2007 Portability Study: Portability on the menu

Portability continues to be a big part of most foodservice operators’ business, according to the 2007 FoodService Director Study on Portability.

By the numbers, portability continues to be a driving force in noncommercial foodservice—and operators’ actions back the statistics. Read the results of FoodService Director's 2007 Portability Study and see how the statistics play out in cafeterias and retail operations.

Portability continues to be a big part of most foodservice operators’ business, according to the 2007 FoodService Director Study on Portability. Although the overall percentage of operators surveyed who say they offer portable menu items in their dining facilities is less than last year—62% versus 70%—take-away business is still strong and anecdotal evidence suggests that portable foods will be a mainstay in noncommercial foodservice for years to come.

“Everyone wants grab-and-go,” says Denisa Cate, food and nutrition director for Henry County Medical Center in Tennessee. “And they will take away anything. We don’t need to create a grab-and-go menu. Whatever can be put in a portable package will leave our facility. We have nurses who will group together, for instance, and one of them will come down and pick up the order for all of them, and they take turns. Grab-and-go is very popular.”

Randy Sparrow, director of foodservice for Bloomington Hospital, Bloomington, Ind., concurs.

“Grab and go is picking up for our facilities,” says Sparrow. “We are selling more and more pre-packaged items such as sandwiches, any variety of fresh fruit cups and relish plates in addition to desserts and side salads. We find that more the cooler is filled the more our staff purchases. More and more of our staff are buying items so they can take their food home, back to their lounges or outside to enjoy the weather. We have always had a steady take-out business. However, we have introduced display cooking within the past year and now employees are buying the featured items and taking them home to their families.”

It’s certainly not surprising that take-away would be strong in noncommercial foodservice, since studies show that, overall, we are more and more a “take-out nation.” A recent survey by the NPD Group, for example, revealed that the average American last year ate 208 meals prepared outside the home. Of those meals, 127 were ordered to go, and 37% of respondents indicated that they had used curbside pick-up from sit-down restaurants at some point last year.

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