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Mise En Place: Streamlining and Efficiency for Commercial Foodservice

Mise En Place - Streamlining and Efficiency for Commercial Foodservice

Life in a commercial kitchen can be fast, hectic, and stressful.

Having a well-stocked and organized kitchen can go a long way to ensure the kitchen's smooth operation, which will ultimately lead to happier guests and greater profitability. One way that commercial foodservice operations can optimize for efficiency is by preparing stations with mise en place best practices.

What is Mise En Place?

Most lovers of food will agree that cooking is an art, and it requires the same amount of intentionality that a painter would bring to a creation. Mise en place is a French term that translates to "to set up" or "to put things into place." In practice, mise en place is the preparation of food and organization of equipment before a chef begins to cook. Mise en place serves a crucial role in the cooking process, similar to an artist who sets up his palette with different hues of paint before beginning to work on a canvas.

It is unclear how long mise en place has been around in the culinary world, but it likely dates back to the late 1800s. Regardless of when it originated, it is a strategy that chefs take incredibly seriously. Some go so far as to call it a religion, while others have it tattooed on their bodies.

An effective mise en place strategy allows culinary professionals to coordinate labor and materials while promoting focus and self-discipline. To get the maximum benefit out of mise en place, a chef should be able to navigate his or her workstation blindfolded.

Preparing Mise En Place

Every chef in a commercial kitchen will have their own strategy for executing mise en place. At its core, however, this plan will center on ensuring that kitchen tools and ingredients are prepared and organized in the most efficient way to prepare food.

The first step in creating a mise en place plan is to prepare a list. The list should include all the steps, ingredients, and tools necessary to execute the kitchen's tasks. It should detail prep tasks necessary for execution of the dishes.

Next comes organization and preparation. While the exact preparation will depend on the menu, it could include:

  • Gathering and organizing all cooking implements, such as mixing pools, knives, and pans;
  • Washing, peeling, and chopping vegetables;
  • Trimming and portioning meat;
  • Deboning and filleting fish;
  • Measuring spices;
  • Portioning liquids such as broth

Finally, mise en place should include a focus on cleanliness. An organized station will allow chefs to clean as they go.  This ensures that all tools and implements are clean and accessible when they are needed.

Benefits of Mise En Place

The most critical benefit of mise en place is its ability to bring efficiencies to commercial kitchens. Some of the ways mise en place maximizes efficiency include:

  • Planning work in advance: Preparing ingredients and work spaces allow chefs to spot any items that are missing or low in inventory and can plan necessary modifications ahead of time;
  • Streamline the work process: Having all items for a dish prepared and in one location reduces the amount of time a chef must spend moving about the kitchen;
  • Promoting ownership: In a kitchen with multiple stations, each chef can feel in control of and take ownership over the preparation of their station; and
  • Keeping things clean: The theory of "clean as you go" is important in many professional kitchens. Having an organized station allows chefs to more effectively plan for cleaning throughout the cooking process.

Institute Mise En Place in Your Operation

If you are looking to institute or improve the mise en place method in your foodservice operation, Lakeside has the equipment that will allow you to create the most effective and efficient workspaces. Our products including action stationsutility carts, and stationary and mobile kitchen support equipment – all which can be configured to optimize the flow of a commercial kitchen. Contact us today to find out how we can help or check out more on our mise en place cart below.

 

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The Importance of Flexibility in Foodservice

Flexibility is a great way to create happy customers, and it's an even better way to increase profits.

All across the landscape of food and beverage, we're seeing certain types of operations go beyond their traditional services as they look for greater potential. C-stores are becoming more like coffee shops. Coffee shops are gaining fast casual characteristics. Fast casual restaurants are taking on more fine-dining type elements. And all across our industry, cross over is becoming commonplace.

Essentially, it's up to operators to think outside the box. How are they doing this? For starters, they're rethinking common conceptions about food and beverage service times and are coming up with some creative alternatives.

Just because an operation thrives as a high-end coffee shop during the day doesn't mean it has to close its doors at night. A serving cart that provides pastries and cereals for breakfast can also double as a dessert bar at night. Omelet stations for brunch can shift out their service to a pasta station at night. That coffee shop we mentioned? What if it doubled as a cocktail bar at night?

The key here is flexibility -- flexibility in thought, flexibility in concept, flexibility in execution, and the flexibility in the equipment it takes to pull it all off.

