In these unprecedented times, meal kits have taken on important new roles: a way to serve your customers in a virtual/grab-and-go world; convenience during changing routines; a source of fun (hello, family pizza night!); and more seriously, a lifeline of good nutrition for kids, seniors and everyone in between.
Until this year, meal kits were something of a niche in the foodservice industry to keep an eye on, and the spotlight was mainly on subscription services from companies like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and many others. Now, with the subscription model losing steam (experts say the novelty has worn off for millennials), the time is right for onsite foodservice operations to consider this option and think outside the box. According to a recent report by Datassential, 60% of consumers say they’d be interested in ordering a take-home DIY meal kit.
“The pandemic has expedited the off-premise dining trend, and meal kits have proven to be a terrific way for operators to diversify and get creative with their takeout and delivery offerings,” says Stacey Kinkaid, vice president of product development and innovation for US Foods.
US Foods has developed the Make It Now platform, a guide for operators to create several meal kits, such as a DIY pizza kit, pasta-and-wine dinner kit, build-your-own taco kit and cocktail kits. The kits are a win-win, Kinkaid says, serving customers who are getting used to eating in the comfort of their pajamas while providing operators with “another stream of revenue that can ultimately help them offset other costs.”
Quarantined on campus
At a time when college students would be attending social gatherings in a normal year, many are being quarantined this fall. At Lehigh University, the Sodexo dining team has been hard at work to ensure “isolation meals” are much more than just food in a brown bag.
After a Lehigh student is placed in isolation or quarantine, they complete an online form to opt into a meal delivery program. Three times a week, that student gets enough for multiple meals. The catering team designed a specific menu of what goes into the boxes: “healthy, nutritious and comforting foods during a presumptive uneasy time for these students,” says Evan Rehrig, marketing specialist with Sodexo at Lehigh.
“Because students can be placed into isolation or quarantine at any time, the ordering process is fluid,” Rehrig says. “Orders can come in at any moment, but Chef Chad and his team are flexible and have been able to fulfill any request, even if it means coming to campus at 5 a.m. to produce a meal.” Halal, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free meals are all available and everything is either meant to be eaten cold or is reheatable.
Bagels, cheese omelets, muffins, fresh fruit, juice, English muffins, cold cereal and oatmeal packets show up in the bags for breakfast. Lunch might include mac and cheese, soup, more fresh fruit, granola bars, hummus, bean burritos, chips and hoagies. Dinner options have included cheeseburgers, sweet-and-sour meatballs, pulled pork, salads, fried rice and items like cookies or brownies for dessert.
Scoring points against food insecurity in Southern Florida
At the beginning of 2020, the Miami Dolphins and the Centerplate foodservice team at Hard Rock Stadium were riding high and hosting the Super Bowl for 70,000 people. Flash-forward to the pandemic, and boy have things changed.
Flash forward to late August, when Centerplate and Hard Rock Stadium announced that they’ve surpassed the 1 Million Meal Milestone, serving the local community who needs it most. That includes at-risk seniors, food-insecure families, school kids, church missions, shelters and more. The Miami Dolphins Foundation Food Relief Program is behind the project, and more than 40 Centerplate employees have been able to continue working through the pandemic.
Led by Hard Rock Stadium Executive Chef Dayanny De La Cruz, the Centerplate team has pivoted from ordinary concessions to putting meals back into the local area instead. The most popular meals have been barbecue chicken and roasted potatoes; turkey chili and mashed potatoes and coconut curry chicken and Thai noodles.
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