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.

At Texas Christian University, food management giant Sodexo responded to students’ requests for dedicated grab-and-go options with a concept called Simply To Go. The new station, part of the campus’s Sub Connection on the east side of campus, sells packaged sandwiches, salads, wraps, fruit cups and baked goods for takeout. According to Legia Abato, district marketing manager for Sodexo at this campus, the concept satisfies a need for students to get a quick meal, using their meal plans, when they are far from the university’s Market Square dining commons.

At Washington State University, Dining Services is building portable business through the Internet. Students here can order pizza from the campus’s Stonewall Pizza Express through wsu.webfood.com. Then they can either have the pizza delivered to their location or come pick it up. A similar concept is Webfood Fresh Express, whereby students can order sandwiches, salads or desserts online and pick them up at a special takeout area of the university’s espresso bar.
Dining Services Director Gary Coyle says the idea is slowly picking up steam, with the department promoting it online and through the campus newspaper.

Perhaps the most unusual option for portable food, at least on a college campus, are the food trucks found on the campus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. According to Director of Dining Services Scott Berlin, there are four independent operators who have contracted with his department. Most recently, a food truck called the Clover Food Lab made its campus debut. This truck brings the idea of local and sustainable to portability; the menu is vegetarian and uses locally grown ingredients.

The future of portability may lie in a rare concept that could be the ultimate in convenience: an automated c-store. At South Bend Memorial Hospital in Indiana, the foodservice department has installed a self-service kiosk in its Common Grounds Café, a 300-square-foot convenience store. The checkout kiosk reads items for purchase using Radio Frequency Identification tags. Foodservice Director Joe Vasta says the goal of the kiosk is not to build revenue but to save labor—about $100,000, he estimates. However, he says sales will increase because the c-store is open 24 hours, so late shift employees will have access to food in a way they never had before.

For more information on South Bend’s c-store, see FSD’s April 15, 2009 issue.

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The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

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