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Successful Cafeteria Design

6 Things to Consider in a Cafeteria Redesign

Are you a food service operator challenged with trying to generate increased revenue with outdated serving lines? Is this influencing you to renovate your cafeteria?

The need to renovate an outdated cafeteria is understandable as the serving lines of yesterday were designed for lower customer volumes and limited menus. They often don’t contain enough hot or cold wells to accommodate all entrees and side dishes (e.g. sandwiches, beverages or desserts) in demand today. This is just one major factor that fuels the decision to update a cafeteria.

To achieve a successful cafeteria design, begin the thought process before working with your architect or consultant. The best place to start is to consider six key criteria.

  1. Establish a budget. This will be the benchmark that tells you if your renovations are feasible.
  2. List your proposed menu ideas and concepts.
  3. Take into account the number of meals you are serving.
  4. Decide on the size and configuration of the serving stations required.
  5. Determine the key components for your serving stations, e.g. hot wells, cold wells, refrigeration, etc.
  6. Begin selecting your equipment and decor elements.

As you work on these six steps, strive to become an educated consumer. Learn about the many new types of equipment, decorative finishes and merchandising methods available to correct the deficiencies you’ve identified. This will enable you to make the best buying decision for your space and customers.

Additional Considerations:

  1. Scatter Design– A scatter design uses food stations that are themed with individual identities to serve specific menu items. Examples include grill stations, made-to-order delis and international menu ideas, all which appeal to the sophisticated palate and broad ethnic diversity of today’s customer. Also, merchandising is key to the scatter design. Select colorful eye-catching signage that identifies your food stations and highlights your menus’ nutritional content.
  2. Flexibility, Functionality, Longevity– When researching equipment, take into account flexibility, functionality and longevity. Regardless of space and anticipated layout, flexibility in the design of the equipment is the most important of these three criteria. Food trends constantly change and dictate menu choices. Flexible equipment will allow you to quickly adapt to these changes. Also, choosing functional, durable serving line pieces is equally important as they can be easily rearranged or moved for cleaning.
  3. Important Counter Options– How many times have menu changes forced you or your staff to use a hot well as a cold well and vice versa? Consider adding convertible hot-to-cold wells to counters and kiosks to accommodate changing menu trends. Also, adding self service food shields expands your serving capacity and are especially helpful during labor shortages or when menu changes dictate self service.

Planning Resources:

  1. Internet – The internet is ideal for researching different manufacturers to compare equipment, features and benefits that are important to you. Be conscious of energy efficiency and lifetime of operating costs.
  2. Site Visits– For a fresh perspective, check out newly built or renovated kitchens and dining facilities. Visit establishments considered industry trendsetters. Pay attention to design, layout and facilities. Consider incorporating their concepts into your cafeteria. Reviewing other operations is a wonderful way to single out good ideas and identify design features that aren’t working as well as intended.
  3. Network– Reach out to fellow foodservice directors who have recently completed a renovation or upgrade. Visit their installations and ask questions about their equipment and design. Ask them what changes they made to their environment to create an exciting customer experience. Find out what worked and what they would do differently.
  4. Foodservice Design and Layout Designers– If you need to build, renovate or make improvements to your existing dining facility, a food service consultant can provide the professional expertise and resources to support your project from design to implementation. To locate a designer in your area, check out the website for Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI). Click here to use their consultant locator.
  5. Retail Operations– Retail operations consultants improve business efficiency and profitability by providing a range of strategy, project planning and training services.

Doing your research well in advance of your renovation and listing all of the important elements is worth the effort. In the end, the proper planning will not only increase customer participation and enjoyment, but ultimately improve your revenue.

To help you start your checklist, check out our video, "6 Things to Consider in a Cafeteria Redesign."

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Language and Culture Change: Are You Still Using the “F” Word at Work?

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” - Mark Twain

To be honest, I didn’t realize how the power of my everyday words negatively impacted an institution where I worked. Now, on reflection, I’m actually embarrassed by my new-found knowledge, but I take heart from an Oprah quote: “When we know better, we do better.”

My challenge now to myself, and I hope my fellow colleagues working in Health Care Communities, is to constantly perform a language check-up.

Recently, there’s been a great deal of research done on how our choice of words impacts our work environment and directly influences our behavior. Other workplaces have had to change their language usage. For example, prisons are now Correctional Centers, stewardesses are now flight attendants, dietary is now culinary services. Likewise, our words in Residential Care need to be reflective of what we want to offer, which is a more normal and home-like atmosphere. Often traditional nursing homes represent a culture that needs changing, and changed language needs to be an integral part of it.

