Snacking goes outside the cafeteria

June 4, 2018

Mobile food-and-beverage carts meet diners’ needs in today’s healthcare segment

As consumer dining habits continue to shift from eating three meals per day to eating round-the-clock, operators across segments are revamping their businesses to capture diners’ attention and maximize profit. One key strategy for appealing to this shift are mobile food-and-beverage carts that offer grab-and-go prepared meals, snacks and other handheld foods.

In healthcare settings, most meals are eaten on the go because diners are strapped for time. Healthcare facilities need to be prepared to deliver the convenience, speed of service and portability that meet grab-and-go customers’ mealtime choices, whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks.

Mobile carts allow facilities to spread out foodservice options almost anywhere—lobby, waiting areas, hallways—and the flexibility in location allows them to operate before and after the cafeteria opens and closes. Here’s a look at how to add these to your operation.

Dining options

Timing is everything, and it’s critical to plan for the daily service schedule to maximize sales and customer satisfaction. That starts with nailing breakfast, where operators have considerable opportunity: Sixty-two percent of consumers skip breakfast at least once during the week, according to Technomic’s 2017 Breakfast report. By offering what consumers want, it can be easier to entice those diners and boost sales.

The key? Making it convenient. Thirty-three percent of consumers agree that it’s important for operators to offer portable packaging for breakfast items, according to the report. Grab-and-go breakfast options purchased from carts could include breakfast sandwiches with a protein that are held in a warming box, fresh fruit, packs of nuts, breakfast bars or biscuits, yogurt, juices, coffee and tea.

The convenience factor shouldn’t end at breakfast, though. To keep visitors and staff satisfied through the evening, try offering sandwiches, wraps, salads, desserts and a selection of beverages for lunch or dinner.

Snacking options

With consumers living increasingly busy, on-the-go lifestyles, operators who offer grab-and-go foods are in the best position to benefit from the snacking public’s eating habits. But since most people turn to different snacks throughout the day, operators need to provide diverse options to capture consumers’ changing appetites.

Mobile food-and-beverage carts are ideally suited to sell snacks, since they can be moved to locations throughout the facility during different parts of the day when snackers’ appetites and buying habits shift before and after lunch. Staff members might look for morning meals or snacks that can fuel the first half of their day, travel easily and require no or minimal preparation. These consumers might turn to the familiar flavors such as a cereal-and-milk bar, pre-portioned crackers and hummus dip or packs of dried fruit and nuts that keep them full until lunchtime.

But appetites turn sweeter in the afternoon. The Hartman Group’s Out of Home Snacking report found that desserts and sweet snacks sell best between lunch and dinner hours, as consumers look for comfort in a treat.

Offering unique flavors and formats can help boost snack sales as well. According to Technomic’s 2018 Snacking Occasion report, 31% of consumers say they buy healthful snacks more often when the flavors seem interesting. For example, breakfast biscuits that pair well with yogurt or natural spreads could draw the attention of consumers who would have otherwise limited their snacks to fruits or nuts that were brought from home.

To boost mobile food-and-beverage cart sales of snacks, offering convenient and tasty grab-and-go options is key. Snacking is only increasing, so ensuring that snackers have access to what they want is crucial in noncommercial food service locations. Offering a range of grab-and-go items, from healthy Greek yogurt to indulgent gourmet cookies and beverages, will help increase participation and sales.