MENU VERSATILITY

When it comes to flexible serving options, the first thing to consider is the ability to serve multiple types of menu items from the same location. This means a given piece of real estate can be attractive to customers and guests for greater periods of time. This is the ultimate in flexibility and profitability.

MOBILITY

The next step in flexibility is having the ability to take foods and beverages to the guest instead of the guest needing to come to the operator. Mobile serving stations are an easy way to transform the point-of-sale from point-to-point.

USABILITY

The final aspect of flexibility is to find equipment that is known for its usability. How easy is it to transform a serving cart from breakfast service to lunch? Are carts easy to move? How long does it take to clean? What about service and maintenance? The bottom line is flexibility is only implemented by staff members, so equipment needs to be easy to use.

MISE EN PLACE

For the ultimate in flexibility, consider the Lakeside Mise En Place cart.  It easily transitions from a back-of-house helper to a front-of-house money maker.  Explore ideas and get inspired with more information here.

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A Quick Look at 2019’s Flavor Trends

A Quick Look at 2019's Flavor Trends

What flavors are people looking for in 2019? And who are the people looking for them? Let's take a closer look.

Thanks to the great research done by our friends at Foodable Labs, we have data compiled from nearly one million social media conversations between chefs, operators, brands, and influencers.

Based on these conversations, Foodable Labs was able to determine the top flavor profiles and cuisines of 2019, and because we love trends so much here at Lakeside, we wanted to break down those flavor trends for you here.

ASIAN FOODS ARE STILL POPULAR.

Over the last few years, we've seen a rise in popularity of Asian foods, especially the foods of Korea and the Philippines. In terms of flavors, options like hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, and chili sauce are leading the way. And when they looked at menus, Foodable Labs found an increase in these flavors at a rate of 31.3 percent for independent restaurants and 29.5 percent in fast-casual operations.

SPEAKING OF HOT, IT'S HOT.

According to Foodable Labs, the jalapeño has been replaced by the habanero as the most popular pepper, with an increase on menus of more than 20 percent. "Hot" isn't just limited to the Scoville scale. It can also include different types of "heat" such as the type of sinus-clearing burn associated with horseradish, which is also gaining in popularity.

WHAT ABOUT A SWEET TOOTH?

Looking for something sweet? According to the report, we're craving sweets more now than ever. When it comes to true natural flavors, trends lean towards fruits such as mango, passion fruit and avocado (and yes, avocado is a fruit). As far as desserts go, salted caramel led the way, with other popular dishes including chocolate-topped items and anything with hot fudge.

PEOPLE LOVE PLANTS.

Consumers are looking for more plant-based menu options. There was a 23.5 percent increase in plant-based menu consumption in Millennials and a 21.9 percent increase in consumers between the ages of 45 and 55. These are the highest growing menu considerations amongst the main menu sectors.

Foodable Labs' plant-based menu statistics confirm our research as well. As part of our 2019 College and University Foodservice Trends Report, we detailed a consumer shift to plant-based foods out of a desire to reduce traditional meat consumption. Flavor innovations are feeding a rising flexitarian population, and consumers are now more responsible in their eating habits (from both a personal health and environmentally sustainability standpoint) by choosing plant-based proteins.

 

In our 2019 College and University Foodservice Trends Report, Lakeside dug deep and uncovered the 7 most popular trends we expect to see this year, most of which go beyond the flavor trends mentioned above. Check out these 2019 foodservice trends by downloading our free report.

Lakeside and Multiteria have researched seven top trends that will be important to colleges and universities in the 2019-2020 school year.  Download your free copy today to stay on top of the latest ideas and innovations that will help you maintain a first-class foodservice operation!


Attend a brief 30 min. mini-webinar on the "7 Top Trends in C&U Foodservice!"

Join Nancy Lane on Sept. 19th for this quick, jam-packed webinar - 20 mins. content with 10 mins. Q&A.  The seven trends include:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Plant-Forward
  3. Labor Efficiencies
  4. Transparency
  5. New Normal
  6. Food Insecurity
  7. Infusing Digital

Click below and sign up today!

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The One Reason Food Waste Reduction Is So Popular

As good as it is for everyone involved, food waste reduction isn't as altruistic as everyone makes it out to be.

