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.

“The menu is still upscale, but the items are things that can be prepared quickly,” says Foley.

Enhancing portability was on the minds of executives of Eurest Dining Services, a division of Compass Group, when they took a coffee bar and converted it to a full-fledged cafeteria. Caffe Ritazza debuted last year on the ground floor of the SunTrust bank in Orlando, Fla., and features entrées, specialty sandwiches and salads, soups and desserts. Dan Cramer, first vice president and corporate dining manager for SunTrust, called the conversion “the best utilization of space,” and a way to provide customers with a wide variety of items that can be picked up quickly and eaten in or taken away.

Operators say that when it comes to take-out foods, just about anything that can be put in a container can, and is, taken away from the cafeteria. Fresh-made tends to be more popular than pre-packaged, according to the survey, with entrees off the serving line accounting for 21% of the total take-out business, on average, and deli sandwiches making up another 15%. Pre-wrapped sandwiches represent another 15%, while ready-to-go entrees in refrigerated cases are less than 5% of the total.

Lunch foods tend to make up a bigger part of the take-away business than breakfast foods, as only 11% of portable business is in either breakfast to order or pre-packaged breakfast foods. Interestingly, although long-term care facilities do not do much grab-and-go business, those that do see 44% of their business from fresh-made entrees (31%) and sandwiches (13%).

The desire for portability causes operators to consider making popular foods more portable. One example is Aramark’s Corporate Services group, which has created an interesting twist on the panini. According to Scott Keats, director of culinary development for the division, the company simply took panini ingredients and placed them on a smaller ciabatta roll and is marketing it as a “minini.”

Promoting portability plays a relatively minor role in the take-away equation, with fewer than 19% saying they are looking at such ideas as couponing, discounting or e-mail promotions as business builders. College operators are most likely to use promotional gimmicks (30%) and elementary and secondary schools least likely (8%).

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