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. 

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