Nancy Fox wrote in her book, “The Journey of a Lifetime: Leadership Pathways to Culture Change in Long-Term Care,” that “our entire industry has developed a language that is demeaning and depersonalizing both of the Elders we serve and the hands-on staff who care for them. What we know is that language can and does influence us. Language is a powerful tool. When used in a positive way, it can inspire people. When used negatively, it can hurt. But when it becomes a part of a culture and is simply mindless, that is when we speak the words without understanding their impact, it is dangerous. When we awaken to the fact that this kind of language has seeped into our culture and is now actually driving our attitudes and beliefs, we can begin to change our language to shape a new culture." (p. 82)

There are also some excellent points made in the paper titled, “The Power of Language to Create Culture,” by Bowman, Ronch, and Madjaroff, (2016), which encourage us all to consider our choice of words.

Here is a quick summary of some of their topics that I found most helpful. To help us change our language, here are some practical suggestions:

• Purchase laminated cards, the size of a business card from The Institute for Caregiver Education for staff team members. These cards say “Language is the key to the soul. Because of this, it is important to choose our words carefully. To help transform our “facility” into a true community, try using the following:

  • Use “Home” or “Community” instead of facility
  • Address and refer to people by name, not diagnosis or job function.
  • Avoid excessive medical terminology when talking to residents or co-workers without a clinical background.
  • Don’t just bark orders. Try to explain the "why" of what you are asking for.
  • Think “Equalize Everyone".

• Create a group of leaders to use examples of the new language – allow them to be the “teachers” who get it and can give feedback in a respectful way. Learning new beliefs and a new way of talking takes time. Be patient but clear.

• The best way for a person to learn a new language is to speak it. Leaders need to encourage people to use the new language so it becomes automatic.

• Instead of Director of Dietary, maybe change to Culinary Services Team Leader

• Leaders and teachers need to keep reminding people that learning a new language requires three kinds of knowledge to take hold: know it (facts/information), know why (motivations and beliefs) and know how (the new words/concepts/language are spoken) to become dominant.

• When you hear language that dishonors people in communities, be on the lookout for opportunities to reframe someone’s experience so that their beliefs and language can be changed. Reframing means to change the way we interpret or give meaning to an event, so when a person in a nursing home is called “resistant,” reframe it to “making a choice”

• The best strategy of all: use it, use it and then use it some more. Changing language and culture take time and concerted effort so giving people a new vocabulary list is just one part of the job, but following through and accountability are critical. Empower the team to make it happen and that everyone is responsible for accountability. (Ronch, 2003)

healthcare language choice

Please do check in with yourself. Listen to the care partners at your workspace. Be an example. Make others accountable. Changing culture means changing our language. So, do you need to stop saying the “F word”? Facility, that is.

Are you saying the right things in your community? Are you creating a home-like atmosphere? Take our quiz to find out where you can improve.


About Suzanne Quiring: Suzanne Quiring, RD, CDM, CFPP has worked in residential care for over 25 years and has her Continuing Care Administrator designation. She has assisted over 800 healthcare enters improved their meal service with tableside service. She is the inventor of “SuzyQ carts” by Lakeside. She has spoken at conferences throughout North America and is passionate about self-directed dining.

Full reference list and credit given to the authors of the paper //
Dr. Allen Power, Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the culture of care, 2016
Nancy Fox, The Journey of a Lifetime: Leadership Pathways to Culture Change in Long-Term Care, Second Edition, 2016
Susan McCorkell Worth, RD, LD; Continuing down the highway for Culture Change – words do make a difference, DHCC publication, Volume 34, 2009, page 9.

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Redesign Your Line

Creating an inviting atmosphere in your K-12 school cafeteria can have a dramatic impact on student participation levels in the lunchroom and classroom. To see a slide show of 10 easy ways you can transform your cafeteria, click here.

Mealtimes should be positive and lunchrooms should be inviting places. Lunch should be an enjoyable part of the school day for students, whether they're in kindergarten or high school. The cafeteria should be a break from the rigors of the school day.

School nutrition programs that embrace this mentality, that transform school cafeterias into places where students can relax, socialize and become nourished, will enjoy the benefits of higher participation levels and higher performing students.

