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Save on Linen Costs with Modular Serving Lines

Couple sitting at table eating grapefruit and drinking orange juice. Large sunny window in background.

Flexibility is the key to improving your bottom line in foodservice, particularly as we emerge from the challenges of COVID-19. Finding ways to save money and make labor more impactful while providing an exceptional resident experience is the ultimate goal, and the equipment operators use when delivering can make all the difference.

In terms of savings, one of the easiest ways to save money while reducing workload is to eliminate the need for linens. Why are most buffet stations draped in linen? Well, generally it’s to hide the ugly tables underneath. When you’re draping them with fabric, even the ugliest, most beat-up and battered tables become serviceable.

Unfortunately, hiding those ugly tables comes at a significant cost. Not only do operators have the upfront expense for the linens, but keeping them clean comes at a cost from both a labor and a resource perspective. Spilled sauces and dropped food require professional cleaning in order to keep those linens looking pristine.

According to the Textile Rental Services Association of America, continuously rising energy costs have had a devastating effect on their highly energy-dependent businesses. Despite improvements in laundry equipment, they’ve been forced to pass those ever-increasing energy costs on to their customers. Linen service costs can easily add up to two percent of sales — and that’s a pretty significant dent in your bottom line.

The Added Benefit of Serving Station Modularity

A modular foodservice system that lets you add or remove components as needed can help keep things fresh and exciting for your customers. How about adding a flexible serving station that can go from custom omelets at brunch to decadent sundaes at night? Multiple uses from the same piece of equipment help you increase profits while indulging your residents’ desires for a constantly fresh experience.

Establishing a great, resident-friendly serving line is a complex process. You have to balance mobility, simplicity and speed of set-up, and ease of use (for both residents and staff). Add in the need for an attractive, inviting, and spotless appearance, and things get even more complicated.

Flexibility, Functionality, and Cost Savings?

Yes, you can have them all when you choose the right tables for your serving line. Why not switch from ugly tables covered by expensive linens to attractive tables that allow you to ditch that pricey linen service? If they’re highly mobile, can be configured to meet your needs, and can nest for storage, even better.

That’s just what you’ll get when you switch to Lakeside’s modular serving table system. This highly flexible and attractive system allows you to configure your serving line in a multitude of different ways. Even the most awkward serving area is no longer a problem with these tables. They’re 32″ deep and available in multiple widths that allow you to configure them to suit any space.

Available options include induction stovetops, sunken chilled bins, and even right-angle corner connectors to make for smooth transitions.

The 3″ swivel casters and interlocking design make set up a breeze, saving you labor costs. Clean-up is just as quick and easy with the powder-coated steel frames and stainless steel, laminate, or resin solid surface tops. Best of all? Their attractive, front-of-house design eliminates the need for those expensive linens!

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What are People Saying About the SuzyQ System?

Chef with mobile food cart in hallway

For directors looking to improve quality of life and staff morale in a senior care or long-term care community, reconsidering foodservice can be a viable option.

For many reasons, the SuzyQ meal delivery system can help on these fronts, but sometimes it helps to understand why and to hear what others are saying.

Let's review some popular sentiment on the SuzyQ:

Residents love the SuzyQ.

In many cases, long-term residents are slowly being stripped of their ability to choose. On the flip side of that, SuzyQ can actually provide choice by allowing residents to be in charge of their own selections during mealtimes.

“Residents have choices at mealtimes, limited but at least it is a choice. They can specify how much they want, ask for a second helping, eat pudding every day if they want. Patient meal satisfaction has greatly improved and family members rarely express concerns relating to meal service in the dining room.”

Being able to choose individual items makes mealtimes more enjoyable instead of seeming more regimented. SuzyQ also provides the opportunity for resident-staff interactions, giving residents the ability to talk about food options and even make a new friend. Residents can get access to a variety of intriguing textures, flavors, and aromas at each meal. This creates excitement and can make mealtimes what they're supposed to be -- the most enjoyable parts of the day.

