Bringing the Heat with Hot Bags

Today’s hot bags feature better construction and extra touches to keep food warm (or cold) from pizzeria to doorstep.

Hot bags have come a long way from their homemade early days, with improvements big and small over the decades. Here, we share some key features to keep in mind when purchasing or upgrading your bag collection and explain how to ensure they’re performing at peak level over the long haul.

Getting Better All the Time

For both catering and delivery, many of today’s bags feature better insulation to meet demand for piping-hot, nonsoggy pies from pizzeria owners and customers alike. The exteriors are breathable, allowing moisture to escape, while layers of insulation make sure the bag retains heat. White- or silver-lined, leak-proof bags are also available for sauces or anything that might spill, and silver-lined bags can be used for cold items, such as salads, as well.

Additionally, hot bags’ handles, stitching and closures have improved over the years, making them more durable. But proper insulation is a must to keep foods hot for up to 45 minutes or more. Some manufacturers offer bags with 5”-thick compressed insulation, which keeps the bags from puffing up. Nylon interior lining lets steam escape while retaining heat so pizzas don’t get soggy.

What to Look for in a Hot Bag

  • Fabrics that keep moisture out
  • Insulation (on all six sides) that keeps heat in
  • Stain-resistant fabric
  • Sturdy handles
  • Sizes that accurately fit your pizzas and sides
  • Durability
  • Cost and value
  • Branding and customization options

Heating Up

Some bags include a heating element that’s charged beforehand to maintain hot food temperatures during the drive—technology that has also improved over the years. Though heated options are pricier, operators can rely on them to maintain temperature for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on bag size and outdoor conditions. More durable heating elements promise better longevity, allowing for longer warranties (up to two years), while wiring harnesses are sturdier to prevent cords from kinking or breaking. Some manufacturers utilize PTC technology—chips or wafers that, upon receiving an electric current, will reach a certain temperature and stay there, without the need for fuses to control the temperature. Aluminum heaters also help spread the heat.

Quality Assurance

Experts recommend asking manufacturers for commercial-grade bags to suss out higher quality and better performance. Check out the thickness of the insulation to gauge the quality. Other useful features include outside pockets, although these will be more expensive. If you want a high-quality bag, expect to spend $50 to $60 per bag, and look for ½” thickness, with a semi-rigid foam to improve longevity and hold shape better over time.

Also ensure that your bags offer flexibility to hold the various items you deliver. Bags can be purchased in standard and custom sizes. Standard sizes include 2-16”, 3-16”, 3-18” and 2-20”. However, these bags should be flexible and able to hold other sizes. Though wings and pizzas can be placed in the same bag, you’ll want to separate hot items from cold items, stocking dedicated bags for each. And to help prevent loss and promote your brand, you can consider personalizing your bags via heat transfer (a less expensive method) or traditional embroidery.

Hot Bag Manufacturers Directory

  • Bag Solutions 866-224-8646, pizzajacket.com
  • Delivery Bags USA 888-501-2247, deliverybagsusa.com
  • Incredible Bag 844-545-9675, incrediblebag.com
  • National Marketing, Inc. 734-266-2222, nminc.com 
  • Perfect Crust 800-783-5343, perfectcrust.com 
  • RediHeat 888-556-2024, rediheat.com
  • Versaflex 440-327-2333, www.versa-flex.com

Know What You Need

Each pizzeria will have different needs when it comes to hot bags, but a good rule of thumb is to begin with two bags for each delivery driver, plus a couple of high-quantity bags that can hold six to 10 boxes. You may also need different bags for events—for example, 10-pie bags for large catering orders or school lunches. Fortunately, catering bags are often versatile, ideal for wings, pasta, entrees and more. Whatever you choose, start small and determine which sizes are right for your operation.

Even your style of pizza can determine what bags will fit best in your operation. A thick Chicago-style pizza might not require a self-heated bag, while a cracker-crust pie probably will.

Keeping It Clean

With regular cleaning and proper care, you can keep using your hot bags for years. Experts recommend wiping your hot bags down each night or at the end of a shift. If grease seeps through the box to the interior of the bag, make sure to wipe the spill within two hours—the longer the spilled grease remains, the harder it will be to clean.

Some bags do come with replaceable liners, but for those that don’t, experts recommend simply washing them with soap and water at least once every six months, if not more often. Just fill the sink with warm water and a mild disinfectant/detergent and scrub each bag down inside and out, then hang overnight to dry. Machine-washable bags are also available; these will typically air-dry in 30 to 60 minutes, so no dryer is required.

One final thought: If you don’t currently offer delivery at all, you might want to reconsider. Forbes notes that the online food delivery business is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2025. Many believe delivery is the future of the pizza industry. Make sure your bags—and therefore the food you deliver to customers’ doorsteps—aren’t leaving you behind!  

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.