As more Americans adopt an on-the- go lifestyle, the foodservice industry is beginning to evolve to meet the demand for portability and convenience. In fact, Statista Inc. compiled statistics indicating that Americans are now consuming about half their weekly meals on the go.1 The ability to conveniently grab a meal and continue with one’s day is one reason the grab-and- go food industry has thrived during the past five years and continues to experience exponential growth.1 Whether it’s a quick bite between meetings or picking up dinner for the whole family at the end of the day, consumers are reaching for grab-and- go options that are both satisfying and healthy.
Food has been deprioritized for many patrons, as their lifestyles become more demanding. As an operator, you should view this challenge as an opportunity to showcase innovative products. Protein often remains the center of easy meals, especially with its recent positioning as an energy source and a satiety provider for those watching their weight. Chicken continues to be a favorite protein for on-the- go meals, appearing in everything from sandwiches, salad, wraps, and even hummus packs.2 Hummus is another popular source of protein with companies launching innovative snack packs and creative flavor combos like garlic hummus with chipotle chicken and roasted red pepper hummus with barbecue chicken. Even sandwiches and wraps are getting a makeover to make them sturdier for on-the- go dining. For example, lavash and pita bread can stand up to heavier fillings, prevent sogginess and are easier to hold.3
Portability is paramount to the growth of the foodservice category. In addition to supermarkets, big box stores, convenience stores and, recently, even pharmacies are displaying prominent grab-and- go meal sections. Visits to retail stores for prepared food orders during lunch hours have increased nearly a third in the past five years.4 While some c-stores still have a ways to go, there are many who are offering more healthy options like salads, fresh fruit and vegetable packs and yogurt parfaits. For example, Sheetz, a chain of convenience stores known for fresh, made-to- order food, uses high-quality ingredients to develop a menu of healthy on-the- go meal options, from salads to grilled chicken sandwiches. Wawa, another popular c-store, features an array of protein packed ready-to- go salads like Thai Style Chicken Mango Salad and hearty lavash wraps like the turkey, apple and cranberry wrap. When it comes to fresh grab-and- go food options, proper maintenance is key. It’s crucial to educate staff on the proper temperatures and rotations, as well as inventive inventory creation. While it may create more work in the beginning, the potential return on investment will be well worth the extra attention.5
The grab-and- go segment is a great opportunity to help increase sales in both the commercial and non- commercial space. There are several components that need to be considered when developing a successful grab- and-go foodservice program including proper equipment, impactful merchandising and of course, the most appropriate food to serve and what packaging to serve it in. No matter how delicious a fried chicken sandwich might be on-site, if it is soggy and cold when the customer goes to eat it, they won’t order it again. Therefore, it’s important that operators offer food that travels well in packaging that compliments it.
Portable eats today must satisfy several needs in order to drive sales. Customers expect healthy, high-quality food in convenient on-the- go formats. Patrons’ busy lives will continue to influence all segments within the foodservice industry, likely leading to increased sales within the grab-and- go category.