“Comments have included; 'treated special' and 'feel like royalty'. Review of the satisfaction survey results from residents and families indicated an increase of the satisfaction level of the quality of meals to 73%. Food complaints regarding meals on the three halls using the system are non-existent. ”

Staff love it, too.

One clear result of the SuzyQ is staff love it, as well, in large part because it increases the opportunity for interactions with residents. Hint: residents aren't the only ones who enjoy and benefit from this. When this type of service is facilitated, staff get to see residents as real people with unique likes and dislikes rather than an anonymous room number or dietary code.

“The foodservice staff have a relationship with the residents, enjoy the interaction, and experience greater job satisfaction.”

Many staff testimonials mention how much staff members enjoy the interaction with the residents and how it results in greater job satisfaction, but staff also love SuzyQ because it can help reduce waste. Recent patient satisfaction surveys indicate this type of delivery is well-received.

“'I enjoy the new food service method of receiving food' and 'I prefer the new food cart; I feel good about the reduction in waste' are two of the many favorable comments we’ve received. It has been a positive experience for the foodservice staff too; 'It has  given us an opportunity to interact with the residents at a more personable level. We have observed a significant reduction in food waste with our new SuzyQ cart. We are giving the residents only what they want for the meal, so we are seeing a lot less waste. We are pleased with the new meal delivery service and look forward to providing our residents with many more SuzyQ opportunities.'”

They save money and provide important ROI.

As we just mentioned, staff love SuzyQ because the meal delivery systems result in reduced food waste. It's depressing to send out carefully prepared food only to see a substantial portion of it return uneaten. Not only is this demoralizing for the kitchen staff, but the tremendous amount of food waste is also a drain on the dietary budget.

In their testimonies, quite a few kitchen managers described how much less food waste there is with the SuzyQ. Because residents can specify the amount of each food item they select, more of them actually finish their meals. Getting seniors to eat more is always a bonus!

“The food waste has drastically decreased at my site, as well, which means the residents are eating. There has been a noticeable increase in the amount residents are consuming because now they get to eat what they want to! At each meal we begin with a beverage cart, we set up everyone with placemats, cutlery, water and any additional drinks they would like.”

Is SuzyQ the right solution for your facility?

With significantly hotter food, 30-50% less food waste, fast and efficient staff teamwork, and an improved resident-focused dining experience, SuzyQ meal delivery systems are proving to be an operation-transforming piece of equipment, as you read above. But what about your facility?

To discover the potential ROI of a SuzyQ for your specific facility, we've put together a calculator to help you understand the full savings potential of these meal delivery systems.

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Reimagining “All You Can Eat” Post-COVID

Close-up view of buffet spread

The world is starting to open back up, and so, too, are our beloved restaurants and foodservice establishments.

We’re all grateful for this, especially knowing that while it may take some time, things should pretty much return to normal — eventually — in a post-COVID world. There is one type of operation, though, that still might look a little different.

Buffets.

Many consumers have stated they wouldn’t feel comfortable going back to such open settings that allow anyone and everyone to grab what they want whenever they want. The once-beloved tradition is simply not feasible in current times and may not make a true comeback for years to come. So, how are restaurants and hotels recreating the buffet experience?

PIVOTAL MOVES

While all-you-can-eat is often associated with buffets, it doesn’t have to be. Some restaurants have been using this model forever, most notably Korean BBQ service. K-BBQ has gained popularity with the rising trend of Korean cuisine, and this model offers all-you-can-eat servings that are personal to the individual table. Consumers will order from a specialized menu, paying a flat rate and the dishes will be delivered to their table rather than going to a buffet.

This has been shown to be successful in K-BBQ settings and many restaurants are using the method to transition their services. By offering an “endless supply” of selected dishes, customers are able to still get the all-you-can-eat experience without the fear of cross-contamination.

This style of service also requires moving foods from the kitchen to the tableside while preserving safety, freshness, temperature, and quality. With the right food delivery system, operators can not only serve amazing foods but also reduce the potential for food waste by rationing serving sizes.

