Although “The Food Enforcer” may sound like a particularly gastronomic entry in the “Dirty Harry” movie series, it’s actually the brainchild of a Trumbull entrepreneur looking to provide a means of ensuring that delivered food has not been tampered with.
“About a dozen years ago I ordered some food for delivery and the package looked like it had been opened before it got to me,” said Jeff Miller, the Trumbull resident who is working with several partners to market the safety product. “It didn’t look like it had been sealed right. After that I got sick and I vowed never to order delivery again.”
That decision “drove my wife crazy,” he said. Like most people, the Millers — or at least the missus — found that having their dining options limited to cooking at home or picking up their order to be lacking in the convenience department.
“Ever since then I kicked around some ideas on how to improve delivery,” Miller said, “and with Food Enforcer I think I’ve found it.”
The safety packaging product is essentially a hard-to-break adhesive used to seal a pizza box, Chinese food container, or other such products. If torn, Miller said, any attempt to re-attach it in a convincing manner is bound to fail.
Once involved with real estate and driving safety devices like a seatbelt-securing product called BuckleMate, Miller said he began experimenting with tamper-resistant labels in an effort to provide “a really simple solution to a major problem.”
Miller said that his research has found that up to 40 percent of people will not order delivery because of concerns over tampering. Although that data could not be confirmed, there are anecdotes of drivers sampling or deliberately contaminating the food they’re delivering.
The adhesives are manufactured by a Stratford company — Miller said that due to confidentiality agreements he could not name the firm — and are offered for free to restaurants. Income is derived by advertisers like Vaughn Family Dentistry in Trumbull, whose information is included on the label.
“It’s the most focused advertising they can get,” he said. “Customers have to look at and touch the label to get their food.”
Response from restaurateurs has been positive, he said. Monroe’s Paisano’s Pizza, American Pie and Bella Rosa Pizzeria Ristorante have been early adopters, with the latter’s owners, Sarah and Dave Zelek, issuing a statement saying: “Our customers come first and we want to make sure that we provide them with the best service possible. The Food Enforcer is a great idea and we are very happy to be a part of it.”
Miller said the plan is to continue rolling out The Food Enforcer in the local area, with an eye toward eventually taking it nationwide. He said he’s already fielded inquiries from as far away as Georgia and Florida. Miller added that his “silent partner” in Pennsylvania would like to introduce it there as well.
“There are a quarter of a million restaurants in the U.S. that deliver,” he said. “We feel that the market for this is definitely there.”