True Eats was developed by Aramark to solve the problem of providing fresh onsite food at small locations. Over the last 20 years, contract foodservice companies have been challenged by the problem of providing high-quality onsite food options to small businesses, many of which simply cannot justify a large investment in a standard dining facility.
Traditional foodservice concepts are either highly subsidized, multistation dining options that generally operate with high labor and food costs due to population size, or scaled back convenience retail nooks and/or vending options. Neither is attractive for a smaller sized client, their employees or the foodservice team because it is almost impossible to provide great food, service and fiscally responsible economics all at the same time in such an environment.
Yet, small-site locations often are hampered in their ability to attract and retain talent if they aren’t able to provide an adequate in-house dining solution, as many of today’s time-pressed workers view off-site dining as a hassle that cuts into their personal time and hobbles their productivity. Aramark’s own research found that a majority of Generation Z workers place high value on food customization, both in offerings and in product size, something that is difficult to provide in traditional unmanned micromarkets.
Aramark’s solution with True Eats was to take a fast-casual approach to this niche market that eliminated the high cost of kitchen construction and operation.
The first True Eats café opened in the second quarter of 2017 at Aramark’s own Global Business Services (GBS) headquarters in Nashville. The site has a population of only about 300, of which most work a standard daytime shift, with a few having overnight and weekend shifts.
Aramark originally accommodated the onsite foodservice needs of this population with a micromarket featuring tasty and attractive grab-and -o options, but once True Eats was installed, It was able to add something else: a full dining experience with fresh, made-to-order meals for breakfast and lunch.
The result has been that since its opening, the True Eats at GBS has helped the facility achieve a 50 percent increase in meal participation with check averages of $3.63 at breakfast and $6.72 at lunch. The concept’s use of the FreedomPay mobile payment platform has additionally reduced commercial credit card usage by 10 percent, lowering transaction costs when it is used.
The success of the unit has led to a dozen more locations loaded into the development pipeline around the country.
The True Eats concept uses a hoodless open kitchen model where chefs can prepare custom menu items while an intuitive self-serve kiosk allows customers to select, personalize and pay for their meals on the touchscreen device. There’s even a customer loyalty program that lets users quickly reorder past favorites while earning rewards. As an additional operational benefit, the concept helps drive incremental sales increases by offering add-on purchase options such as extra cheese, double protein and fresh avocado.
The main menu and promotional program were carefully designed and developed from a core group of ingredients that allows True Eats to offer a wide array of choices at peak meal times. It provides maximum variety to guests through the use of custom seasonal and promotional menu programs developed specifically for the concept. Customization is further extended through the use of the Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage dispenser and the Starbucks Serenade single-cup brewing system.
Developed based on extensive market and consumer research, the comprehensive program is scalable, repeatable and profitable as it requires only a minimum 1,200-square-foot footprint, an equipment investment of under $500,000 and just two employees to operate even as the self-serve kiosk unit increases speed of service. Meanwhile, the high-efficiency ovens specified by the concept allow chefs to increase throughput of hot items in under two minutes.
True Eats allows clients not only to offer a higher quality, personalized foodservice option that would not otherwise be possible without significant subsidies, but also provides its employees a gathering space for team building and collaboration.
“We’re continually looking for ways to innovate the dining experience with new concepts that provide high-quality, convenient and technology-enabled solutions for our clients and consumers,” offers Diane Pancoski, vice president of brand management for Aramark. “True Eats is a forward-thinking concept that really allows us to deliver a fresh, personalized and convenient onsite dining option for small workplace locations.”