Getting it to go

Self-branded grab-and-go options mean big business.

If you are going to do grab and go, you might as well put a name on it. That seems to be the attitude of the majority of respondents to The Big Picture. Seventy percent of operators offer grab and go as part of their programs, and of those, 79% said they have created their own brands for these items.

B&I, colleges and hospitals are the segments where self-branded grab and go is most likely to occur. 

“We brand everything with our Dining Room logo and the picture of our chef character,” says Tony Almeida, director of food and nutrition services at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, in New Brunswick, N.J. “It’s important for us to let people know that these are our products, that these are made in house.”

Dawn Aubrey, associate director of housing for dining services at the University of Illinois, in Champaign, says that the branding of her program’s to-go foods, Good To Go, serves two purposes. “Students expect to see brands, and we consider ourselves to be one of those brands,” Aubrey says. “Also, the name suggests to customers that these foods are healthy choices they can make.”

Vinnie Livoti, director of foodservice for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, in Columbia, considers his department’s grab-and-go concept, called “My Cousin Vinnie’s,” a marketing piece. 

“It gets people’s attention,” he says of the name, a play on the 1992 Joe Pesci comedy. “We had a little fun with it, but it gets the message across that this is from our department.”

In most markets, grab-and-go sales are a sizable portion of overall revenue: 18% in hospitals, 16% in B&I and schools and 15% in colleges. But long-term care facilities and senior living are  where to go is not a moneymaker. On average, only 9% of revenue in nursing homes/long-term care/senior living locations comes from grab and go.

“When our residents dine, they like to sit and relax and eat,” says Mary Cooley, director of dining services at Pennswood Village, a retirement community in Newtown, Pa. “We’re involved with the residents, so our employees aren’t really looking to grab something to take back to their work stations.”

In most market sectors, grab and go is on the rise, with directors suggesting that customers’ busier and more hectic lives are driving the increase. B&I (72%), hospitals (71%) and colleges (70%) expect grab-and-go sales to increase during the next two years.

“Our students are just more on-the-go these days,” Aubrey says. “They may sit down at dinner for a meal, but at other times of the day they want something quick that they can take with them.”

The segment least likely to see growth in grab-and-go business is schools, with only 46% expecting to see takeaway sales rise and 10% saying they anticipate a decline in such business. New USDA regulations mandating healthier foods and controlling the sale of competitive foods are likely the main reasons for a de-emphasis on grab-and-go sales.

16: The average percentage of total foodservice sales/transactions that is generated by grab-and-go items. The percent of grab-and-go sales is significantly higher in self-operated locations (17% of total foodservice sales) than in contract-managed locations (13%).  

What’s hot?

Prepackaged sandwiches and salads: These are the top two grab-and-go growth areas (at 60% and 55%). B&I locations are significantly more likely than other segments to report prepackaged salads as a growth area, at 86%. Livoti says it’s simple: “People want to eat healthier, and so when they’re pressed for time they go after quick foods that can satisfy that desire for healthy eating. So they go for the salads.”

These two categories are also seen as big opportunities in colleges. “Grab and go has become mainstream because it’s fast and convenient among time-strapped students,” says Ken Toong, director of auxiliary services at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “Our students enjoy wraps, banh mi, pizza, sushi and healthy and gourmet snacks.”

Sushi: Although only 11% of operators expect a growth in sushi, two segments are more bullish on its growth prospect. Colleges (20%) and hospitals (14%) are significantly more likely than other segments to anticipate growth. For hospitals, a successful sushi program often is contingent upon a good partner. “We have a deal with a local sushi restaurant that delivers 25 assorted trays per day,” Almeida says. “We also have [the restaurant] make them on site every payday Thursday. We give them a station for the day and the lines are nonstop from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.”

Grab-and-go Sales Expected to Increase
The majority of operators (62%) anticipate an increase in their grab-and-go sales in the next two years, with only 5% expecting a decrease. Operators in schools (46%) and nursing homes/long-term care/senior living (42%) were less bullish on their grab-and-go sales’ growth prospects; however, few in these segments expected sales decreases (schools at 10% and nursing homes/long-term care/senior living at 4%). 

Grab and Go Big Except in LTC, Senior Living
Overall 70% of operators offer grab-and-go options. Conversely, 74% of nursing homes/long-term care/senior living facilities do not offer grab-and-go options. Operations with annual food and beverage purchases of more than $500,000 are significantly more likely to offer these convenience purchases (84%) than locations with smaller annual purchases (49%).

Seventy-nine percent of operators who offer grab-and-go items have self-branded options available. B&I, colleges and hospitals were significantly more likely than other segments to offer self-branded grab-and-go options. Contract-managed accounts (90%) were significantly more likely to offer self-branded grab-and-go options than self-operated locations (76%).

Do you offer grab-and-go items?

Do you offer self-branded grab-and-go items?

Grab and Go Snapshot
Overall, 45% of grab-and-go foodservice sales/transactions (excluding beverages) are attributed to prepackaged sandwiches/wraps; prepackaged salads, including lettuce-, grain- and potato-based varieties; and fruit or vegetables, either loose or prepackaged, and these three categories are the most likely to be offered (82%, 82% and 80%, respectively). Furthermore, these are also the three grab-and-go categories that operators expect to increase the most in the next two years, with prepackaged salads as the No. 1 growth choice (60%). B&I operators are especially bullish on salads’ growth potential, with 86% of operators anticipating a boost in sales.

Contract-managed locations are significantly more likely to offer prepackaged salads, prepackaged baked goods/desserts and prepackaged center-of-plate entrées than self-operated locations (91%, 83% and 57% versus 79%, 70% and 35%, respectively). Colleges are significantly more likely to offer prepackaged sushi as a grab-and-go option (53%) than all other segments, but hospital (22%) and B&I (20%) locations are still significantly more likely to offer sushi than schools (2%) and nursing homes/long-term care/senior living, where it is not offered. B&I (73%) and colleges (68%) were significantly more likely than all other segments to offer candy, with only 7% of schools having this offering. 

Schools, at 39%, were the most likely to expect the sales of single-serve cereal/cereal bars to grow. Colleges, at 20%, were the most likely to anticipate a boost in the sales of prepackaged sushi.