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Mastering Grab-and-Go Menus with Ready-to-Eat Vegetables

Apr 01, 2024

Mastering Grab-and-Go Menus with Ready-to-Eat Vegetables

Debra Sharpe opened her fifth Chicago location of The Goddess & Grocer in 2022. What set this sprawling outpost apart from her other popular grab-and-go destinations, she says, was that she wanted it to feel less like a mini grocery store and more like a place where people could come and enjoy the vibe as they shopped.

“I wanted people to be able to wander around and browse for as long as they liked,” Sharpe explains. “We bought unique things, such as Moroccan spices and sodas from South America, that are not typically found at a regular supermarket to keep them engaged. We also wanted to serve them unique, ready-to-eat (RTE) dishes they could bring home to make dinners more special.”

Sharpe sets the tone for culinary excellence, so she knows what she is doing. She is an award-winning veteran restaurateur, caterer and formerly the touring chef for the likes of Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. She has a great idea of what people love to eat, so her refrigerated cases are filled from top to bottom with magnificent soups, salads, sandwiches, and dinners for two—all made in-house.

The best part is that these unconventional meals are made with some of the same ingredients she sells to customers, from Moroccan spice to famed chef Stephanie Izard’s new signature sauces to cheeses from around the globe.

What Sharpe has been doing since 2005 is a trend that really picked up during the pandemic as operators were forced to pivot to keep their establishments from going under. When customers could not dine inside restaurants, chefs transformed their signature dishes into premade and prepackaged meals to go. While many abandoned the practice once restaurants were allowed to be fully open again, others continue to crank out RTE meals for more revenue.

In fact, 54% of Millennials say they are extremely or very likely to order grab-and-go sandwiches/wraps as a snack outside of regular restaurant meals.1 They’re looking for something beyond, of course, the typical ham-and-cheese sandwich.

Wraps are flying high at grab-and-go establishments

For instance, wraps are especially popular, with 72% of consumers liking veggie wraps, among those who have tried them.2 And what’s not to love? They’re simple to whip up, filled with seasonal ingredients and easily portable for consumers.

Cantoro Italian Market Trattoria, for example, sells a variety of Italian-inspired wraps as well as other RTE offerings at its bustling Detroit Metropolitan Airport outpost. It was a way to capture a new audience, the “weary traveler on the go,” says Cantoro co-owner Michael Fallone.

“Being on the move or in a hurry does not mean anyone should have to surrender a desire for high-quality food,” says Fallone, whose family is behind the 40-plus-year Detroit institution. “We are happy to be a destination stop at the airport and give people something to look forward to with our fantastic panini, sandwiches, salads and more. We are excited to help change the way travelers eat when arriving or departing from the airport by offering top-quality Italian food.”

How to feature global grab-n-go offerings in a limited space

Datassential reports 84% of shoppers visited the prepared foods department during their last trip to the supermarket.3 With that much interest in the section, operators should offer as much variety as possible.

Sharpe’s The Goddess & Grocer's newest location is large enough to feature one of the most diverse offerings in Chicago. Not every establishment, however, is fortunate enough to have that sort of space.

One option operators may consider is featuring a rotating lineup of globally focused, ready-to-eat dishes. That’ll keep customers coming back more often when they can count on something different during each visit.

With veggie wraps trending up, why not add a Southwestern veggie quinoa wrap to the repertoire? Also, noodle bowls have grown 23% in the past year and 17% in the past four years on menus.2 A chilled veggie noodle bowl would be right on time for this season.

Consider also that 79% of consumers love/like guacamole, among those who have tried it.4 Veggie and guacamole snack cups are easy to whip up and add to the refrigerator case. And tzatziki, a salted yogurt and cucumber dip, is gaining fast with consumers; awareness has grown 4% in the past two years; and 77% of consumers like or love tzatziki, among those who have tried it.4 A green tzatziki snack box may be a great addition to a rotating, RTE menu as well.

Snack attack: Grab-n-go consumers love them!

RTE snacks are easy to make and convenient for commuters and travelers. That’s why the veggie and guacamole snack cups or green tzatziki snack box may be ideal solutions for operators who could use a boost in profits.

In fact, 78% of operators who serve snacks say that they are profitable and 77% say they sell well.1 Need more convincing? Twenty-seven percent of consumers say they would pay more for a high protein snack; 67% of consumers say they would be more likely to buy a snack that is all natural; and 73% of consumers agree that healthy snacks can be just as craveable as indulgent snacks.1

Now, that should touch all bases. It’s time for more operators to make grab-and-go a reality at their establishments. And here are a few grab-and-go recipes from the Simplot Culinary Team to help you do just that:

Dill-icious Chip & Dip To Go
Simple, different, and really hits the spot when you need a quick snack. Serve up some piping hot sea salt chips tossed in dill pickle seasoning and serve with a side of our new Harvest Fresh® Dill Pickle Flavored Avocado Spread for dippin’.
View Recipe »

Chilled Veggie Noodle Bowl
These noodle bowls to go are super convenient and taste every bit as good as they look. Packed with veggies, soba noodles, sliced avocado halves, and pre-dressed with a house-made soy and honey dressing for convenience—and flavor.
View Recipe »

Modern Southwestern Veggie Wrap
RoastWorks® RTE Flame-Roasted Corn & Black Beans, peppers and onions, diced avocado, chipotle-lime dressing and cotija cheese are tucked into a spinach-infused tortilla and wrapped up to go.
View Recipe »

Greek Tzatziki Snack Box
When a sandwich or salad won’t quite do, give this Greek-inspired snacker a try. Load up a tray with pita triangles, cucumber, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta, dolmas and give ‘em hummus and Harvest Fresh® Cucumber-Tzatziki Flavored Avocado Spread for dipping.
View Recipe »

1 Datassential, ReportPro, 2024
2 Datassential, MenuTrends, 2024
3 Datassential, Supermarket Prepared Foods Keynote Report, 2024
4 Datassential, Consumer Preferences, 2024