2005 Portability Study: Meals on the move

FoodService Director's first annual portability study.

Students at the University of North Colorado, in Greeley, started clamoring for lunches-to-go in the early 1990s, just as the trend for portable meals started to heat up. The university had recently made changes to class schedules, shortening the time between classes and thus forcing many students to skip lunch altogether. They weren’t happy about it, to say the least, so foodservice officials seized the opportunity to meet student demands while injecting some life back into their midday meal business.

The portable meal concept grew quickly in Greeley, prompting those officials to offer it at dinner and then, a year later, breakfast. In short order, students were as likely to be carrying meals of some sort between classes as they were backpacks, portable music systems featuring cassettes or CDs (remember those?) and, for a privileged few, laptop computers.

Fast-forward to today, and grab-and-go meal volume amounts to almost a third of overall board plan business, according to Hal Brown, director of dining services. “It’s a program that has evolved over the years,” he says. “We had so many students requesting it, and, working through our food advisory board, we adapted to the needs of the customer.”

Brown and the UNC campus are not alone in that endeavor. Nearly 70% of non-commercial operators participating in FoodService Director’s first annual Portability Business-Builder Study offer menu items that are intended to be consumed away from the dining hall. This includes the ever-growing grab-and-go category, consisting of foods that are specifically formulated for portability and, typically, utensil-free consumption (see charts accompanying this study); as well as meals that are portioned and packaged at the time and point of service (otherwise known as “take-out”).

Most operators discussing their portable meal business say their portable meal volume is on-par with what study results show: portable meal items account for 25% of total foodservice sales, ranging from 14% in schools to 35% in higher education. Portable sales at operations in the western United States are higher (35%) than all other areas: South, 26.4%; Central, 24%; and Northeast, 19.2%.

Pages

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The menu served at Ottawa General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, is headed for an overhaul after its CEO and management team ate a strict hospital food diet for a week and were unhappy with their options. The foodservice department has been fielding patient complaints for years, but decided to take action after facing the issue head on.

“Getting food managers to eat three meals of hospital food a day for a week brought the point home that much of the food being served was bland, institutional and not what people would normally eat,” Director of Food Services Kevin Peters told Ottawa...

Industry News & Opinion

With overtime pay likely to become a reality for some salaried foodservice employees after Dec. 1, operators are rethinking what they expect managers to do off-site as part of their responsibilities. Answering email or scheduling shifts at home didn’t matter when the employees were exempted from overtime if they earned more than $23,660 per year. But with that threshold more than doubling on Dec. 1 to $47,476, a half hour spent here and there on administrative tasks could push a salaried manager over the 40-hours-per-week threshold and entitle him or her to overtime. And how does the...

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

FSD Resources