But, the question becomes how?

Create Inviting Entrances

For starters, consider how the lunchroom experience starts. Even a simple welcome sign can go a long way to establishing ownership and a sense of pride, which will inevitably increase student participation. Welcoming décor isn't that difficult to pull off, either. A quick run to the local hobby store can transform an entryway.

Provide Direction

One thing students struggle with the most is limited time. Lunch periods are getting shorter and shorter, and students don't have time to waste on trying to figure out where things are located within the cafeteria. If there's a grill area, identify it. If a line has a designated starting point, let students know. Get creative with signs and identifications too. It's an opportunity to turn a school cafeteria into a space that feels more like a restaurant or food court.

Enhance Displays

How you display foods is almost as important as what foods are displayed. Attracting and enticing students — and ultimately getting those students to buy meals — requires merchandising products in ways that showcase their freshness and abundance. Clean and tidy displays are preferred over clutter and disorder. Lighting and even tray colors like dark reds and blues can make menu items more appealing. The goal is to make foods as enticing as possible because, first, we eat with our eyes.

What are the benefits of a school cafeteria transformation?

Studies show a school cafeteria environment can have an impact on the general performance of the student body. When the eating environment is pleasant and appealing, students eat more of their lunch, do better in the classroom, and have fewer behavioral problems. This is why proper nourishment is so important.

In terms of participation, though, what's the true impact? How much does ambiance affect student meal participation? With just some simple transformations such as displays, graphics, décor, and design, a high school can experience increases of more than 20% in meal participation, resulting in totals of nearly $120,000 in annual revenue.

Learn more about how you can experience significant increases in student participation. Check out our slideshow that offers 10 free tips that will help you transform your cafeteria and improve student engagement in your meal programs.


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Trend Spotlight – Food Insecurity

Of all the foodservice trends we've detailed for 2019, there's one that stands above the rest when it comes to K-12 school nutrition operations.

Food insecurity.

What is it? How prevalent is it in America? And what are the impacts?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food required to live an active, healthy life. It's described in terms of a full range of security from high to marginal food security at the top end down to low and very low on the bottom.

If you look at the statistics, the numbers are eye-opening. According to the USDA's Economic Research Service from a 2017 report on household food security, an estimated one in eight Americans are food insecure. This total includes more than 12 million children and equals nearly 40 million people overall.

This means a staggering number of students are entering our schools -- day in, day out -- who cannot afford proper nutrition and are often unwilling to look for help because many of the stigmas associated with seeking help are just too big to overcome. The result is a growing student population without proper nutrition, at risk for health repercussions and inadequate fuel for successful academic studies.

There's good news, though.

Because more and more focus is being put on food insecure students, school nutrition directors are focusing this awareness into solutions to help hungry students. They are engaging local populations with new efforts to help curb hunger in the classroom, including these three important micro trends:

Breakfast and Supper in Schools
One way to make sure students avoid hunger at home is to serve them at-home meals in school. Though breakfast and supper are traditionally eaten in the home, by thinking outside the box, capitalizing on available reimbursement funds, and making a commitment to provide important nutrition, many school districts are leading the way in national efforts to fight food insecurity.

Angel Funds
Some school districts across the country are experiencing success with programs called Angel Funds. Essentially, these are pools of money donated by individuals, families, businesses, or charitable organizations to help create a positive impact on students' lives. As an example, a local Rotary Club could donate $5,000 to help fund additional meal services to those who fall in the free and reduced categories.

Food Sharing Programs
Another way that schools can encourage students to help other students is with a concept called sharing tables or carts.  If a student receives a food item in the lunch line that they don't intend to eat - like a piece of fruit - instead of throwing it out, they can place it on a table or cart making it available to other students. Not only does this help hungry students, but it also significantly reduces waste.

Food Banks
Finally, district-wide food banks are a great way to not only get food to those who need it most but also help reduce food waste. On-campus or district food banks are a great way to use leftover foods for good use.

Food insecurity is listed as #11 on our 2019 Foodservice Trends Report. Though they're not listed in any particular order, we invite you to learn about all 12 of them.


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A Close Look at the School Nutrition Association’s Legislative Action Conference

A Close Look at the School Nutrition Association's Legislative Action Conference

SNA’s 47th LAC – Proud to Support the Issues, the Passion, the March

Lakeside and Multiteria have learned so much over the years in supporting the School Nutrition Association.  Our commitment may have begun by doing the right thing in supporting the association we market to, but now understanding the bigger picture, we take great pride to be part of the Legislative Action Conference (LAC) and the efforts to advocate for improvement of the national policy that supports and shapes the future of child nutrition.

