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.
• 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.