2008 Portability Study: Portability rules

Seventy-five percent of operators are looking to grow their grab-and-go business.

However, she adds, employee customers won’t necessarily be looking to take foods back to their desks.

“A lot of employees have expressed an interest in take-home dinners,” she explains. “Whenever we menu chicken dumplings, for example, people will get extra servings to take home.”

Boucher believes a rotisserie station planned for the new servery will feed into the desire for portability, because customers will be buying whole roasted chickens to take home for dinner.

Portable foods are by no means the main driver for any institution or company’s foodservice program. On average, about 22% of a department’s total business is generated by portable menu items. The highest percentage, 25%, is found in hospitals, followed by 24% in schools and 22% in colleges. Interestingly, although every B&I operator surveyed offers portable foods, only 18% of their revenue on average comes from such items.

What people are buying: The basic rule as regards portability is this: If it can fit into a portable container, customers will take it out. According to our respondents, there is no single type of food that dominates as a portable item. Salad items from salad bars and entrées from the main or grill lines are most popular, with 16% of portable business on average coming from these stations.

Beverages, at 15%, are next, followed by deli sandwiches (14%), pre-packaged breakfast foods (9%) and other pre-packaged foods such as sandwiches and salads (8%).

Each market segment obviously has its preferences. For example, colleges are most likely to see entrées taken from the cafeteria, with 22% of take-away business from this category. By contrast, B&I operators report only 9% of portable business comes from entrées. For these operators, deli sandwiches are the hot ticket, making up nearly 19% of business. Hospitals tend to see a healthy focus, with the largest single percentage of portable business—20%—coming from salad bars.

Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., recognizes that portability can mean any type of food, so Dining Services designed a takeout unit that allows students to get a variety of items at one time. “On The Go!” is arranged so students can select up to five items quickly, bag and pay for them with one swipe of a meal card.

Half of respondents expect portable business to increase this year, and most of the rest expect business to remain steady. Among those who expect business to grow, the increase is projected to be 10%. Overall, about 75% of operators are actively looking to grow the business, either by setting up dedicated stations for grab-and-go foods (52%), purchasing new packaging that enhances portability (48%), improving merchandising of portable items (40%) and promoting portability more aggressively through coupons, discounts and e-marketing (19%).

Some operators say their portable business has plateaued after several years of steady increases. Sarah Johnson, director of dining services at Purdue, says when grab-and-go units were added, students flocked to them.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., has replaced a fajita bar in one of its dining halls with a superfoods bar, Tommie Media reports.

Aiming to provide more options for athletes and students with dietary restrictions, the new bar offers diners a choice of protein with a variety of toppings, such as beans, fruit, couscous and quinoa.

The superfoods bar has made a few appearances on campus since it was first tried for the school’s football players last summer.

“Word of mouth is getting out, and every day I get a few more people,” Ryan Carlson, a cook at the...

Sponsored Content
gluten free diet

From Stouffer’s.

A large part of menuing allergen-friendly cuisine is deciding which gluten-free items to serve.

In particular, college dining hall operators must decide whether to make gluten-free items in-house or to order gluten-free items from a manufacturer. Some factors to consider are: the size of the university, the demand for gluten-free options,and the ability to have separate gluten-free storage and workspaces in the university dining hall kitchen.

According to FoodService Director , 77% of college and university operators purchase their gluten-free...

Industry News & Opinion

Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pa., is using robots to help deliver patient meals, BCTV reports.

The eight robots, named TUGs, will be used to transport meals from the hospital’s nutrition services department to patient floors at Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care.

Moving at three miles per hour, the robots will follow preprogrammed routes to the HealthPlex, where room ambassadors will remove room service carts from the TUGs and deliver them to patients. The TUGs will then return to nutrition services with dirty dishes for cleaning.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo has partnered with fast casual Blaze Pizza to offer the chain’s signature pizzas, salads, beverages and desserts at select venues served by Sodexo, including colleges and universities.

Bill Lacey, senior vice president of marketing at Sodexo, said that Blaze’s growth in the fast-casual sector drove the partnership. Blaze opened its first unit in 2012 near the University of California at Irvine. Its pizzas are flash fired, cooking in under 180 seconds, according to the chain—a selling point for busy customers.

FSD Resources