2005 Portability Study: Meals on the move

FoodService Director's first annual portability study.

Marketing Matters

So you offer foods to-go—but do your customers know you do?

Foodservice operators often say that demand for portable meal options is not difficult to spot. It’s often the case where customers make their needs known clearly—stating them verbally as well as with their dollars.

In fact, 58% of operators expecting portable sales to increase say that’s in response to stated customer demands, according to FSD’s Portability Business-Builder Study.

But that doesn’t mean operators just sit back and expect the pre-packed salads, heat-and-eat burritos or other portable items to fly out the door on their own. The need to market portable meals may not be necessary with respect to customers already familiar with it, but what about new hires? What about diehard “brown-baggers?” Or the fact that you offer portable items for catering?

Alan Lamoureux, corporate foodservice manager for J.M. Family Enterprises, a vehicle distribution and processing firm in Deerfield Beach, FL, says portable meal options available at his cafes are marketed in several ways: at new-hire orientations, in posters and table-tent cards, and via intranet postings.

On the run: At headquarters, there are two cafés, each averaging 335 meals a day; at three separate facilities in Jacksonville, daily lunch volume is 100. Of that, 7% of sales are portable items. “We offer a variety of portable menu items in grab-and-go and take-out styles,” Lamoureux, says, “allowing associates to get a quick, wholesome meal on the run.

“We also have an order form on our cafeteria’s home page [allowing] customers to order meals to go, which are based on our daily lunch menu.”

In addition, the cafés offer packaged and refrigerated dinners for take-home (or back-to-office) in display merchandisers. “Sales are growing as we increase availability, variety and healthier choices” of portable items, he continues. “We expect this piece of business to continue to grow as we listen to feedback on what [customers] are looking for regarding convenience, quality and value. We continue to improve the execution of our preparation and packaging processes to make the por­tability concept easy and effective.”

Electronic marketing—namely, Web site postings and e-mail advertising—is tailor-made for the typical portable meal customer, several operators suggest. “E-mail is probably our biggest advertising [method] right now,” says Regina Toomey-Bueno, director of food, nutrition and transport at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ. Messages to employees communicate menus, specials and service changes.

All menus are posted on the hospital intranet and sent out in paper form weekly. “Plus, there’s a weekly hospital newsletter and we put in ‘teasers,’” she adds.

All on its own: Other operators say portable meal sales grow through less-specific marketing efforts. Dave Bayne, director of nutrition services at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is one such operator.
Portable sales grew last year for the fourth year in a row, he says, most likely due to “general marketing” efforts. “We’re looking at our entire program again, but we’re not looking to re-invent the wheel,” he notes.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The new unpaid-balance policy at Canon-McMillan School District in Pittsburgh is making waves after a former cafeteria worker sounded off about the practice on social media.

Stacy Koltiska said she quit her job with the district after being forced to take hot meals away from students who owed lunch money, CBS News reports .

Under a new policy that was implemented at Canon-McMillan this year, students whose lunch debt exceeds $25 are not allowed to receive a hot lunch. Children in grades K-6 are given a sandwich in its place, and older students receive no lunch. A recent...

Industry News & Opinion

Due to low participation in its lunch program, Talawanda School District in Oxford, Ohio, is raising the price of school meals this year, Patch.com reports .

The cost of school lunches will see a 30-cent increase, half of which is being enacted to cover the district’s budget. The other half is being required by the government to cover the cost of free and reduced-price lunches provided to low-income families. Prior to this year, the district had not raised prices since 2009.

The district’s cafeterias have experienced a decline in student participation since implementing the...

Industry News & Opinion

Six Philadelphia hospitals were honored by the city’s department of public health for healthy food initiatives introduced as part of the local Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program, bizjournals.com reports .

The hospitals each debuted healthy measures to their dining services, such as lowering the cost of water bottles and seltzers, and offering dishes that incorporate local produce. One hospital was also honored for operating its own organic farm.

The facilities that were honored were:

Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern...
Sponsored Content
chili flakes and peppers spicy hot

From Catallia.

When planning your menus, take note: college and university students think spicy is hot.

Fifty-seven percent of consumers age 18-34 find spicy flavors, “extremely appealing,” according to Technomic. And almost 50% of college students surveyed said they would like their schools to offer more ethnic foods and beverages, states a recent Technomic College & University Consumer Trend Report. Translation: they like their food kicked up a notch!

More Options than Ever

“Students of today are all about flavor,” says Steve Mangan, director of dining for...

FSD Resources