Today’s feeding needs have been dramatically altered by COVID-19 and the various restrictions that accompany efforts to protect the public health.
Despite the challenges, there are ways operators can be more efficient and effective in the current situation and prepare for a future in which serving and dining habits are different.
Here are some ways operators can adapt, adjust and adopt equipment to meet feeding needs now and in the future.
1. Adapt existing equipment to today’s needs
Equipment designed for traditional bulk displaying and serving, such as buffet lines and popular assemble-to-order lines, may not be part of the dining landscape for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean the equipment needs to lie dormant for months.
Traditional cold or hot wells can be outfitted with adapters that allow them to hold individually packaged food items rather than the bulk displays of food for which they were originally designed.
Reconfigure food shields either by converting self-serve ones to operator service or by removing them completely if the operation is serving all packaged foods (and is allowed by the local health department).
K-12 operators or others with access to milk coolers can also repurpose these into grab-and-go coolers for packaged foods.
2. Adjust equipment to meet needs now and in the future
Prepackaged foods are growing in popularity across the dining landscape, particularly as schools and community organizations work to provide meals to students and families in a safe, portable fashion.
But some organizations are still relying on large coolers or even simple carts to transport and serve food. Equipment such as LTI’s Speedline may be an ideal solution.
The Speedline’s deep wells hold packaged food containers at safe hot or cold temperatures, and the countertop’s clear sliding lids allow customers and workers to see food at a glance and access it easily.
Temperature-controlled shelves atop the units provide more space, allowing complete meals with a variety of food items to be stored in and packaged from one unit.
When facilities eventually begin to return to pre-COVID operations, this equipment can continue to be a valuable addition, offering easy and appealing access to grab-and-go options.
3. Adopt mobile and remote serving options
Mobile and remote serving may be a significant part of future foodservice operations. In an effort to enforce the social distancing guidelines that may be in place for months, facilities may look to prevent congregating in traditional cafeterias or dining spaces.
Equipment options are available to make it easier to bring food to where customers are, including potentially serving students in classrooms rather than in a cafeteria setting.
Mobile carts and kiosks have long been used to position food options in convenient locations, such as offering a quick breakfast at a school entrance or a snack in a college courtyard. This type of equipment can take on a second life as a cafeteria on wheels.
Vending machines and outdoor dining infrastructure may also become more important as an easy way for customers to grab a bite in less crowded areas.
Contact LTI for more ideas on how to ensure facilities can accommodate the anticipated short- and long-term changes in noncommercial feeding.
This post is sponsored by LTI, Inc.