2006 Portability Study: Portable meals gain ground

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

DEMAND DRIVES MENU QUALITY

Can you cut corners with carry-out foods? Increasingly, customers are saying: "No way!"

Grab-and-go and take-out meals generate anywhere from 18% to 28% of non-commercial operators' sales, according to the FSD Portability Study. Obviously customers are willing to sacrifice a comfortable setting such as a dining room for the convenience these meals afford. But sacrifice quality? Perish the thought.

Students at colleges and universities where Sodexo manages foodservice want freshness, speed of service and portability, according to Rob Morasco, vice president of marketing for Campus Services. They also want, no, expect, quality. "Ham and cheese on white bread is not what they want," he says. "Asiago turkey club on focaccia is more like it."

Morasco calls sandwiches and salads "the kings of portability," while yogurt parfaits and veggie crudite cups are also popular carry-out items. In fact, the demand for portable items is so great that Sodexho developed Smart Market, a cold and hot food core menu to build take-away business.

Accounts with the Smart Market concept in place experience portable meal sales increases of up to 25%, Morasco says. The program rolled out in fall 2005; by the end of the year, it was in place at 400 accounts.

Here's what other operators are offering in portable formats:

  • Cyclone Salads wrapped in paper sleeves at Shelton (Conn.) Public Schools. They're salads stuffed into a cone-shaped tortilla, according to Linda Staniszi, foodservice director. And, "sandwiches are really big. Even though we make sandwiches to order, kids pick up sandwiches in less than a minute."
  • Sandwiches, mini sandwiches, desserts, fruit cups, salads, and pepperoni-and-cheese cups at Telcordia, a Whitson Culinary Group B&I account in Piscataway, N.J. There's also a dinner-to-go program, says Mark Kirn, general manager. Dinners are packaged in 11-inch containers that are microwaveable at home.
  • Sushi bento boxes and Indian specialties at the University of California-Berkeley. "I'm amazed that students will buy bento boxes with shrimp tempura or other fried food, and microwave it later," says Shawn LaPean, director of CalDining. "But they do." They're also buying more natural and organic packaged goods.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
wage feud business

As plans to increase the minimum wage surge ahead in states such as New York and California, operators eventually will feel the reverberations shake up labor costs for more than just hourly workers. As associate wages gain on manager salaries, operators will have to answer a call for reciprocal increases. FSD spoke with operators who advised going gently into the brave new world of heightened labor costs, investing in talent and making cuts elsewhere; however, they did offer three perfectly proactive tactics to make the process as seamless as possible.

1. Keep talking

Even though...

Menu Development
craft beer flight
A draw for happy hour...

Phan plans to serve beer and wine, and depending on liquor licensing, perhaps cocktails as well. “For faculty and staff on campus, it will be a really wonderful place to come to and have a glass of wine,” Wolch says. “Right now, we have The Faculty Club bar, which is a very historic spot, but this is going to be much more contemporary.”

And for morning coffee...

Phan’s plan for made-to-order coffee is bound to be a boon for both faculty and students. “We’ll have a brand-new espresso machine,” Phan says. Wolch adds, “Most of us in the Bay Area are, if not...

Ideas and Innovation
chicken herbs

We make and broadcast short YouTube videos on TV monitors to educate our customers about cooking techniques, like how to cut up a chicken or what herbs and spices go well together. The monitors also are used to display daily menus, nutritional and allergen information, upcoming foodservice events and local weather forecasts.

Managing Your Business
wurster west may 2016

At a nearly 150-year-old university, every stone column and classroom has treasured stories to tell. But with that history come the logistical challenges of operating in outdated spaces—especially for foodservice. Such is the case at University of California at Berkeley, where longtime cafe Ramona’s in Wurster Hall closed in March to make way for an updated, as-yet unnamed concept.

With little more than a steam table and coolers, Ramona’s was limited by its lack of ventilation. And, as a former classroom space, it never was intended to function for foodservice, says Jennifer Wolch...

FSD Resources