simple: picture a small cardboard carrier with room for a drink, sandwich, snack, etc. (I’m not sure if they’re still sold this way, but Munchkins and Happy Meals used to be packaged like that.) Now here’s the slightly creative part: The carrier unfolds to form a flat tray that you can use as your plate, and should be about the size of an airline tray table. The edges of the tray might even bend upwards to prevent items from slipping off. And when you’re done eating, you simply fold up the carrier again to discard everything.

But won’t this cost more and reduce margins for the restaurant operators? No, because under my plan, they would charge for it. $1 seems like a fair price, since the materials would probably cost no more than 25 cents. Although I haven’t done any surveys, I’ll bet this would sell like crazy to business travelers. It could even be co-branded with a corporate sponsor to reduce the cost to customers, or to further increase the profit incentive for restaurants to offer the product. Plus, I suspect the improved eating conditions would help keep airports and planes cleaner, as fewer items would be dropped or spilled on the floor and seats. For virtually everyone involved in the travel process (passengers, airport restaurants, airports, and airlines), a simple food carrier makes a lot of sense.



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