Yes, sustainability is one of our top 2019 foodservice trends (just 1 of 7 in our downloadable report). Yes, reducing food waste is one method to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption. And, of course, we want to do everything we can to effectively and efficiently deliver food into the hands of students and customers. But there's another reason college and university foodservice operations across North America are focusing on food waste reduction.

Money.

The reality is, we waste roughly 1.3 billion tons of the world's food supply annually. This accounts for a loss of nearly $990 billion. The United States wastes $160 billion of that total, accounting for as much as 40 percent of our food.

That's right. In the United States, we waste over one-third of our food. Imagine if we threw a $20 bill out the window every time we withdrew $50 from the ATM. That's essentially what is happening with our food supply, and as much as restaurants and foodservice operations want to do the right thing for both humanity and the environment, throwing away money is an even bigger reason to reduce food waste.

According to the non-profit organization, ReFED, which focuses on reducing food waste in the United States, there's a huge payoff when operations invest in sustainable measures. In their 2016 Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent, they detail a benefit-to-cost ratio that is staggering:

For every $1 invested in food waste reduction, the savings potential can be as much as $8.

That's an incredible number. While operators know reducing food waste helps fight hunger, protect the environment, and even attracts important customer bases like Millennials and Gen Z who demand sustainable practices, the profit potential is enormous and appealing. Here are a few things to consider for your college and university foodservice operation:

RECONSIDER YOUR SERVICE.

Smaller plate sizes, smaller serving sizes, and even trayless dining are an easy way to reduce food waste. According to ReFED, smaller plates can reduce food waste by as much as 17 percent. On the buffet line, trayless dining reduces food waste as well. Lastly, reconsidering your menu can also have positive impacts when it comes to reducing food waste. To borrow a phrase, foodservice operations should "use the whole hog." For example, serve both the beet and the beet greens, thus eliminating some waste. Allowing guests to customize their meals should also be a consideration. By serving exactly what a customer requests, operators will reduce waste.

PLAN BETTER.

More accurate inventory management and production that are rooted in data can help save an operation thousands of dollars annually. According to ReFED, waste tracking and analytics can have the biggest business impact, helping the restaurant industry increase profits by as much as $266 million per year. Using this data to better plan for ordering and production schedules can help prevent overproduction, which is a big contributor to food waste.

DONATE UNWANTED FOOD.

Yep, giving food to those in need is a good thing for obvious reasons. There can also be a financial benefit too. Donating unwanted food is a recovery-based way to reduce food waste that can also provide your operation some tax incentives.

Reducing food waste is a sustainability initiative which is 1 of 7 key trends we cite in our 2019 College and University Foodservice Trends Report.

Lakeside and Multiteria have researched seven top trends that will be important to colleges and universities in the 2019-2020 school year.  Download your free copy today to stay on top of the latest ideas and innovations that will help you maintain a first-class foodservice operation!

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Are Sneeze Guards the Only Way to Protect Food?

They're certainly one of the most established ways, but this just might change your perspective.

Sneeze guards. Food guards. Breath guards. Whatever the term, there seems to be a lot of mixed opinions about them, including whether they're mandatory.

This is especially important as we move away from institutional tray service or pre-plate service, to meal service style that is mobile - either in a common dining room or down a hallway in a homelike setting of long term care. I decided to dig deeper into the food code by researching and reaching out to food safety experts to get their professional thoughts on this vague topic.

When looking at food safety, we have several tools to pull from. We use HACCP to identify and prevent hazards that could cause food-borne illness in receiving, storing, preparing and serving of food. We have food safety courses to teach us all how to handle food and take corrective action when necessary. Thirdly, we have the FDA model food code, and under the section about sneeze guards, it says;

“3-306.11 Food Display. Except for nuts in the shell and whole, raw fruits and vegetables that are intended for hulling, peeling, or washing by the CONSUMER before consumption, FOOD on display shall be protected from contamination by the use of packaging; counter, service line, or salad bar food guards; display cases; or other effective means.”

Looking closely, the FDA food code mentions food on display for the consumer to access must be protected by guards, cases or other effective means. This is not the application with mobile meal service done by trained food service staff. Also, “or other effective means” allows for dialogue about what the food safety plan is in a healthcare community. The food code makes operators responsible for the protection of food from contaminants, which is broader than just using some plexiglass, and the perception that sneeze guards “solve it all.” It requires common sense and a plan to demonstrate to health inspectors that foodservice operators know what they're doing.

