The impact of technology on foodservice

Operators say technology has made their work lives easier.

From ordering and inventory to information access and storage, technology is helping foodservice departments run more efficiently, but not without some growing pains and a commitment to learning.

Ninety-two percent of school operators strongly agree that technology has had a positive impact on their foodservice departments, and 78% of schools strongly agree that technology has even made employees’ jobs easier.

Employees now “have tools that increase their efficiencies, whether it’s reporting or tools within the kitchen that are technology advanced so they can produce more,” explains Adam Merlino, director of nutrition services at Cañon City Schools, in Colorado. And since some production technologies, such as smallware equipment, help to reduce an employee’s need to stand in one spot for a long period of time or do repetitive motions, Merlino finds that “oftentimes, some of this technology helps [to increase] their physical longevity.” 

Use of technology comes with a learning curve but is worth the effort, Merlino explains. To decrease the anxieties that come with change, “you have to do a combination of training—first you have to learn it yourself so your employees can see an example of how it can be learned to overcome that obstacle of change,” he shares. 

For Patti Klos, director of dining and business services at Tufts University, in Medford, Mass., and her staff, “technology gives us the access to information in a way that was more cumbersome before.” 

But the use of technology shines a light on employee ability and confidence. It “begins to have some job requirements that weren’t there before … forcing us to develop for areas we hadn’t thought about before but are beneficial,” Klos explains. Klos uses a “buddy approach” so that less comfortable or confident employees can work with a co-worker in an appropriate and respectful way to complete tasks accurately. 

When it comes to keeping up with emerging technology, however, 44% of respondents strongly agree it is difficult to do. Several issues factor into staying on top of developments in technology, including customer and corporate influence, time, budgets, infrastructure, rate of change and, for some, age. Sixty percent of respondents older than 60 strongly agree that it is difficult to keep up with emerging technology. 

More From FoodService Director

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.

Managing Your Business
food symbols allergens

Bellevue School District in King County, Wash., has reduced the instances of life-threatening allergic reactions by 94% since 2013. Wendy Weyer, business manager for nutrition services, says that success stems from direct communication with the district’s 20,000 students.

Q: What was the first thing you did to start reducing allergic reactions?

A: More than five years ago, we changed our menu signage to provide information to students on what the common allergens were on all the foods that were served at every station. We use symbols such as an egg or a wheat stalk for younger...

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...

Menu Development
induction cooking nuts

Thanks to prolific fast casuals such as Chipotle, guests have come to expect a certain level of customization in their dining options. For almost 50% of Generation Zers, customization is a deciding factor when purchasing food, according Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report . Taking customization even further, operations are handing over even more control to customers with both build-your-own and cook-your-own stations.

Elder Hall’s My Kitchen station at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offers a daily rotating ingredient bar with items such as stir-fry,...

FSD Resources