2006 Portability Study: Portable meals gain ground

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

Back to work: Presbyterian Hospital of Plano (Texas) is no exception. "More than 60% of our business leaves the cafeteria," says Mary Spicer, director of nutrition services, "mostly because of employees taking their food back to their offices." In a new tower on hospital grounds, for example, nurses prefer to take meals from the cafeteria to their break room.

Spicer doesn't stock a lot of grab-and-go items "because we have such a good foodservice program with made-to-order items," she adds. Yet, "basically anything we prepare can be packaged to go."

Portable meal volume at Plano, at 60%-plus, is far ahead of both the hospital and non-commercial average. The FSD study shows that portable meals generate 27% of sales in hospitals and 24% across the non-commercial spectrum. Customer counts, study data show, are high: 2,327 portable meal transactions (and $2,600 in total sales) per store, per week.

In some locations, portable meal sales rise so high that operators effect a wholesale change in style of service. According to the FSD study, 68% of all operators expect their portable sales to increase this year; in 2005, 55% felt that way.

For most of them this year (63%), it's because customers are demanding it. "Only 6.5% of our resident students eat a full breakfast," says Jeff DeMoss, executive director of dining services at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. "Another 10% to 12% grab a muffin and coffee on the way to class and call it breakfast." This fall, he plans to convert two residence dining halls to grab-and-go only for breakfast.

He's also setting up a commissary to support demand for more than 1,500 grab-and-go sandwiches purchased daily. "We realized we need centrally located production to generate more product without using more labor," he adds.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
bus advertising jagermeister

Because many locals use the bus system, we paid for some full bus wraps to advertise [job openings within] our dining services program. The buses go all over campus where students can see them, and to apartments where the public can see them. To top it off, the cost wasn’t much more than newspaper rates.

Managing Your Business
line kings girl goat open kitchen

Open kitchen concepts satisfy guests’ curiosity and desire for transparency. But there are some caveats. Here’s how to create a positive experience for both staff and customers when the walls are down.

Train to serve

With the back-of-house up front, everybody gets hospitality training. “Our cooks understand the food and what they’re doing incredibly, but translating that to guests requires [soft] skills that need to be honed,” says Marie Petulla, co-owner of two restaurants in Southern California.

Dress for a mess

At Girl & The Goat in Chicago, chef-owner Stephanie...

Ideas and Innovation
regions hospital exterior

One of our new concepts, YumMarket, is a play off our YumPower brand that we have out in the community. We use YumPower in K-12 schools, and there’s a kiosk in a nearby minor league ballpark. We feature only better-for-you choices, such as fresh-made pizzas, sandwiches and healthy grain salads. We want people to know we are taking care of people here the same way we are in the overall community.

Ideas and Innovation
herb garden wall

In high-volume operations, few look at herb gardens as the end-all-be-all budgeting solution. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a return on the investment. The value, operators say, is in the message herb gardens and herb walls send—that an operation uses ingredients that are fresh, sustainable and healthy. Here’s how the growing areas have paid off at three operations.

A cafeteria wall at Miles River Middle School in South Hamilton, Mass., houses three rows of hydroponic lettuce spearheaded by an interdisciplinary group of health, science, math, technology and foodservice employees...

FSD Resources