A healthy challenge

Helping operators cope with gluten-free and other special diets pose.

These are trying times for foodservice directors and dietitians. In our August issue, we will be running an eight-page supplement called “Healthy and Gluten Free.” In preparation for this supplement, I have learned just how difficult it is becoming for operators to offer all menus to all people, as many in non-commercial foodservice try to do, under the growing burden of health and wellness issues.

I’m beginning to believe that I must be in the minority in this country, in that I have no food-related allergies or intolerances. Everywhere I turn there seems to be either one station or another that caters to a specific diet or warning signs or labels alerting customers to the presence of some ingredient that could be dangerous to people with specific food allergies or intolerances.

It is challenging enough for operators to try to convince people to eat more healthfully. Although more people seem to be concerned with proper nutrition, the majority of customers in most institutions are asking for healthier options and choosing to pass them by when they actually eat.

Add to this the increasing concern over food allergies, lactose intolerance and celiac disease. As a matter of fact, in some circles the push for a gluten-free diet—the solution for celiac disease sufferers—appears to be superseding that of healthier diets in general. And now, we have the latest addition to diets on the celiac front, that being gluten sensitivity. According to some studies, although as many as 3 million people may have celiac disease, 10 times that number may be gluten intolerant.

I am not making light of those people who suffer from food allergies or intolerances. All I’m saying is that it has to be increasingly difficult for operators to plan menus and create new stations and concepts while bearing these challenges in mind.

Operators in the non-commercial segments do not have the luxury of specializing their menus. Unlike restaurateurs, who create concepts that play to their strengths and are geared toward generating the highest traffic and biggest ROI, non-commercial operators must try to offer items to meet the needs and desire of a wide variety of customers. They often cannot afford to ignore certain types of customers, such as vegans, simply because they don’t have strength of numbers.

The menu diversity required in many non-commercial cafeterias taxes both the creativity and the budgets of menu planners. And in some segments—most particularly schools, where in-school kitchens are an endangered species—the ability to offer a full range of healthful meals is becoming exceedingly difficult.

We’ll be exploring this subject in more detail in upcoming issues of FSD. How are you coping with the increasing menu diversity required in meeting so many different health-related concerns? Share your stories with me at pking@cspnet.com.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
briggo coffee haus kiosk

Though diners’ appetites for coffee are seemingly bottomless, adding a full-service coffee shop to every corner of a facility probably isn’t in the playbook. Here’s a look at how two operators added coffee service with relatively small footprints—with one decidedly futuristic (robot barista, anyone?), and the other low-tech but nimble.

Specialty coffee vending at Dell

Dell has a full-service Starbucks on its Red Rock, Texas, campus, but the location isn’t always convenient for a quick coffee pickup. “Certain times, you go into the bistro, like 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., there’s quite a long...

Ideas and Innovation
sriracha bottles

Generally, I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. They tend to be grandiose and unrealistic—and why not just resolve to start doing/not doing that thing you’re not doing/doing right away instead of going hog wild until Jan. 1? (New Year’s Day also is my birthday, and if you can’t eat at your favorite Thai restaurant and sip bubbly then, well, when can you?)

I do, however, enjoy the raucous singing of “Auld Lang Syne” to ring in the new year, though I’ve never been quite sure whether you’re supposed to be remembering the year fondly or happily putting it out of mind. While I...

Ideas and Innovation
baked bread

Instead of sourcing value-added product to reduce labor, the food and nutrition team at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison outsources its baked goods to a local shop that hires only formerly incarcerated workers. The bakery was able to hire two new former inmates in order to keep up with the volume needs of the hospital. “We want to be really entrenched in the community, not just have a building that sits in the center of Madison,” says Amy Mihm, clinical nutrition specialist for the hospital.

Ideas and Innovation
cold storage boxes

When working with a small footprint, the back of the house often gets squeezed in the interest of preserving precious seats. But as storage space contracts, these restaurant operators are getting resourceful with everything from shelves to ceiling height to inventory in ways that FSDs can apply, too.

“When we were first tasked with figuring out smaller footprints, when it came to interiors, it was like a bad riddle,” says Trinity Hall, SVP of development for Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which shrunk its prototype from 2,200 square feet to 1,800. “Let’s make it smaller and...

FSD Resources