Desserts: Through a Straw

Drinkable desserts offer convenience and sometimes a healthy post-meal option.

Published in FSD Update

Overlook’s Summit Shuffle.

For operators looking to add something nutritious, portable and trendy to their menus, consider drinkable desserts. Whether you go seasonal with fresh fruit smoothies, ethnic with agua frescas or decadent with milkshakes, the options are limitless.

Take it from Richard B. Roberts, chef/manager at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., who offers smoothies and milkshakes in rotating flavors, including strawberry, mixed berry and mango. Chocolate and vanilla milkshakes are garnished with items like chocolate chips, crumbled cookies, candy and fruit. “Because Cornell has its own dairy plant, these [drinkables] get added appeal, and it gives our operation a chance to feature a high-quality, local product,” Roberts says. 

Joe Mullineaux, senior associate director for the University of Maryland’s Dining Services, can relate. Mullineaux also uses ice cream made from the on-campus dairy for his best-selling milkshakes. “We have a long tradition surrounding our ice cream,” Mullineaux says. “In most of our smoothies we use whole fruits and add in nutritional supplements, which takes the guilt away from dessert, making them very popular.” 

Michael Atanasio, manager of food and nutrition at Overlook Medical Center, in Summit, N.J., also uses the guilt-free dessert tactic. Atanasio offers many varieties of yogurt and fruit smoothies made with fresh fruit, protein and supplements. One smoothie, the Summit Shuffle, is made with a Greek yogurt base and is topped with almonds and dark chocolate. “I try and stay away from plain white sugar and use natural ingredients, like fresh fruit and vegetables, for sweetening whenever possible. Soon we’ll use our own honey,” says Atanasio, who recently added two beehives to his on-site garden. “Other bases, like yogurt or candied ginger, double as sweeteners and tie into the healthy craze.”

While milkshakes and smoothies are mainstays, don’t stop there. Take a page from Mullineaux’s book and consider snow cones: shaved ice flavored with syrup and often topped with marshmallow cream. Though it starts out solid, as the ice melts the cones becomes a fun, portable drink, says Mullineaux, who sells the dessert at special events, at the Dairy and at the campus golf course bar, where he adds liqueurs.

Made to order
Perhaps the biggest challenge of drinkable desserts is they’re typically made to order so as not to dilute or thaw. “It takes a good bit of work and skill to make a good drinkable dessert, and it can be messy,” Mullineaux says. “Training is key. And you should start small, building on new flavors after you master the basics.” Cornell’s Roberts agrees: “In building a hot or cold beverage program, keep the process simple, using [no more than] five easily replicable ingredients. If you have all the necessary ingredients in place, it is more of a systematic production.”  

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
hands team

In November, students at University of Missouri in Columbia began leading protests against discrimination faced by people of color on campus—including some marches through the dining halls. Julaine Kiehn, director of the school’s campus dining services, said the 2015-16 school year was a tough one, but she was proud of MU’s students for being at the forefront of a national movement.

And not only did the protests launch important conversations with students, but also with staff. Kiehn heard the protests and thought that her student workers, at least, might not feel safe and welcome...

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

FSD Resources