Consumers bring an array of dietary preferences and restrictions to foodservice facilities, and they are seeking fresh and convenient items that accommodate those demands.
Eating on the run is the new norm for many of these consumers. Most operators—86%—are offering freshly prepared, grab-and-go foods, according to a survey by Datassential, as reported in a February Keynote report on the Business & Industry segment.
Operators need to take the most common dietary preferences and restrictions of their customers into consideration when creating their grab-and-go menus, and offer dishes that appeal to a range of careful eaters.
Here are five ways to meet the specialized grab-and-go needs of diners:
1. Nut-free basil pesto dip
Pesto is commonly made with pine nuts, which rules it out for people with nut allergies. Instead, try making it with pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or chickpeas for a nut-free option. Mix it with some Greek yogurt or sour cream for an easy grab-and-go dip that goes with chips, crackers or veggie sticks.
2. Vegan buffalo cauliflower
The spicy flavor consumers love on their Buffalo chicken wings also works on cauliflower florets, which make an interesting, hot grab-and-go snack or side dish for those avoiding meat in their diets. Among the noncommercial operators that have offered this item, Texas State University added Buffalo’d Cauliflower in its Commons Dining Hall, and Rutgers University began offering Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites in its Busch Dining facility last year, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor.
3. Oat milk smoothie
For those consumers adhering to a dairy-free diet, oat milk has emerged as a popular alternative in many recipes. Simply replace the milk in a favorite smoothie recipe to make this drink dairy-free. For instance, mix strawberries and frozen bananas with oat milk for a healthy, nutrient-packed drink, perfect for breakfast or a grab-and-go snack any time.
4. Veggie-based noodles
On-trend dishes like ramen can be made gluten-free with the use of alternative noodles, such as the sweet potato glass noodles in the Dashi Ramen at True Food Kitchen. Zoodles (zucchini noodles) can also be used to form the base of a salad, such as the Tuscan Zoodle Bowl introduced last year at Just Salad.
5. Reduced-calorie treats
Operators are finding ways to trim the sugar and calories in their snack and dessert items. Some are offering smaller sizes—such as cake pops—while others are reformulating their grab-and-go treats with new sweeteners and other alternative ingredients. Last year, CVS Health Headquarters rolled out Sugar Free Jell-O Parfaits to its grab-and-go menu, for example.
Send it off in the right packaging
The strong interest in grab-and-go foods also calls for operators to pay close attention to their packaging. The containers for these to-go items not only have to perform, they also need to appeal to modern consumer sensibilities around sustainability. For example, 43% of consumers want ecofriendly packaging, and say they look for labels indicating that the packaging is sustainable, according to Technomic’s 2018 Off-Premise Packaging Study.
Packaging such as Vio® biodegradable* foam cups, foods containers, lids and straws from WinCup are ideally suited to meet these demands. They perform as well as their traditional counterparts, and are the lowest-cost green packaging option.
By offering unique grab-and-go options that cater to diners’ unique dietary needs, as well as their preferences for sustainable packaging, operators can stay a step ahead of competition and encourage repeat visits.
*Cups biodegrade 92% over 4 years, lids biodegrade 86.8% over 7.9 years, straws biodegrade 88.5% over 7 years. Tested under conditions that simulate both wetter and biologically active landfills using the ASTM D5511 test. Wetter or biologically active landfills may not exist in your area. The stated rate and extent of degradation do not mean that the product will continue to decompose.
This post is sponsored by WinCup