The LAC is centered on the nutritional and educational welfare of our nation's K-12 students, and their message is to educate Capitol Hill using an abundance of energy and passion from a group of participants who have dedicated their lives to our schools and our students. There’s no mistaking the energy and preparation for what amounts to, in many cases, just a brief five- to 10-minute conversation with a congressional aide, or if they're lucky, an actual Senator or Representative.

The LAC is a creative and progressive conference that starts by discussing current issues before transitioning to topics of leadership, communication and how to handle oneself on Capitol Hill. Initial sessions begin with a series of meetings that highlight critical issues within the industry.

Consider a presentation titled To Procure or Not to Procure, which focused on requirements and best practices. The procurement process is complex and challenged with budgetary and resource constraints – undoubtedly a tough job.

Or consider another breakout, This Is What Is Keeping Us Awake at Night, which really cut to the center of setting priorities. Topics included how to continually increase food quality given timing and budget constraints, how to improve training with a changing workforce, and one that stood out, how to ensure that foodservice is an educational experience.

As noted by several attendees in conversation, a school’s foodservice program is the only one that touches the entire student population.  This is something that cannot be said for each teacher or coach, yet it's an underlying passion for many foodservice directors. Several topics raised in this session were consistent with SNA’s 2019 Position Paper.

But what made the session unique was its conversational tone between a spectrum of stakeholders – across the industry – who held a shared goal to improve student nutrition and wellbeing.

The last day included the main event which was to charge The Hill! Representing Wisconsin, the Lakeside Team prioritized and discussed key issues from the 2019 Position Paper to highlight in a 10-minute presentation on behalf of our home state. Based on constituency, we divided appointment times among our team and shared lessons learned from years past such as which members traditionally support school nutrition needs, how to approach them, etc.

The number one issue we pressed was funding for School Breakfast Programs (SBP) which has been an emerging trend across K-12 schools. Past research from the Food Research and Action Center shows better nourishment leads to increased class participation and learning retention.

For 2019, the House Appropriations Committee passed a one-time $20 million appropriation for school breakfast; however, this investment deserves a more permanent solution. As noted by the industry trade publication, Foodservice Director, currently 14.6 million students participate in a school breakfast program with over 85% of those students coming from low-income families.

LAC has taught us much.  Not only have we learned the importance of driving a unified message when lobbying our state representatives to create impactful legislation, but we’ve also learned of the never-ending passion displayed each year by school foodservice professionals who go above and beyond their commitment to nourish our nation’s children. Lakeside and Multiteria thank you and commend you on all levels!

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7 Ways Foodservice Operators Can Reduce Food Waste

Seven Ways Foodservice Operators Can Reduce Food Waste

Americans waste a ton of money on food. In fact, estimates show we throw away nearly 30% to 40% of our food supply.

How much does that total? Nearly $160 billion. Imagine if you threw away nearly a third of your money every time you opened up your wallet or pocketbook. It goes to show we don't need documentaries or people like Anthony Bourdain telling us to "use everything, waste nothing," though that certainly doesn't hurt.

The good news is our collective culinary conscious is quickly awakening to the food waste reduction challenge. This trend has been growing steady in recent years, making it onto foodservice trend lists ranging from the National Restaurant Association to our own 2019 Foodservice Trends Report.

So if everyone is starting to realize the importance (and profitability) of reducing food waste, what are some of the basic steps foodservice operations can take to make it happen?


Study after study tells us "sell by" or "use by" dates are subjective and not accurate. Societal training tells us an apple or a tomato with a blemish or bruise isn't worthy of serving or eating. We often tell ourselves something is bad even though that very well might not be the case. If we learn to retrain ourselves with facts and to work with foods that may appear imperfect, we've taken the first step toward reducing food waste.


Like most sustainability practices, training team members to be mindful of food waste can go a long way. Just like you might include shutting off lights in a walk-in as part of a process manual, including best practices for reducing food waste can work too, especially when training includes the cross utilization of ingredients.


You can't reduce food waste unless you know how much you're throwing away in the first place. With food waste audits and data systems, operators can learn baseline key performance indicators that will provide goals for improvement in the future. Even better, the nonprofit ReFED recently issued a report called the Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide which states that tracking and analytics can benefit the restaurant industry by increasing profits by more than $250 million each year.