MOVING THE SOCIALLY DISTANCED LINE ALONG

No restaurant is escaping the transition of re-opening unscathed, and that’s part of why many businesses are relying on disposable items so heavily for to-go orders and delivery services. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly cost-efficient and adds an extra layer of labor to the daily list of tasks. One solution that vendors are finding success with for maintaining a somewhat buffet-style service is by mimicking cafeteria lines.

Consumers are encouraged to socially distance in lines, but they can experience an almost traditional buffet by moving through an assembly line. While in line, they can choose from pre-assembled plates from the menu or encounter staff-served options that don’t require any consumer engagement with serving utensils.

Serving lines and foodservice solutions are a critical component of this type of service. Units that are easy to configure, provide visibility, ease-of-use, and are easy to clean can help make operations more efficient and profitable.

ORDER UP

In addition to utilizing Korean BBQ settings and Cafeteria line styles, buffet models can benefit from ordering directly from the table. This would include a tablet or mobile device that allows customers to quickly review the menu and place their orders. The virtual order is then sent directly to the kitchen to begin preparation and helps create a hybrid of ordering on the go while still enjoying the dine-in experience.

This solution may also assist in offsetting some labor costs, reducing the number of front-of-the-house staff needed on shift. Staff that are serving would focus more on seating customers and delivering orders rather than constantly taking orders and checking on tables.

STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST FOODSERVICE TRENDS

There’s no single direct solution to getting back to normal, and the truth is that the current day foodservice is creating a new normal. With modern-day technology, adjusting to local mandates and re-imagining the industry’s day-to-day setup is constantly changing.

Our goal at Lakeside is to keep you informed as well as provide you with serving stations, portable serving carts, serving lines, countertops that bring you innovative solutions for a post-COVID experience. The all-you-can-eat buffet tradition might look a little different from now on, but you can still create that sense of enjoyable engagement for consumers dining with you.

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What to Expect in the Post-COVID Labor Crunch

Commercial Kitchen with Chefs Standing Around a Prep Table

After laying off a huge number of staff members, the foodservice industry is now struggling to find and hire labor.

In some ways, the shortage in staffing has created a sense of panic in regard to how the foodservice industry and restaurants will move forward. For smaller businesses, it can be difficult to compete with larger chains that are now offering monetary incentives to entice workers. The industry will move forward just like it’s always done, and here are a few important factors.

WHY ARE WE FACING A LABOR SHORTAGE?

At the start of the pandemic, many cities mandated lockdowns that shut businesses down completely or dwindled services to curbside pick up and delivery. This had serious impacts on the workforce, with millions of workers being either laid off or furloughed during the heart of the pandemic.

For those who remained, there was certainly the added concern of COVID exposure, in addition to the higher demands foodservice jobs brought over the last year. With so many worried about getting sick and potentially spreading the virus to loved ones, that mentality has continued to some degree up until the present day. Tack on the presence of poor working conditions in some situations, government assistance, and numerous other factors, and the result is an industry now facing a labor crisis. Simply put, the causes cannot be simply put. It’s a complex situation with many facets.

In April of this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 266,000 jobs had been added throughout the economy. While many people have concerns about what to do as businesses re-open, the numbers show that the majority of industries are not experiencing a shortage in labor. It’s mostly targeted towards the leisure, hospitality, and foodservice sectors.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO ENCOURAGE HUNTING WORKERS TO APPLY?

Due to the shortage of staff, many foodservice operations are unable to fully open back up and some have even begun to cut back hours to try and offset the frustration. Many employers are having trouble getting people to show up for actual interviews, and when smaller businesses are unable to offer monetary incentives, updating SOP’s and providing transparency can help.

People are looking for safe conditions that provide them with reassurance in the workplace. This means being fully open about what you’re doing to protect employees. Adding in additional cleaning and updating kitchen or in-house equipment with hand sanitizer stations and more have been key turn solutions to encouraging many workers to ease their way back in.

RELIABLE EQUIPMENT TO HELP EASE THE STRAIN

The labor shortage isn’t only impacting the operational process for restaurants. It’s leaving the few workers on shift exhausted from overtime and lack of help. Fortunately, digital solutions and technology are making waves in easing the pressure from staff and providing a sense of functionality. Mobile ordering and apps that allow consumers to place orders directly from their table are allowing employees to focus more on cleaning and serving rather than constantly seating or checking on guests. This has offered phenomenal assistance in allowing workers to do their jobs without becoming overworked.

