2006 Portability Study: Portable meals gain ground

Sixty-eight percent of all operators expect their portable sales to increase this year.

Most non-commercial operators provide customers with a variety of portable meal options. For some, grab-and-go is, or is becoming, a way of life, according to FSD's 2005 Portability Study.

College students love their burritos, no question, especially on the West Coast, where burrito stands, taquerias and quick-service Mexican restaurants are as common as pizzerias in New York, coffee bars in Seattle or bratwurst carts in Chicago.

But what does the iPod Generation crave more, food or speed (of service)? At the University of California-Berkeley, it's the latter at the Golden Bear, the largest of four convenience store, like retail units, according to Shawn LaPean, director of CalDining.

Burritos were selling at a 100-a-day clip, LaPean says, but customer counts went up tenfold when staff converted the made-to-order burrito station to a wrap station. "Speed of service is essential," he comments. Golden Bear attracts 5,000 customers daily; with seating for 35, "virtually all business is grab-and-go," he adds.

What holds true for the Golden Bear doesn't quite hold true for the entire non-commercial marketplace, but it's getting there, according to FoodService Director's most recent Business-Builder Study on Portability, which determines the extent to which operators are serving either grab-and-go (pre-packaged), take-out meals (packaged at the time and point of service) or both. B&I is the market leader: 86% sell portable foods, with colleges a close second at 82%.

Trends show that for many wage-earners, the "lunch hour" is a thing of the past and that many employees in a variety of occupational settings work through lunch.

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