If you work in foodservice and haven’t yet tapped into what is currently one of the biggest business trends of the millennium, it’s time to step up to the plate and sink your teeth into the Grab and Go Market. Also known by the acronym GNG, Grab & Go or Grab-and-Go, refers to ready-to-eat, pre-packaged food items sold in your establishment. Not surprisingly, the largest body of consumers, literally eating up the opportunity, are millennials, the on-the-go Gen Y and the younger Gen Z populations.
As one industry specialist explains, the rapid rise of mobile technology has given rise to a ‘deliver now’ landscape, where consumers, who are moving faster than ever before in their daily lives, are demanding, and expecting products that are instantly available, portable, and that conveniently cater to their whirlwind of activities.
Statistically, the eat-on-the-go market has exceeded the $20 billion mark, slowly recovering from Covid losses, with sales expected to experience expanding growth. If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to earn a pretty profit, it’s time to learn all about GNG and how your restaurant can begin to cash in on the promising opportunity.
If you’re wondering how it all began, harken back to 1902 when ‘automats’ were first introduced in Philadelphia, quickly spreading to New York City and other parts of the United States. Under the new paradigm, foodservice owners sold individual servings of simple foods and drinks via a vending machine. Each item was placed in a clear glass compartment, allowing customers to see what was available and then make their selection. Purchases were made by inserting coins into slots, which thereupon unlatched the door so that they could remove their desired item. Automats were thus the earliest form of self-service meals.
Earning instant popularity, customers liked being able to see what was available, and automat managers were assigned the duty of keeping the display compartments sanitary and clean. In a similar vein, the industry insisted that automats have a strict fresh food policy, meaning no leftovers from the day before could be sold the following day.
Alas, the paradigm was short-lived and a decade later automats had all but disappeared in the U.S. Quickly replacing them, however, were the first self-service food venues offering ‘food on the go.’ This same landscape has continued to grow and evolve, culminating in the grab & go food and beverage market of today.
The sheer convenience of grab-and-go foods and snacks, combined with the high demand, is reason enough for its success as a restaurant business strategy. However, the same consumers who are seeking a quick meal or snack option are also increasingly health-conscious, which means they care about what they’re putting in their bodies and are seeking better-for-you options that cater to both their schedules, and their well-being. It’s not surprising, then, to learn that celery snack packs and ready-to-eat salads are experiencing over 50% weekly dollar sales increases compared to previous years.
Your restaurant, fast food ‘biz, bakery, pizza shop, or café can rise to the occasion by not only selling ready-made foods to go, but by expanding your inventory of GNG beverages. Keep in mind that bottled waters have overtaken soft drinks in the battle of the beverages, and that some of today’s other best-sellers include energy drinks, probiotic drinks that are good for your gut, vitamin-infused and collagen-infused beverages, and low-booze and no-booze options at bars.
The Impact of COVID on Grab-and-Go
The outbreak of the corona pandemic has no doubt spiked the demand for GNG items. With consumers more concerned than ever about product and packaging safety, the grab & go paradigm fits the bill perfectly. Manufacturing plants with state-of-the-art technology for food safety and security (ensuring minimal human contact) are now producing pre-sliced and pre-chopped single-serving packages of products for restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, and other foodservice venues. These include ready-to-go sandwiches, fruit and veggie cups, dips, sauces, spreads, condiments, healthy breakfasts, and more.
How to Set Up Grab & Go in Your Restaurant
Setting up a grab and go section in your establishment can be as easy as 1,2,3 – here is how it works. Simply add a self-serve glass door refrigerator on the premises or set up a small station where customers can seamlessly enter, choose their prepackaged meal or snack, and be back in their car (or on-the-go) in a jiffy. Towards the same end, you might consider installing a vending machine or setting up a eye-catching indoor kiosk.
Finally, don’t forget to create an exclusive grab-and-go menu for your offerings, distinct from your regular menu that is easily accessible from any mobile device or home computer. Spread the good word by advertising your GNG items on social media and by highlighting them on your restaurant’s website. Then relax as the profits start pouring in…
Grab-and-Go Menu Suggestions
As the number of ready-to-eat products has increased, so too has the creativity of the grab & go items available. In addition to the inclusion of products that accommodate dietary preferences and needs such as vegan, gluten-free, and kosher, the following are some examples of popular grab & go innovations, all available in convenient recyclable containers:
Breakfast Grab-and-Go Ideas
- Portable cereal cups with a variety of milk options (i.e. goat, oat, soy, and almond milk)
- Breakfast wraps and sandwiches (including vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, and keto friendly options)
- Bagels with spreads such as cream cheese, honey, and avocado
- Seasonal fruit cups with a miniature spoon
- Assorted yogurts
- Muffins, cinnamon buns, croissants, and scones
Lunch Grab & Go Options
- Take-and-bake pizzas
- Assorted salads
- Lunch wraps and sandwiches
- Sushi rolls
- Assorted cup-of-soups
- Pasta dishes
- Garlic bread
- Breadsticks (with specialties such as cauliflower parmesan breadsticks)
- Side orders of tomato sauce, soy sauce, salad dressings, dips, and more
Grab & Go Snacks
- Trail mixes
- Single serving/Family size packages of nuts
- Single serving/Family size packages of raisins
- Single serving/Family size packages of chips and pretzels
- Single serving/Family size trays of cheese
- Single serving/Family size trays of fresh sliced fruit
- Single serving/Family size trays of sliced vegetables
- Assortment of chocolates and chocolate chips
- Cookies, cupcakes, and other baked goods
Grab & Go Tips for Restaurateurs
In addition to expanding your menu, there are many ways you can enhance the GNG paradigm and use it to create revenue for your restaurant ‘biz or other foodservice.
Here are some recommendations from the pros:
- Use only premium, fresh ingredients
- Implement an easy and expedient takeout process
- Check out what other eateries are selling and make sure you are keeping up with the competition
- Pay attention to ” packaging! Grab and go consumers give preference to clear visibility where they can see exactly what they are getting and to recyclable containers and bowls made from bioplastics (biodegradable materials that are partially or fully derived from renewable biological sources)
- Ensure clean labels on all your products, providing customers with a list of ingredients, nutritional information, and an expiry date (i.e. “use by”)
- Monitor your customers’ buying habits, paying attention to what sells and what doesn’t and stocking your inventory accordingly
In today’s volatile business world wherein the corona pandemic has left everybody in a state of uncertainty and flux, grab & go offers restaurant owners and foodservice providers an almost guaranteed avenue of supplemental income. With demand high and the cost of providing the service relatively low, it’s a no-brainer: It’s time to go with the flow, embrace grab & go, and enjoy the anticipated dividends.