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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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Your Guide to Mobile Handwashing Stations

importance of hand washing

Handwashing on the go has become pivotal, We've created a guide for the best use cases and set-up for your operations.

We’re living in an era of increased importance when it comes to sanitation. According to the Center for Disease Control, we know the coronavirus and the subsequent COVID-19 disease it causes is spread mainly through people-to-people contact. This means people who are within six feet of one another are at risk of transmitting the virus. Because it’s transferred through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, it’s also critical that we wash our hands.

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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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Street-Side Dining: How to Pivot Your Service Outside

Improving Service in the Age of Street-Side Dining

Party in the front, business in the back. We're being forced to acclimate ourselves to both a new way of doing business and a new way of dining as consumers.

We’re living in the golden age of street-side dining, whether we like it or not. All across the country, the back-of-the-house is migrating to the front-of-the-house. This is the result of the void filled by the front-of-the-house moving to the patio, the sidewalk, and in some cases, even the street. Tables are now filling parking spaces that have been roped off. Streets are closed off to cars. In places nationwide, cities are turning roads into restaurants. In New York City alone, nearly nine miles of city streets are shut down to traffic to help provide for outdoor dining spaces for restaurants and bars. While this is a positive thing for restaurants helping them to move forward in the warmer months of summer, this street-side dining trend also creates some challenges.

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The Future of Healthcare Foodservice in the COVID Era

Hospital Cafiteria

Hospital and healthcare dining have been greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

To summarize the situation, the most profitable types of foodservice delivery have been limited, and higher patient censuses cannot make up for the difference.

Let’s take a closer look at the details.

In hospitals and in-patient healthcare facilities, the majority of the foodservice profits are made from staff dining and from visitors. When you factor in more and more staff members working from home and you eliminate the ability for many to visit patients because of the potential risks of the coronavirus, those central profit points are also eliminated.

These are certainly tough statistics, but the reality is healthcare operators are experiencing far less volatility than other types of foodservice operators. According to Datassential, only six percent of healthcare operators are completely closed during the pandemic.

What can we expect in the coming year for healthcare foodservice?

There are several changes that are here and will likely not change in the near future. With a focus on minimal contact, technology will play a key role in not just food ordering and delivery, but also in food production. Robotics will become more popular in a contact-less environment, as will sustainably packing for individually wrapped foods.

Along those same lines, buffets and self-serve options will become all but obsolete as we navigate COVID-19 conditions. As we’ve already seen this year, a complete rethinking of foodservice delivery methods will continue into 2021. With so much uncertainty, it will also be critical for foodservice directors to shore up their supply chains.

Here are some additional points to consider in late 2020 and early 2021 as it pertains to hospital foodservice operations.

HIGHER SPENDING ON DISPOSABLES

Current conditions have caused the cost of disposables to increase to a range of between $4,000 and $12,000 per month depending on the size of the community. This is caused across the entire spectrum of foodservice operation types. In restaurants, as full service dining starts to pick back up in many locations, some are considering a surcharge to cover the costs of disposables.

STAFFING COSTS ON THE RISE

In many cases, healthcare dining often translates to a self-serve environment. Today, operators are considering staffing options to eliminate the self-serve nature of these service types. More staff costs more money, of course. And so does all the time it takes to implement additional precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

THE GAMUT OF CHALLENGES

Foodservice directors in hospitals, in-patient healthcare facilities, and in long-term senior care communities are all facing some of the same challenges – maintaining safe distances in kitchens and dining facilities, increasing staff morale and safety, ensuring food safety along with quality, revenue, and more. The last thing these operations need are issues created by the equipment and supplies used to help solve these very challenges.

WHERE TO START

Interested in how to re-purpose some of your current equipment? Looking for efficient ways to handle meal delivery, sanitation, social distancing, and more? Than check out this inspiration guide for COVID-19 Solutions.

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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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How Senior Care Dining Impacts Mental Health

In healthcare, mealtimes can be some of the most anticipated and enjoyable times of the day.

There's no doubting the fact people love food. We love the way it tastes, the way it feels in our mouth, the way it nourishes us. We love the socialization that usually comes with food. Dining is an experience. And most important, it's good for our mental health.

Nowhere is this more true than in our senior care and long term care communities. According to one study on senior care and foodservice, "mealtimes are a mainstay of life through which residents' experiences are characterized, exemplified, and magnified. In the study, the three themes that impact a resident's experience were emotional and psychological connections with other residents, managing competing interests with limited resources, and familiarity and routine.

Food and meals touch on all three.

1) Food brings residents together. Though traditionally in communal dining areas, meals are enjoyed together and provide opportunities for conversation and socialization.

2) Food provides a sense of control. When residents have meal choice, when they can literally decide what goes on their plate and what doesn't, it provides an element of control that can often be hard to come by for residents in long term communities.

3) Food provides routine. For many in long term communities, mealtimes provide needed stabilization in terms of day-to-day routines. When you know you're going to eat lunch every day at 11:30, it provides welcome familiarity

Senior Care Foodservice in the Age of COVID

Today, of course, we're living in an entirely different world. The processes by which food is served in these types of communities have been turned upside down, and foodservice directors are doing whatever they can to help residents still achieve the three points above, the points that are so critical to the mental health and well-being of our seniors living in these communities.

The reality is, communal dining has pretty much been taken away from us due to the potential exposure created by the Coronavirus. Operations across the country are moving to models where food is ordered and delivered directly to residents' rooms.

In terms of socialization, foodservice staff need to be creative. They need to understand the personal delivery of food in a resident's room is still the highlight of the day in many cases, but now that highlight comes without the ability to dine with friends. Those brief interactions when food is delivered become critical for the well being of residents.

Choice is still choice. In some ways, the concept of calling in an order and receiving it delivered can be kind of fun for residents. Play up that angle. When residents are restricted from the dining room, creative room service can be a fun way to provide some joy.

And, lastly, food is still part of the routine. Though that routine may be a bit different, it still provides consistency in someone's day, allowing them to feel reassurance that what someone is used to will continue.

Just because COVID-19 has changed senior care foodservice doesn't mean everything is changed for the worse.

Discover the basics of this new era of senior care foodservice by learning more from our resident senior care expert. From new and creative ways to deliver food, as well as the systems that need to be in place to accomplish it, watch on-demand, or download, our webinar "Customer Confidence in Food Safety".

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Webinar: The World in the Windshield-COVID Responses: What’s Next for Health Care/K12/Colleges & Universities

The World in the Windshield-COVID Responses: What's next for health care, K12 and colleges and universities

Learn about Lakeside's operator solutions for the most-needed foodservice operations equipment to thrive during COVID.

Get the latest intel* from dozens of health care, K12, and college and university foodservice programs and their evolving needs and approaches to COVID-19.

You will learn:

  • Specific tactics your health care, K12, and college and university operators are taking to serve their clients
  • What solutions operators are requesting to prepare for now and post-COVID
  • About Lakeside and Multiteria's new and existing products that meet these operator needs

Sponsored by Lakeside Manufacturing, Alluserv, and Multiteria USA.

*Information accurate at date of recording 9-16-2020

Reserve your spot now!

Recorded Webinar