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How Healthcare Foodservice Leaders Are Responding in 2020

Pressure was placed on healthcare foodservice leaders to develop an unexpected pandemic response plan.

Many have prepared for emergencies like fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, or mass shootings, but a pandemic was not on the list for the near future. Since being prepared is key to any good action plan, a lot of pressure was placed on healthcare foodservice leaders to develop an unexpected pandemic response plan. Nonetheless, they stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park with response plans created to anticipate the worst, respond immediately, and adapt to the inevitable changes to come. Circumstances differ from hospital to hospital due to location and outbreak, but food service leaders are working hard to keep providing food to patients and staff.

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How to Provide Catering Services in the Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for most catering companies across the country.

As events begin to happen again, you may be wondering if your catering company is prepared to handle safe foodservice during this unique time. Fortunately, making a few simple adjustments to your regular operations can make it easier to return to working at events while keeping your employees, clients, and clients' guests safe. Here are five tips for safely providing catering services during the age of COVID-19!

Consider Flameless Alternatives to Keep Food Warm

Although many catering companies continue to use flames to keep food warm until it is served, this approach comes with several disadvantages. In addition to the obvious danger of using an open flame when it may not be necessary, this type of heating requires that someone from your catering company stay until the end of the event to monitor the flame and clean up the equipment.

However, as contactless pickup and delivery are becoming more and more common across the restaurant industry, many of your clients may be interested in this type of approach. By switching to a disposable heating source, some which only require water and keeps food hot for up to one hour, you can simply drop off catered food without having to return later to pick items up. This alternative can increase safety and convenience for both your clients and your employees.

Limit Self-Service Options

Although buffets and salad bars are usually convenient choices for many types of events, they may not be the safest options during COVID-19. Consider temporarily limiting your options to full meals, served either by a member of your team or as prepackaged meals, instead of allowing event guests to serve themselves to prevent possible contamination.

Wear Gloves While Handling Food

Although caterers and other foodservice employees should always wear gloves while directly handling food, this step is even more important in the age of COVID-19. Caterers should also wear gloves when serving meals or delivering food to the venue.

Sanitize Equipment Thoroughly

Likewise, following guidelines for thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing equipment and surfaces is a must. Be sure to wipe down tables before setting up and after serving, launder tablecloths between uses, and store dishes properly after washing them to prevent contamination. It may also be a good idea to consider temporarily switching to disposable dishes, napkins, and utensils for some or all of your events to minimize the number of items you need to disinfect.

Establish Your Restaurant or Foodservice Company as a Trusted Brand

Providing high-quality food and service to establish a strong reputation in your community and a base of recurring customers is crucial under normal circumstances, but it is more important than ever to make sure that your brand becomes known for paying close attention to safety recommendations.

Returning to the frequency and size of events that you are used to providing catering services for will take time, and many of your clients will not make the decision to host an event that requires catering without hesitation. With this in mind, being able to assure your clients that your catering company is a trusted brand that is following food safety guidelines and other current recommendations will go a long way toward returning to a thriving catering company.

At Lakeside Foodservice, we know that this year's significant decline in events has been difficult for many catering companies, restaurants, and other businesses within the foodservice industry. Fortunately, opportunities for caterers to safely move toward normal operations are beginning to return in some areas. By following these simple guidelines, providing safe catering services is possible even during the age of COVID-19. For more tips and solutions for navigating the current situation while keeping your clients safe, check out our COVID-19 Solutions Guide.

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The Future of Restaurants in the COVID Era

Chef

Restaurants, hospitality, and other types of foodservice operations can expect a variety of changes as we move forward into 2021.

Though so much has changed already, there are additional changes we can expect as we finish out 2020. Restaurants and other types of operations can expect a continued focus on safety and the mitigation of potential Coronavirus spread, and this will result in a dependency on new and innovative foodservice equipment and supplies.

As an example, just consider what restaurants face when new products or ingredients arrive at the back door. As we know from numerous reports, the coronavirus can live on cardboard for varying amounts of time. This means removing boxes from food production areas, as well as training staff to properly disinfect after receiving and disposing of boxes, can be a critical step in preventing the spread of COVID-19. We can expect storage options like Lexan containers to be in high demand as restaurants look to shelve items and ingredients on their own versus the boxes in which they were delivered.

HOW WILL THE BACK-OF-HOUSE CHANGE?

Certainly, receiving and storage will be an important part of any back-of-house changes, as will staff training on sanitation processes, but what else can we expect in commercial kitchens as we look to 2021?

We're working through that question right now in many ways. Separation and social distancing are critical, but that can often be impossible in the tight quarters of a kitchen. Dividers and partitions can keep cooks safe, and many restaurants are even considering pods where small groups are separate from other small groups. Expeditors are also a great way to separate those who can touch food from those who cannot.

The back-of-the-house should be isolated from the front-of-the-house as much as possible. One easy way to do this is to create separate entrances for employees and customers, with important sanitation protocols posted at both doors. Gloves, aprons, masks, and other personal protective equipment are great indicators that an operation has a plan in place, and this goes a long way to increasing customer confidence.

HOW WILL THE FRONT-OF-THE-HOUSE CHANGE?

Customer confidence is a phrase worth repeating. Right now, more than anything, more than even food quality and convenience, customer confidence is probably the most important benefit a restaurant can provide.

Everyone has different levels of comfort as it pertains to COVID-19. There are people who have little to no concern about entering a restaurant, and there are others who are still having groceries delivered to their homes and will not leave their own confines. Most people are somewhere in the middle, and as they gain confidence in consumer safety efforts, they'll likely be more comfortable to enter a restaurant, even if it's just for takeout.

Today's restaurant needs multiple layers of protection, barriers and partitions to reinforce the safety of products, furniture, staff, and guests. Main considerations include minimal and spaced tables, a streamlined ordering and paying process, and then minimal contact for food delivery.

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE

By now, it's pretty obvious things will change in the restaurant industry. Even after a vaccine is in place for COVID-19, many of the precautions we're learning today will likely carry over as best practices in the future.

Some of the other things to look for and consider will be UV lights for coolers and storages areas, mobile prep areas and action stations to isolate parts of the cooking process and even bring them to the front-of-the-house, as well as the continued use of sanitation stations and safety partitions.

WHERE TO START:

Re-purposing your equipment to a COVID-19 world is possible. There are also some new solutions to inspire your efforts in meal delivery, sanitation, social distancing, and more. Need inspiration? Here's a guide on Product Solutions to keep your business moving in a COVID-19 world.

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6 Simple Actionable Steps for Foodservice Amidst COVID-19

Face mask

What steps should you take to ensure the safety of your foodservice operation?

COVID-19 Basics in the Food Industry

In the midst of this global pandemic, it is critical for our customers to be aware of COVID-19 and what it means for our industry. The coronavirus and subsequent COVID-19 disease has made its way across the globe, and it’s having impacts on the foodservice industry that have never been seen before.

First, it’s important to know the coronavirus is spread through direct contact of person to person and airborne droplets. If the virus makes its way onto a surface, it can live anywhere from 24-72 hours. 

If someone touches a surface that has been contaminated by someone else with the virus, they can contract it if they do not wash their hands immediately. Washing your hands before touching your mouth, nose, or eyes will kill the virus and the best type of prevention.

More details and guidelines can be found here from the CDC.

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