Operations

How Elior North America is keeping up with its goals as the pandemic evolves

The foodservice management company aims to expand plant-based options, reduce waste and incorporate mental health-boosting ingredients.
Elior chef competing in showdown
Photo courtesy of Elior North America

Like many foodservice operators, Elior North America was forced to evolve its service model almost overnight when COVID-19 hit.

“It certainly forced us to think outside of the box very, very quickly,” says Paul Basciano, vice president of culinary at Elior North America. “I think it's throwing things at us that we probably never thought we would ever have to address, particularly in the in the food world.”

As the pandemic continues to unfold, the team at Elior is still adapting while continuing to make strides toward goals it set before COVID-19 existed.

What the future looks like

Elior hopes to eventually settle into a hybrid model that combines the efforts it was working on pre-COVID with operating procedures and safety precautions implemented during the pandemic that are most likely here to stay.

In the coming years, it will continue efforts around reducing carbon emissions (its parent company, Elior Group, aims to cut these emissions by 12% per meal by 2025), expanding hyperlocal sourcing and more. A major goal for the company is changing chefs’ mindset on how to use ingredients, especially produce, to minimize food waste.

“When it comes to the ingredients that we're preparing, we’re encouraging our chefs to look at the fruit and vegetable with a different lens,” says Basciano.

Elior began this approach earlier in the pandemic with its Rescue Recipe Throwdown, a culinary competition that challenged the company’s chefs to come up with dishes using parts of ingredients that would otherwise be thrown out.

Along with expanding its plant-based offerings as a whole, the team is also looking to incorporate ingredients that are known to help with mental health.

“[We’re] taking a look at ingredients that not only maybe are perceived or are better for you from a physical perspective, but even now going down the road and looking at ingredients that may be good for our consumers, from an emotional standpoint, from a mental standpoint as well,” says Basciano.

Forging ahead

The team plans to continue to assess the pandemic on a weekly basis and change its operating model as necessary. Bascianocredits the ability to be nimble as one of the main reasons Elior has been able to keep up with the ever-evolving pandemic. Keeping a calm mindset has helped, too.

“When you're in a creative industry, the worst thing that you can do is have that that level of panic set in because I think creative people don't work well in those types of environments,” says Basciano.

While COVID-19 has thrown the foodservice industry many curveballs and could continue to do so, it’s important to remain optimistic and plan ahead, he says.

“I think looking towards the future is key, right?” Basciano says. “You know, it's not to sit here and say that everything is doom and gloom. It's to remain positive and to say, ‘You know what, we will get through this at some point in time—maybe we're not exactly sure when this will all be over with completely, but it will happen and we will get back to somewhat of a normal operating model.’”

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