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

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’...

Ideas and Innovation
business pamphlet fair show

As we struggle to recruit and retain millennials, we had our current millennial employees invite friends who don’t work for our organization to a Q&A session where we find out why our organization is or isn’t appealing to them, and what they are looking for in an employer. I recommend doing this off-site in a casual environment so you can get honest and open feedback that could be useful for better marketing.

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

Menu Development
sweet pea ravioli

On any given night at the Wake Robin senior living facility in Shelburne, Vt., residents may find spring sweet pea and mascarpone ravioli with white wine cream sauce or acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries on the menu. These dishes, along with a new sweet-potato burger topped with cilantro aioli, aren’t just delicious, says Director of Dining Services Kathy King. They’re also completely vegetarian.

The popularity of Meatless Mondays and the growing number of people who call themselves “flexitarians” have impacted menu development in every noncommercial sector. Although...

FSD Resources