I reached out to Janet Anderberg, a Washington state health inspector. She shared that sneeze guards aren't mandatory, but what's more helpful is for a foodservice operator to have an active managerial control plan to show how food is protected. It is the responsibility of the food operator to know, communicate and demonstrate their food safety plan which could include:

    • Covering food with foil or lids during transportation (always recommended)
    • Not parking a mobile food cart under dripping pipes
    • Not traveling through bathrooms with a mobile food cart
    • Allowing trained foodservice staff to serve food and items (not the untrained public)
    • Keep a safe barrier of distance
    • Using roll dome covers or insert flip lids if desired
    • Using tongs versus touching food directly
    • Keeping food outside the temperature danger zone
    • Using gloves with ready-to-eat foods
    • Proper and frequent hand-washing
    • Not dragging sleeves through food
    • Temperature records pre- and post-meal service
    • If serving outside, protecting food from contaminates from above, like birds or trees
    • When serving food, only serve food and don’t do other tasks that can possibly contaminate the food

Nick Eastwood, President of Always Food Safe weighs in and states:

“Though sneeze guards can play a helpful role in protecting food, it has a limited use. They can be helpful in a self-serve buffet where we let the customer near food. It can help reduce physical contamination and also bacterial contamination from skin and hair. But apart from this, sneeze guards offer very little protection. In our Food Protection Manager course, we do not state that they are mandatory or state they must be in place. Instead, food safety is a combined effort and one needs to look at the total picture; the use of professionally trained staff, time and temperature control, avoiding cross contamination and personal hygiene are by far the most important points. From a food safety perspective, I have a very strong dislike to pre-plated food being served as time and temp abuse is one of the biggest threats to food safety. Bulk mobile service would allow for temperature control and quicker meal service.”

Colleen Zenk, Food Safety Instructor and ANFP speaker shares her thoughts:

“The [FDA] Food Code regarding sneeze guards is open to interpretation when it comes to food safety. Sneeze guards, food guards, breath guards are used to protect food from the consumer during self-service, but not mandated where foodservice personnel is doing the serving. The key issue is the staff education and training regarding how food is protected during transportation and service of food to ensure it is safe. Sometimes operators or inspectors take the easiest and least time-consuming approach when determining safety of food by looking at sneeze guards as the protection, as it saves time looking and verifying other requirements. This leads to the incorrect assumption they are mandatory. Instead operators should have a conversation with their surveyor or inspector and communicate their food safety plan, and this is helpful before one’s food service system is changed. It is important that the [FDA] Food Code is used as a guideline, and to check one’s local regulatory authority. Also, do not be afraid to have the conversation with a surveyor or inspector but develop a relationship that demonstrates that food safety is a priority.”

It's interesting to note that there's no scientific research showing that sneeze guards are actually effective - none can be located when a literature search was conducted. Dr. Peter Synder from the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management weighs in and states:

“There is no reference to a food-borne illness that has ever been prevented by a sneeze guard or caused by lack of a sneeze guard. There is no research about blocking sneezes with sneeze guards. The sneeze guard is something that a sanitarian invented in about 1945, when the first food code was written. Overall, a sneeze guard does not protect against food-borne illness.”

The sneeze guard topic is one of cultural perception and we all need to know what the FDA Food Code does (and doesn’t say), the science, apply common sense, while also implementing sound and safe food serving practices. We must think bigger and broader about our food safety plan in residential care settings. Therefore, to say “you must have a sneeze guard” is too much of a simple quick answer to a more complex situation. Also, it's very important to look at the application: mobile meal service conducted by trained food safe staff is a very different application than the general public helping themselves to food on display.

Finally, mobile meal service is working in hundreds of health care communities - whether it's snack carts, beverage service, dessert carts, or mobile hot food carts. Our industry is working hard at changing the culture to move away from sterile, institutional living to one that more closely reflects how we live in our own homes. So I ask: Do you use sneeze guards in your own home? Why do we apply a completely different set of rules in homes where seniors live?

When we look at potential food safety situations, let’s review the risks and how they could lead to food-borne illnesses. I believe that mobile meal service actually decreases the risk of food-borne illnesses because food is hotter and it's served immediately by trained foodservice staff. Cold trays of food aren't sitting for long periods of time until handed out. As an industry, let’s focus on choice, interaction, and self-determination of safe food. By protecting food in numerous different ways, we can create a more positive dining experience for residents.

