Freshness and appearance go hand in hand for grab-and-go items. At the Foodservice @ Retail Summit in Chicago, Wade Hanson, principal at Technomic, said 80% of consumers pay attention to a grab-and-go item’s appearance, not its description, to determine the item’s freshness. Operators have begun using creative packaging and displays to promote freshness and draw diners.
1. Inside access
At Vanderbilt University, about 40% of retail operation sales are from grab-and-go sections, says Spiros Vergatos, assistant director of retail operations. Staff position each grab-and-go item on the shelves in a way that will best show off its contents. Bowls are stocked on the bottom shelves to allow students to see what’s inside from above, since only the lids are transparent, while sandwiches and wraps are packaged in individual translucent bags and positioned standing up so students can see the inside before purchasing.
“If you cut the wrap in half and you show what’s actually inside of it, they can see if the avocado is green and that the lettuce isn’t wilted,” Vergatos says.
2. All-in-one packaging
Packaging of grab-and-go options at Windham School District in Windham, N.H., can be the deciding factor in the menu item’s popularity. “Half of it is how it’s packaged,” says Nutrition Services Director Rhonda Peckham.
Peckham and chef-manager Lauren Crowley say they play around with different containers to see what draws students. “We have this chip-and-dip container where it’s all in one,” says Peckham. “We found that when we took hummus and produce and packaged it all in one container instead of offering it separately like we had originally, the students were more eager to take it.”
In April, the foodservice team debuted salad shaker cups in the to-go section at Windham High School. While students reacted positively to the new offering, Peckham says the eye-catching and portable menu item became the most popular with faculty.
3. No distractions
Vanderbilt’s dining services team also takes notice of the visuals on the packaging itself, aiming for an unencumbered look. In lieu of labels with nutritional information, students can visit a nutrition calculator online or via an app.
“The customer wants the information, they just don’t necessarily want it on the package,” Vergatos says.