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

Industry News & Opinion

Hutchinson Middle School in Hutchinson, Minn., invited students to help serve lunch in an effort to encourage their peers to try new, healthy recipes, Hutchinson Leader reports.

The students, who are part of the school’s Students in Action Club, created posters to advertise the new meal and helped serve it to students during lunch.

The school’s kitchen manager, Janet Schmidt, said that around 37 more students than normal got in line to try the meal. The school plans to have students from the club help serve lunch once every month.

Read the full story via Hutchinson...

Industry News & Opinion

In an effort to trim costs, the country’s largest senior living company laid off 100 staff members, including regional dining services directors, reports Senior Housing News .

Not all employees who were laid off will technically leave the company, Senior Housing News notes, as some will be reassigned to alternative positions. Brookdale recently posted third-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts’ expectations and that the company’s CEO called disappointing.

At the end of last year, the Brentwood, Tenn.-based company employed 53,000 workers on a full-time basis, and...

Industry News & Opinion

After receiving mixed feedback from parents, Randolph County School District in Asheboro, N.C., is inviting parents to tour the district’s kitchens and cafeterias to see how the food for school meals is made, Fox 8 reports.

School officials say that the tours, part of the district’s first Food Day for Parents, will give parents an inside look at the upkeep of the facilities, as well as enable them to sample some food and see how the district is upholding USDA guidelines.

Officials also hope that the tours will provide them with more guidance on what parents and students are...

Industry News & Opinion

After fielding complaints from parents and students, Sodexo is launching an initiative to improve dining services at Emerson College in Boston, the Berkeley Beacon reports.

The initiative will kick off this month with an event dubbed Fresh Start, marking the start of several moves aimed at improving service—including the hiring of a new executive chef, the addition of a second sous chef, and retraining current staff on food preparation and presentation.

Members of the Emerson community will also be able to share feedback through the introduction of monthly forums, as well...

FSD Resources