A special thank you goes out to Janet Anderberg, Washington State Health Inspector, Nick Eastwood with Always Food Safe, Colleen Zenk, Food Safe Instructor/Speaker, and Dr. Peter Synder for their time and expertise on the sneeze guard topic.


If you missed us at booth #120 at ANFP in St Louis, check out what you missed!

And, be sure to take our "Dining Experience Quiz" to see how you rank and receive pointers on how to improve your program!

ANFP 2019 Review - Dining Experience Quiz


Be sure to sign up for Suzanne's webinar, "Bringing Back CHOICE to Residents" where you'll learn how to:

  • Reduce high food waste by 30-50%
  • Serve significantly hotter food to residents
  • Eliminate multiple food preference lists to track and maintain
  • Improve customer service to residents
  • Improve overall meal satisfaction
  • Exceed CMS regulations and align with best practices (Pioneer Network, Eden Alternative)
  • Implement methods that are working in 800+ healthcare communities at all levels of care in North America

Date:  Wed., October 9th, 2019
Time:  10 AM PDT / 11 AM MDT / Noon CDT / 1 PM EDT


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 centers and improved their meal programs with tableside service. She is the inventor of the “SuzyQ Cart System” by Lakeside. She has spoken at conferences throughout North America and is passionate about self-directed dining.

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The Most Important 2019 Foodservice Trend for K-12 Schools

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.

food insecurity ranges

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.

FOOD SHARING PROGRAMS

Like colleges and universities, some K-12 operations can use card swipes for meal payment. This creates an opportunity for meal voucher programs, which are essentially donations to help students on free and reduced lunch. Food sharing is an easy way for districts to help this student population without putting them in the spotlight.

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.

2019 Foodservice Trends Report CTA

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5 Things to Consider When Converting Underutilized Space into a Retail Dining Concept

With the foodservice giants having raised the standard of an exceptional café experience, you may be considering incorporating a “café” type concept in an underutilized space such as a lobby or corner area of your facility to generate revenue away from your current foodservice operation.

"You only get one chance to make a first impression."

This adage also resonates to life in the foodservice realm. With countless cafés, restaurants and fast food establishments aplenty, the consumer is inundated with deciding where to eat, drink and spend their money. Enticing the attention and business of today’s consumer can be captured with a little ingenuity that creates a unique one-of-a-kind “experience.”

With the foodservice giants having raised the standard of an exceptional café experience, you may be considering incorporating a “café” type concept in an underutilized space such as a lobby or corner area of your facility to generate revenue away from your current foodservice operation.

  1. Location– Determine the best location for your “café concept”; a lobby may be the perfect location or consider a space that's currently away from your cafeteria where there's existing foot traffic and may be a viable location to set up. Study traffic patterns, get feedback from students and visitors, do your research before moving to the next step.
  2. Decide on Space Requirements – Careful research and consideration should be taken when designing your space. Define your long-term goals and have a clear idea on how you will best utilize the space. Go on a research expedition and visit local eateries to view equipment, traffic flow, and aesthetics. This will greatly help in the design phase.
  3. Equipment – Consider self-contained mobile retail equipment concepts that fit the space and offer flexibility in terms of the ability to easily move the counters to another location if the particular location selected isn’t profitable. Also, think about using equipment that provides flexibility such as a basic open kiosk platform or larger size configuration made up of several counters. It's important to select equipment based on capacity, labor, anticipated maintenance costs of operating the space and initial cost of the equipment.
  4. Menu selection will drive “the customer experience” and researching your options prior to the design phase is key. It's important to remember that the menu creates an “image” of your establishment and needs to be an extension of the design you're trying to portray. Menu planning to meet current trends and food prep required will drive the menu. Will you be serving prepackaged prepared items or will you be implementing a menu made-to-order style concept such as paninis, made-to-order sandwiches, noodle bars, specialty coffee and snacks, etc.?
  5. Merchandising/Signage – Because a dining experience is more than great food, food display and merchandising can drive revenue and participation. Creative merchandising can capture missed sales opportunities, maximize profitability and increase customer satisfaction and repeat business. There are 4 key elements to successful merchandising; by incorporating these into your retail dining operation you can enhance your foodservice operation and ultimately increase sales.

By making a concerted effort in the research phase, you will be able to effectively implement a successful revenue generating stream in an underutilized area that will compliment your retail dining program.

