Sweet treats and Valentine’s Day go hand-in-chocolatey-hand, a gift from one sweetheart to another, or a healing salve if sweethearts aren’t quite your vibe at the moment. Your many guests could be feeling many things this Feb. 14, but they’ll be certain to feel the love from you 100% when you offer grab-and-go sweet treats. More good news: You don’t have to wait for a holiday to make treating yourself on the go the norm for those you serve. That way, every day’s a life-affirming self-care holiday, sprinkles optional. How sweet is that?
Special occasion to everyday bliss
At Gonzaga University, the campus community can share sweet treats year ‘round with help from “The Bakery Station.” That’s what the Sodexo Zag Dining staff call the unofficial seventh station of The COG dining venue, an unassuming little area on the edge of the Daily Bread Station where students can grab sweet treats on their way out of The COG.
Every year on Valentine’s Day, Gonzaga students can share Valentine’s (or Galentine’s or Anti-Valentine’s) Day with friends and potential sweeties, as Zag Dining sells goodies on its eCommerce Site and its c-store, Iggy’s market. The treats are made by Bakery Lead Shea Palm-Robledo and her team, and include candy bouquets, red velvet cupcakes and the classic takeaway-on V-day treat, chocolate covered strawberries. Read on for more chocolate-dipped declarations of sweet devotion…in the fast lane.
Photo: Churros just give us that “walking around at a festival” feeling, and this recipe from Jones Dairy Farm features cinnamon-sugar bacon.
Cakepops, freakshakes, churros and more
The Sodexo team at Tarleton University knows the university’s president has a sweet tooth. They’ve baked an extensive cookie selection (which included crème brulee sugar cookies) at the president’s suite in the stadium and a “chocolate spoonful” layer cake at a plated student dinner at the president’s house.
But it’s not just presidential treats by any means; the student body partakes in sweet snacking as well, ripping into new items like cakepops, churros, themed cookies, pan dulce and plant-based Freakshakes (a new concept).
“On Tarleton’s campus, sweet treats are coveted by all guests,” says Tarleton Dining Services’ District Marketing Coordinator Bryce Ramon. “Whether it’s an irresistible treat at a catered event or a grab-and-go item placed near a register in a retail space, desserts are one of our top-selling products. Our students are guests are drawn to these items with a sense of indulgence and impulse, but also find comfort in the flavors that remind them of home.”
Photo: Chocolate-dipped strawberries, seen here at Gonzaga, are the O.G. sweetheart of portable sweets.
Chocolate-dipped, but healthy-ish
As a dietitian, Sodexo’s Regional Dietitian & Wellness Manager Cristina Caro, MBA, RDN, LDN, CAT, has cracked the code to craveable and nutritious on-the-go treats, with college students at Bentley University as her inspiration.
“Today's college students are looking for attractive house-made dessert items that are fresh, fun and somewhat healthy for grab and go, like cake pops, chocolate dipped strawberries and pretzels,” Caro says. Some “treat-yourself-on-the-go goodies that love you back,” as she calls them, include poppable energy bites (rice krispy-oat balls, granola balls and more), chocolate-date-nut mini-squares, “to satisfy the crave and quell hunger.”
The energy bites, squares and balls, dense good stuff like omega 3s, “are always a sensation among the college students,” Caro finds. “It’s an elevated experience over bars and cookies, and they pack easily in a cup.” In addition, “the dried fruit, nuts and oats provide fiber for texture and longer-lasting energy, while supporting healthy digestion.” Now that’s sweet!
For Bentley students who avoid gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, dining halls’ MyZone provides safe local bakery items (muffins, cupcakes, whoopie pies, traditional pies, cinnamon rolls) from Something Sweet bakery on a rotating basis to keep it interesting.
Caro says she’d love to experiment with a chocolate-dipped pop-up station that sounds divine: “It would be for takeaway treats where students can watch us make it fresh onsite and they select from an assortment of fresh-made dark chocolate-dipped fruits and energy balls, celebrating sophisticated chocolate love every Friday, rather than just holidays.”
No bakeshop? No problem
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Must be nice to have an amazing bakeshop. I don’t have that!” You’re in luck, because we found two examples of foodservice operators who found a way around this.
Mike Folino, Director of Support Services at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, partners with a local bakery for a simple ordering system that builds sweet anticipation for the regulars.
To him, it’s a win-win from an operations perspective. “Pallotta’s Pastries…They’re far more skilled at sweet treats and it allows us to serve local, premium product to our customers without sacrificing any labor. Our hospital staff look forward to these treats every holiday, and we often start fielding calls a week or so before we start selling, with people looking for their favorite treat; it’s a real satisfier.”
Recently, the local treats from Pallotta’s included bright pink heart-shaped mini cakes and cute individual bags of caramel corn.
At Bentley U, the Sodexo team rounds out their housemade sweets collection with packaged goods from well-known brands like Milk Bar and Ben & Jerry’s, including Milk Bar chocolate birthday truffle crumb cakes, chocolate pretzel crumb cakes and confetti cookies; and Ben & Jerry’s pints (an O.G. in the grab-and-treat-yourself genre), sold primarily through mobile ordering and the Ice Cream Shoppe concept.
Bentley’s marketing pro Jonathan Haarstick sums up the winning formula: “For any grab-and-go item, convenience and variety are going to be key components. Our Ice Cream Shoppe concept hits both of those marks with mobile pickup on Grubhub and 14 different flavors to choose from. We would love to try out some of the non-dairy or gluten-free offerings by Ben & Jerry’s in the near future.”