The need for grab-and-go options in onsite locations—such as hospitals and nursing homes, employee feeding, education, travel plazas, and c-stores—is top-of-mind for many operators, due to customer demand for tasty food that’s instantly available.
Prepared foods for takeout that don’t need to be pre-ordered have a lot to recommend them, are especially in time-crunch situations where diners will be taking food to their desks, outdoor benches, work stations, dorm rooms, cars, or other off-premise locations.
There are a lot of ways to do grab-and-go, from dedicated “express” selling areas adjacent to dine-in, to kiosks, carts, and pantries. But for most foodservice operators—even those with a robust takeout business—grab-and-go represents a different line of business, with its own set of operational issues. A few things to consider:
- Remember to keep overall health and wellness as well as dietary concerns in mind, including food allergies and intolerances such as gluten and dairy.
- Wherever possible, offer fresh vegetables and fruits (including whole items like oranges and bananas); lean proteins such as fish and chicken; ancient grains and whole-grain breads; and other better-for-you selections.
- Take a page from the meal-kit model and package ingredients for some of your most popular items (and detailed instructions) so that customers can prepare them at home .
- If there’s demand, make sure to include vegetarian and vegan selections.
- Look into single-serve items like yogurt and cottage cheese; pre-portioned deli meats and cheese; just-add-water oatmeal, soups, and noodles; microwaveable soups and entrées; refrigerated desserts; snack items such as cookies and chips; prepackaged baked goods; and beverages.
- Consider implementing touchless payment systems via phone, app or other means.
- Establish optimal hold times for prepared items such as premade sandwiches, salads, and pizza, and log or time-stamp them so they can be taken off the selling floor promptly. Track sales movement carefully in order to avoid waste and manage demand.
- Use the right kind of packaging, sturdy enough to hold both cold and hot foods, but with a see-through element if possible, so that customers can get a look at what they want to buy.
- Offer large-format selections for employees and others to take home after their shift, including family-style portions of items like baked chicken, lasagna or mac and cheese (frozen, slacked, or hot), bread, large salads and sides, desserts, and so on.
- Have condiments available in single service and portion packs.
- Investigate the possibility of adding basic convenience items to the mix, like bread, eggs, and milk.
- Maintain basic sanitation and food safety, more vigilantly and more visibly—wipe down counter surfaces, reach-in door handles, mircowaves, and warmer stations, etc.
The Grab-and-Go Selection
Anything that can be packed up for pickup or served quickly at the point of purchase is fair game for a grab-and-go program. Above all, food must hold well and remain appetizing throughout its intended availability.
Here are some things that work particularly well for grab-and-go:
- Breakfast items (sandwiches, baked goods)
- Hardboiled or deviled eggs
- Meal-in-one bowls (such as grain bowls and entrée salads)
- Green and other vegetable salads
- Composed snack trays (such as crudites and dip, hummus and chips, or cheese and crackers)
- Serve-yourself soup and chili
- Sweet and savory yogurt parfaits
- Prepared full-service deli items (pasta and grain salads, antipasto)
- Packaged prepared foods for a hot case (pot pies, wings, mac and cheese)
- Pizza by-the-slice or take-and-bake
- Cookies, cupcakes, and other individual baked goods
- Pre-portioned smoothies, iced coffee, and other chilled beverages
- Self-service hot and cold beverages