Grab 'n Go: The Next Frontier

Many foodservice establishments are capitalizing on young consumers' need for high-quality food that's ready in a hurry by beefing up their grab 'n go and takeout options.

Consumers purchase takeout five times per month on average, per a 2016 consumer report produced by Technomic. The report also indicates 49 percent of 18-34 year olds order food to go more often than they did three years ago.

Many take advantage of takeout and grab 'n go options simply because they are more readily accessible than they were, even three to five years ago. Additionally, consumers cite that they are purchasing food to go more often thanks to increased disposable income, limited time to cook and ability to find an abundance of options nearby.

Restaurants are noticing the convenience trend

Restaurants that can capitalize on both segments – dine-in customers and consumers who eat their food off-premise – will succeed in this new landscape because they can potentially increase sales across both. Each segment is looking for something different in its dining experience, so they will not cannibalize each other. According to the Technomic report, chains that excel at delivery are already pulling away in sales.

It's not without its challenges

For restaurants hoping to jump in on the convenience trend, there are a few things of which to be aware. First, ordering takeout needs to be tech-friendly. Restaurants must stay on top of current trends and offer e-ordering, whether via third-party delivery services or through their own websites, as well as mobile apps and texting (e.g., Domino's pizza emoji delivery service). Consumers who value convenience appreciate an easy ordering process with limited steps.

Consumers also expect packaging to be leak-free and to maintain its quality and shape even after being heated up when they get home. And, they expect the food to look and taste as great as it would had they dined in.

While consumers indicate they are increasingly replacing carryout options with delivery, operators cite the following reasons they're hesitant to offer delivery services: the cost is perceived to be too high, especially when accounting for insurance liability coverage and additional labor costs. They also do not want their food to lose its quality in the time it takes to be delivered.

Still, takeout options may be the future of foodservice

Lunch and dinner have always been the most popular meals for takeout, but snacks (smaller orders that are not purchased during "normal" meal hours) are sneaking into the mix. Grab 'n go breakfast items such as breakfast sandwiches and burritos also make breakfast a popular daypart for those seeking quick service. Nonetheless, pre-assembled sandwiches – available at any time of day – remain the most popular grab 'n go items for consumers on the run.

Restaurants like Panera Bread continue to be a leader in this movement towards a mobile centric ordering system. Customers have access to the entire menu right on their computer or smartphone with endlessly customizable menu items, available whenever the customer wants to pick the order up, already paid for.

Takeout and delivery options that emphasize "family-size servings" also picked up steam in the last few years, such as those offered by Olive Garden. Younger consumers who enjoy the convenience of fast food and fast casual dining are starting families of their own and expect restaurants to keep up with their lifestyles, which means the cycle likely will continue.

Time-crunched, impulse-driven consumers equal opportunity, and foodservice operators who can successfully feed these consumers on the go will have tapped into the booming trend previously dominated by c-stores and supermarkets.

Content courtesy of AdvancePierre Foodservice