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

Menu Development
induction cooking nuts

Thanks to prolific fast casuals such as Chipotle, guests have come to expect a certain level of customization in their dining options. For almost 50% of Generation Zers, customization is a deciding factor when purchasing food, according Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report . Taking customization even further, operations are handing over even more control to customers with both build-your-own and cook-your-own stations.

Elder Hall’s My Kitchen station at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offers a daily rotating ingredient bar with items such as stir-fry,...

Managing Your Business
business marketing concepts drawing

Sharp, smart marketing materials can make all the difference when it comes to drawing a big crowd for a menu launch or upcoming event. With more avenues to cover than ever and fewer resources to go around, operators offer their tips on making marketing work from start to finish.

Start with communication

Whether it’s an in-house marketing department, an outside agency or someone on staff wearing the marketing hat part-time, the right people need to be involved early and often. “Marketing doesn’t always have a seat at the table [like] it should in order to be truly effective,” says...

Menu Development
health food medicine stethoscope

For the last two years, Chris Studtmann has jockeyed between Northwestern University’s residential dining halls and athletic training tables in his role of executive chef, trying to meet the health and food preferences of both sides. Now, his team is taking best practices developed for the sports teams to the 20,000-plus student population, working with dietitians from the school’s contract company to better sync healthy menu choices with lifestyle needs.

Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows younger consumers are especially tuned in to functional foods that...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

FSD Resources