Make Onsite Takeout More Convenient with Grab-and-Go

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Tasty food, instantly available—that’s the essence of Grab-and-Go. Expand your onsite takeout program for instant results. We have 12 things you must know, here.

Chilled fruit in plastic takeout cups
©iStock.com/Circle Creative Studio

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: 

  1. Remember to keep overall health and wellness as well as dietary concerns in mind, including food allergies and intolerances such as gluten and dairy.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 .
  4. If there’s demand, make sure to include vegetarian and vegan selections.
  5. 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.
  6. Consider implementing touchless payment systems via phone, app or other means.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Have condiments available in single service and portion packs.
  11. Investigate the possibility of adding basic convenience items to the mix, like bread, eggs, and milk.
  12. 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)
  • Sandwiches
  • 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
  • Sushi
  • Fruit
  • Cookies, cupcakes, and other individual baked goods
  • Pre-portioned smoothies, iced coffee, and other chilled beverages
  • Self-service hot and cold beverages