5 tips for weathering this weekend’s storm

Bianca N. Herron, Digital Editor

snow storm people walking

When it comes to keeping your foodservice operations intact during a winter storm, FSDs agree that communication, preparation and flexibility are key. Here are five best practices they recommend for weathering this weekend’s storm or any other extreme-weather event.

1. Bring key staff members in early

Getting key members of the team to work during inclement weather can be a challenge. That’s why at New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, “The entire management team comes in and sleeps overnight,” says Tony Almieda, director of food and nutrition. The hospital puts up about 100 people, including executive chefs and assistant directors. “They fill the conference rooms with cots and that’s where we stay,” says Amieda. “It’s not the most comfortable thing, but people step up just to be sure that we have the necessary staff on hand.”

2. Be flexible

So all of your cooks decided to stay overnight, but the dishwashers aren’t able to get into work. That’s why the Pennswood Village retirement community uses recyclable aluminum containers instead of pots and disposables instead of dishes, says Dining Services Manager James Thoma. “We’ll put the food prepared for the next day in those containers, ensuring the minimal amount of pots being used,” he says. “We also want to get residents in and out of the community building with their meals quickly, so the takeout containers help us with that too.”

3. Be creative

After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the elevators went out at Wesley Enhanced Living in Pennsylvania. The complication threw the staff at the facility into a frenzy with meal deliveries, which are offered around the clock, explains Jackie Wojciechowski, corporate dietitian. “We had to get creative with carrying the food upstairs,” she recalls. “So we carried the bread and butter up to each floor, and instead of cooking in advance we cooked meals on the floor using a small burner. We also served salads and cold dishes the residents didn’t typically have, which helped us with food temperatures too.”

4. Stock extra water and food

You never know how bad a winter storm can get—or how long it can last. That’s why Almieda overstocks. “We usually have enough food on hand for about four days,” he said. “For this storm, we had a truck deliver enough food and water to carry us through the weekend. That way we can support ourselves for awhile.”

5. Have a game plan

It may be too late to do long-term planning for this weekend’s storm, but learn from that mistake. At Pennswood Village, representatives from every division are gathered for a “snow meeting” as soon as a winter storm warning is issued. “We all sit down and go through every aspect possible, including what time the snow will hit, how will it impact staff and what meals do we adjust or keep intact,” says Director of Dining Services Mary Cooley. “It’s all about making sure everyone’s on the same page, including the resident’s as we clue them in on what we’ve planned.”

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