FSD 2009 Potability Study: Portability still important

For a variety of reasons, customers still seek portable foods they can take away from the cafeteria, and most operators happily oblige.

For many operators, selling grab-and-go or portable foods not only provides a convenience for time-strapped or busy customers, it also saves labor in a way that boosts profitability. Overall, 63% of survey respondents said take-away business offers a strong profit margin, with the highest percentage of college operators (75%) agreeing. The only market sector in which most respondents felt portable foods were not labor-saving was B&I, where 69% said it was not.

Among the other markets, 67% of school, 61% of hospital and 59% of long-term care operators believe portable foods are labor-saving and profitable.

When it comes to business builders, the push toward environmentally friendly packaging may be having an impact on take-away items. Among the 76% of operators who said they are taking specific steps to increase the sale of portable foods, 53% said they are using new types of packaging.

However, when it comes to types of packaging, only 30% said they use biodegradable containers, versus 28% last year. The highest percentage of users are in colleges, where 53% of operators said they use these types of containers. But the fastest growth is in nursing homes, where 35% of operators said they use biodegradbale containers, versus 10% last year.

One such operator is the Indiana Government Center, a complex of state government offices in Indianapolis. Bill Schaefer, regional director for Treat America Food Services, the IGC’s contractor, says a shift to biodegradable packaging was made easier with the sharp increase in the price of oil, which made the new containers, which are corn-based, comparable in cost to containers made with petroleum-based products.

Schaefer says the containers can only be used to hold cold items like salads and deli sandwiches.

In addition to using new types of packaging to try to increase grab-and-go business, other time-tested marketing tools are merchandising displays (45%), dedicated stations for grab-and-go (44%) and promotions (22%).

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
baked bread

Instead of sourcing value-added product to reduce labor, the food and nutrition team at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison outsources its baked goods to a local shop that hires only formerly incarcerated workers. The bakery was able to hire two new former inmates in order to keep up with the volume needs of the hospital. “We want to be really entrenched in the community, not just have a building that sits in the center of Madison,” says Amy Mihm, clinical nutrition specialist for the hospital.

Ideas and Innovation
cold storage boxes

When working with a small footprint, the back of the house often gets squeezed in the interest of preserving precious seats. But as storage space contracts, these restaurant operators are getting resourceful with everything from shelves to ceiling height to inventory in ways that FSDs can apply, too.

“When we were first tasked with figuring out smaller footprints, when it came to interiors, it was like a bad riddle,” says Trinity Hall, SVP of development for Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which shrunk its prototype from 2,200 square feet to 1,800. “Let’s make it smaller and...

Managing Your Business
food symbols allergens

Bellevue School District in King County, Wash., has reduced the instances of life-threatening allergic reactions by 94% since 2013. Wendy Weyer, business manager for nutrition services, says that success stems from direct communication with the district’s 20,000 students.

Q: What was the first thing you did to start reducing allergic reactions?

A: More than five years ago, we changed our menu signage to provide information to students on what the common allergens were on all the foods that were served at every station. We use symbols such as an egg or a wheat stalk for younger...

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,...

FSD Resources