How is food packaged? Is there a way to break down shipments and store them in smaller, more useable portions? Are the storage facilities operating at optimal capacities? These are all questions that can help operations order the right levels of ingredients and store them in the right conditions. To reduce food waste, make sure production schedules are accurate.


We throw away so many items that can be used in other applications with just a bit of creativity. Let's take the orange, for example. In the front-of-house, a bartender might carve off a twist every now and then to top off the perfect Negroni. The orange itself might go unused and wind up in the trash at the end of the shift. In the back-of-house, the saucier might use fresh oranges as part of a light cream to top that night's special dish, scallops l'orange. The rinds will probably go in the trash at the end of the night. Do you think these two people could use the same orange?


There's no doubt about it. Much food waste falls directly on the customers. According to American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), guests leave about 17% of food on their plates on average. By reconsidering portion sizes, offering half orders, or providing greater customization, less food will go in the can and more profit will come to the man.


All across America, we have food banks and non-profits that will take unused foods and give them to those in need. After all, if we can prevent 30% of our food from going in the trash, that food needs to wind up in the hands of those who need it the most. For operators, giving back can also bring financial benefits as well as altruistic ones. Many operations can experience donation tax incentives for giving unused food to these types of charities.

Food waste is one of the top micro trends of the overall trend of sustainability. Sustainability is listed as the second trend in our 2019 Foodservice Trends & Solutions e-Report, which you can download here. Check it out to review all 12 trends that we see as being most important to operators this year.

2019 Foodservice Trends Report CTA

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Foodservice Trends We Learned from Sheryl Crow

When we were in Orlando for The NAFEM Show 2019, we certainly had some fun. We have a feeling, we're not the only ones.

If you saw what we saw, you weren't outside "soaking up the sun" but were walking a floor filled with innovations, new products, and solutions at a rate we haven't seen in the last few NAFEM Shows. As they say, "every day is a winding road," and before the end of this blog, we're going to see how many Sheryl Crow song references we can include.

Actually, we're going to take it one step further and let you know what we learned about foodservice equipment from Sheryl Crow. So let's get started.


Well, just being with all our foodservice friends makes us happy, but what really matters are the customers of foodservice operations. Now more than ever, customers are driving foodservice trends, and we're seeing equipment manufacturers follow suit by making it easier to deliver those trends. Transparency, customization, you name it. There are new things making us happy every day in foodservice.


One thing we saw in Orlando was an effort to be more sustainable, both on behalf of operators and in consumer menu preferences. Look no further than last year's eco-friendly straw trend to understand what we're talking about. Beyond that, though, diners are looking for more plant-based options and operators are looking for new ways to reduce food waste. Innovation, training, and commitment are the ways it's going to happen.


We're only as strong as our weakest link, right? That's so true in foodservice, where we're experiencing labor challenges right and left. It's hard enough to find good staff, but once you do, keeping them can be even harder. As a result, equipment has to be easy to use and perform multiple functions within the same space. We certainly saw a focus on ease-of-use at The NAFEM Show 2019 in just about every aspect of foodservice equipment and supplies.


More and more entrepreneurs are breaking onto the scene for the first time, as mobile, micro, and niche providers have a smaller barrier of entry into the business. Startup costs and other traditional hurdles are both being lowered. From the enormously popular food hall trend to ghost kitchens, we can help these operators achieve success by rethinking the tools they'll need to be successful.

[Additional Resources: Check out our NAFEM Product Highlights]


Normally we don't like ending with a mistake, but in this case, it seems appropriate. Especially when you consider mistakes can be fixed moving forward. For too long, a staggering percentage of students across the country cannot afford proper nutrition and suffer from food insecurity issues. When you look at the trends, there's help on the way. Now more than ever, it's easier to deliver nutritious breakfast to students in the classroom. On-campus food banks are a reality. And our equipment solutions can help make it happen.

What else might you have missed in Orlando? Get a glimpse of a few sights from The NAFEM Show in this short video recap:

We can't help you with any more Sheryl Crow songs.

But good news!  We can help you with more trends!

We put together a 2019 Foodservice Trends & Solutions e-Report that can help you navigate the upcoming year of challenges and opportunities. "If it makes you happy," it makes us happy, so take advantage of this free download.

2019 Foodservice Trends Report CTA