2011 Portability Study: More operators than ever offer grab-and-go

Twenty-two percent of foodservice revenue comes from grab-and-go items.

According to FoodService Director's 2011 Portability Study, more operators are offering portable meal items than in previous years. In addition, an average of 22% of all foodservice revenue comes from these grab-and-go items.

2011 Grab-and-go Study: What operators sell

  • A total of 79% of respondents said they offer portable menu items, compared with 73% last year. All B&I operators offer grab-and-go items, with college/university and hospitals close behind, with 95% and 92%, respectively, offering portable foods. Sixty-nine percent of school operators said they offer grab and go, while only 48% of respondents in long-term care/senior living provide portable menu items.
  • Among those operators who offer to-go items, an average of 22% of all foodservice revenue comes from these items. C&U operators said that one-quarter of their revenue comes from portable foods, followed by hospitals (23%), long-term care/senior living (22%), schools (19%) and B&I (18%).
  • In the coming year, 51% of respondents say they expect revenue to increase and 44% say it will remain the same. For those operators expecting sales to grow, the average predicted rate of growth was 12%. Most respondents stated at least two reasons for the expected growth: Customers have less time to spend in the dining area (67%) and more customers are asking for these products (58%). For 36% of operators, an increase in customers will help build revenue, and 18% said that higher profits on prepackaged items will help build sales. For 16%, a decline in available seating will cause grab-and-go sales to rise. For those few operators (6%) who said they expect a decrease in grab-and-go sales, 36% said their customer base is shrinking, while 27% cited lower demand and/or a change in the way the operation is preparing and serving food.
  • Operators are trying several methods to boost sales, according to our survey. The most popular tactic is testing new kinds of packaging that makes it easier for customers to transport portable foods. For 40% of operators, setting up dedicated stations that call attention to grab-and-go service is being tried, while 36% are considering new or improved merchandising and 25% are marketing grab and go through various promotions.
  • When it comes to packaging, a variety of options are popular. The most common types of packaging are simple plastic containers or wraps, used by 54% of operators, and clear-lidded salad bowls, employed by 52%. For 46%, plastic clamshells are popular, followed by foam containers (45%), paper containers (35%), entrée containers with clear lids that are not clamshells (34%)  and biodegradable containers (30%). Only 6% said they use aluminum containers, and 2% said they offer packages with temperature indicators.
  • The majority of operators in all segments except B&I said that portable meal services saves labor in a way that boosts profitability. Only 33% of B&I operators stated that grab and go is a labor-saving deal.

2011 Grab-and-go Survey: Packaging

More From FoodService Director

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.

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

FSD Resources