Other options include portable serving carts or pick-up cabinets to assist in providing options for hungry consumers, effectively changing the points of service. This equipment ensures that multiple orders can be taken care of at once, and it provides security to the customers that placed the orders. With the help of durable and reliable equipment, many foodservice operations are gaining some structure again.

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How Robotics Can Change the Future of Foodservice

wooden kitchen counter with wooden cutting board and robotic arms

Until recently, few people took the prospect of foodservice via robot seriously, with its key value lying in its novelty. As needs changed over the last several years, though, with greater emphasis on streamlining process, reducing friction in delivery, and with the difficulties foodservice operators have had with staffing and labor, robotic kitchens have moved beyond The Jetsons.

Take the previous momentum and add the challenges caused by Covid, and the use of technology has been accelerated even more. Now more than ever, the foodservice industry is looking to technology, automation, and robotics to keep staff and guests safe, to make service more efficient, and to cut down on rising costs.

Are robot servers the future of foodservice? There are two interesting arguments:

1. The Effect Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

Because of the pandemic, some areas of the economy are going through an unexpected digital transformation. Data from Transparency Market Research shows that the robotics industry will see an annual growth of 17.64% per year between 2021 and 2024. The hospitality and foodservice sectors have to transition if businesses are to stay afloat.

In the service sector, particularly in the high-end luxury segment, businesses strive to provide customers with exactly what they want, whenever they want it. Because of the Covid-19 restrictions in place around the world, we are increasingly seeing various service robots rolled out, particularly in luxury hospitality environments including upmarket hotel chains like the Hilton Group, Four Seasons, and Marriott. The industry is now facing a shift in its customers’ preferences, where people want a socially distanced and impersonal type of service that only machines can provide.

The advantages of having robotic foodservice become apparent within “quarantine hotel” settings, as many countries require mandatory hotel quarantine for visitors. To avoid contagion amongst guests and hotel staff, it makes sense for robotic servers to replace human workers. Already, Japanese hotels have the technology implemented at several locations.

2. Robots Lower Business Staffing Costs

Paying food preparation and service staff is one of the biggest expenses that face any restaurant. With the need to raise wages for employees — both for regulatory reasons and because of the rising cost of living — many businesses are now exploring the possibility of replacing at least some of their staff with androids.

In fact, a former McDonald’s USA CEO already issued a warning that robots would eventually take over all food service jobs from humans. According to Ed Rensi, buying specialized robots is now a cheaper alternative to hiring multiple people on minimum wage to carry out repetitive tasks.

He says it is much cheaper to spend $35,000 on a robotic arm than to hire someone inefficient to bag French fries at a wage of $15 per hour. He adds, “[Foodservice] depends on people with low job skills which have to grow. If you cannot give your workers a reasonable wage, machines will have to do the work.”

Final Thoughts

Current events mean that a robotic server is no longer a gimmick. The pandemic has ensured that alternative ways to offer service without physical contact are at the forefront of people’s minds within the hospitality sector. It is possible that because of social distancing rules and rising staffing costs, automated foodservice will survive a post-Covid-19 world.

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3 Phrases to Remember in Senior Care Dining

3 Phrases to Remember in Senior Care Dining

Foodservice in a senior care community or nursing home can be a tricky balance. On one hand, you have to make sure meals are safe and nutritious for residents. On the other hand, you have to empower residents to make decisions on their own. In reality, these two things don’t have to be in opposition to one another.

According to the Pioneer Network’s New Dining Practice Standards, food and dining requirements are core components of quality of life and care in senior care communities. Let’s go through three important phrases from their findings and see why.

STATEMENT 1: Choice of food has a tremendous impact on quality of life.

In fact, some say it actually defines it. Food can provide many amazing benefits, and those positive attributes begin with choices. Ask a few simple questions. What does the resident want? For example, how did they do things before moving in, and how can those things be replicated within the community’s foodservice program? What to eat, when to eat, where to eat, and with whom are all important things to determine. Provide real choice, not token choices like the difference between hot and cold cereal.