For a 30 minute consultation with a Multiteria representative who can walk you through the design and implementation steps to provide food and beverage service in a remote area, contact us today!

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Limited Budget?  5 Ideas for the Outdated Cafeteria

When you have a tight or non-existent budget, here are five ways you can renovate an outdated cafeteria.

School districts participating in the National School Lunch Program ( serve healthy meals to a staggering 31 million children daily.  But many schools lack adequate infrastructure and up-to-date foodservice equipment.  With ever changing regulations that alter school foodservice programs, along with growing student populations, managing a program with outdated equipment adds another level of challenges.

Schools have a growing list of daily issues to contend with besides outdated equipment; labor shortages, space restrictions, limited storage for the increase in fresh fruits and vegetables, plus a decrease in allotted time for lunch to name a few.  Often these concerns take center stage.  Combine this with tight or non-existent budgets, what is a foodservice operator to do?

Here are 5 options to consider:

1.) “One-by-One” Replacements – Instead of doing a full renovation, one option is to replace outdated counters or sections of counters one-by-one with flexible counters. This approach enables you to begin the renovation process with one-off replacements which may be more attainable and cost-effective for you to serve a growing student population. It also spreads out the transition over several years with smaller and more frequent equipment purchases.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a practical solution. My school has an outdated serving line that’s “one” continuous piece. What can I do?

2.) Think Vertical – When you have space limitations as well as increased student populations and limited lunch time to serve students in 10-15 minutes, go vertical. If you’re operating a 30+ year old cafeteria, you may not be able to retrofit your serving line. So if budget allows, consider purchasing a heated and/or refrigerated visual merchandising display case for pre-made grab-and-go menu options. This will allow you to serve more fast-access items in one location, reorganize overcrowded counter space and alleviate serving line congestion by having students quickly make meal selections. Artfully displaying menu selections also raises visibility which could potentially serve more students.

This solution doesn’t work for me due to a lack of counter space and a lack of electrical supply required to plug in a display case. Is there another option?

3.) Pop-up Portable Retail Counters – These types of mobile counters can provide an additional revenue-generating stream in underutilized spaces. As “extended or additional lunch lines,” they offer the advantage of being moved anywhere within a cafeteria or even to open areas outside of a cafeteria such as lobbies or hallways. This can also expand your service to provide self-serve grab-and-go prepacked reimbursable meals, a la carte menus or afterschool smart snacks away from your existing serving line. Positive impacts include capturing or increasing participation and serving more students in a limited timeframe. Pop-up portable retail counters can be an affordable option when budgets don’t allow for a full renovation or one-by-one counter replacements.

I don’t have the staff required to operate this concept. I also lack the budget to purchase another piece of equipment. Is there another option to consider?

4) Merchandising – Merchandising can breathe new life into your existing space and give a facelift to an existing serving line. With limited budgets, consider new vinyl wraps for your existing counter fronts. This can provide a low-cost solution to refreshing tired and outdated counters. A quick Google search can provide you a list of several local companies that can assist you with this method. For décor, select a few collections of colorful eye-catching merchandising props to enhance aesthetic appeal and functionality. Also, adding signage to help identify menus and food stations can successfully increase participation. Incorporating the 4 visual keys to merchandising is an inexpensive yet impactful way to add a “wow factor” to your existing space.

I just don’t have any funds, but I really need to find a way to speed up the service. Is there a “no cost” option?

5) Reorganize Your Serving Line – For little to no cost, reorganizing your serving line can improve functionality and temporarily fix traffic patterns. Start by observing your serving line during peak breakfast or lunch rush. Look for bottlenecking issues, from food selection to point of service. Identify where the line slows down. Are there too many menu choices for students to choose from? If you provide five options, perhaps reducing them to three would help students make faster selections. Or, consider reorganizing the flow. If possible, try moving your cashier station away from the serving line(s) to alleviate backups and maintain flow. If you serve small condiment packets, neatly reorganize them in individual baskets or decorative tins for quick and easy access. Streamlining the process with some small tweaks can shave off a few seconds here and there which all adds up to getting students through the line faster.

We’ve worked with many districts with limited budgets to come up with solutions that were right for them. We can help you too with a site visit to view your operation in action and discuss possible ideas that you can immediately incorporate into your dining space.  Tell us what you need help with. Contact us today!

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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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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.