Feeding during COVID-19 and beyond: Three A’s of equipment to support changing operations now and in the future
Today’s feeding needs have been dramatically altered by COVID-19 and the various restrictions on everyday activity and movement that accompany efforts to protect the public health.
Despite the challenges, there are adaptations operators can implement to be more efficient and effective in the current situation and to prepare for a future when serving and dining habits may be changed for a long time.
Here are some ways operators can adapt, adjust and adopt equipment to meet feeding needs now and in the future.
- Adapt your current equipment to today’s needs.
Equipment designed for traditional bulk displaying and serving — like buffet lines and popular assemble-to-order lines — may not be part of the dining landscape for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean the equipment needs to lie dormant for months.
Traditional cold or hot wells may be outfitted with adapters that allow them to hold individually packaged food items rather than the bulk displays of food for which they were originally designed. Reconfigure food shields either by converting self-serve ones to operator service or by removing them completely if your operation is serving all packaged foods (and it’s allowed by your local health department). K-12 operators or others with access to milk coolers can repurpose these into grab-and-go coolers for packaged foods.
- Adjust your equipment to meet needs now and in the future.
There’s a growing popularity of prepackaged foods across the dining landscape, particularly as schools and community organizations work to provide meals to students and families in safe, portable fashion.
But some organizations are still relying on large coolers or even simple carts to transport and serve food. Equipment like LTI’s Grab ‘N Go ExpressLine may be an ideal solution. Its deep wells hold packaged food containers at safe hot or cold temperatures, and the countertop’s clear sliding lids allow customers and workers to see food at a glance and easily access them. Temperature-controlled shelves atop the units provide more space, allowing complete meals with a variety of food items to be stored in and packaged from one unit.
When facilities eventually begin to return to pre-COVID-style operation, this equipment can continue to be a valuable addition, offering easy and appealing access to grab-and-go options.
- Adopt mobile and remote serving options.
Mobile and remote serving may be a significant part of future foodservice operations. In an effort to enforce the social distancing guidelines that may be in place for months, facilities may look to prevent congregating in traditional cafeterias or dining spaces. Equipment options are available to make it easier to bring food to where customers are, including potentially serving students in classrooms rather than cafeteria settings.
Mobile carts and kiosks have long been used to position food options in convenient locations — offering a quick breakfast at a school entrance or a snack in a college courtyard, for example. This type of equipment can take on a second life as a cafeteria on wheels.
Vending machines and outdoor dining infrastructure may also become more important as an easy way for customers to grab a bite and consume it in less-crowded environs.
Contact LTI for more ideas on how to help your operation accommodate the anticipated short- and long-term changes in non-commercial feeding.