STATEMENT 2: We do not assume that just because residents may not be able to make a choice in some parts of their lives, they cannot make choices related to dining.

When both residents and staff are well-educated on matters of choice, when staff are trained to look for the right things, and when residents have consistent relationships with staff members who can advocate for them, even residents with impaired decision-making capabilities, can experience choice as it relates to dining. Studies show that cognitive impairment does not impact choice-making, and people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment can still provide input on food choice and successfully and make many of those decisions.

STATEMENT 3: Mealtime dining studies provide evidence that enabling residents to choose what they want to eat at mealtime does not result in negative nutritional outcomes.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When residents have choice at mealtimes, it actually enhances the nutritional impact of meals. Even more important, it increases not just resident satisfaction, but also the satisfaction of staff, caregivers, and family members.

 

Lakeside is here to help improve your Senior Care Dining operations with various product solutions! The Suzy Q cart is the ideal solution for providing a person-centered dining environment for senior care communities!

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Food As Medicine – An Intro Guide

Fruit and Medicine Bottles

 

If there's one thing we learned in the past year, it's that our health is the most important thing we have. And as we know, one of the most important aspects to staying healthy is eating a healthy diet. Yes, food is important because it helps us stay healthy.

Eating a healthy well-balanced diet year-round is key in keeping your immune system healthy. Fresh fruits and vegetables give us many of the vitamins and minerals our body craves and prevents infections. While supplements can be useful, it's better to get what you need from fresh or frozen foods and not a capsule. Hospitals and senior care communities across the country know this, and that's why food is often viewed as medicine — food has the power to heal.

With cold and flu season in full swing, now is the time to do everything necessary to keep our bodies healthy and free from disease. Especially in the age of COVID-19, bodies need these six beneficial vitamins and ingredients:

Vitamin C

Your mother probably told you to drink your orange juice because it was packed with vitamin C, and you should always listen to mom. The simple reason it's so important is that it may increase white blood cell production, which helps to fight viruses, bacteria, and infections.

Foods packed with vitamin C include:

  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Red bell peppers
  • Broccoli

Not only do these foods help boost immunity, but they're also great for maintaining skin and eye health.

Vitamin E

Not always thought of as the most common vitamin when boosting immunity, but vitamin E is a powerhouse. Packed with antioxidants, which help protect cells against free radicals, vitamin E is important for eye, blood, and brain health.

Foods full of vitamin E include:

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is super important in that it is anti-inflammatory and may help antibodies respond to toxins in the body. It's also fat-soluble, which means it's best to include healthy fats with it to aid in absorption.

Important for vision and cell division and reproduction, here are some common foods packed with vitamin A.

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Butternut squash
  • Spinach
  • Dairy products
  • Cantaloupe
  • Dark leafy greens

Iron

Iron helps support immune health. It is a key nutrient in helping develop white blood cells and mobilizing their response. Iron is also crucial to blood health and reproductive health.

Need more iron in your diet? Try these foods.

  • Chicken
  • Red meat
  • Turkey
  • Oysters
  • Clams
  • Canned tuna

Zinc

In order to produce new immune system cells, zinc must be present. Unfortunately for us, zinc is a mineral our body doesn't produce, so we need to get it elsewhere. It's typically found in shellfish (oysters, crab, lobster), but eating yogurt or chickpeas will also do the trick.

The thing about zinc is that you need it for healthy immune function, but getting too much of it can have the opposite effect and impair immunity.

Garlic

Garlic isn't used to just season food or give you stinky breath, but it contains a myriad of compounds to support immune system health. It has been shown to reduce stress hormones and increase the production of T-cells. This superstar may also lower blood pressure and cholesterol according to recent clinical trials. Used throughout the ages to treat colds and infections, soldiers even used it in World War II to prevent gangrene.

The concept of "food as medicine" is just one trend to look for in 2021. Learn more about the top food and beverage trends of the new year in our recorded webinar, “Top 10 Foodservice Trends of 2021”.