Houston ISD has been a model large school district dining operation not only in its initiatives to expand participation and service to its students even as it transitioned from contract to self-operated status, but also by its efforts over the last several years to cope with the twin disasters of Hurricane Harvey and, more recently, the COVID crisis. In the process, the district meal program has supported not only its student customers but also the larger Houston area community.
Best Convenience Retail Concept—QuickEats Close Convenience, Aramark
QuickEats Close Convenience is a fully automated retail outlet that uses computer vision cameras and sensors to create a fully automated, frictionless, self-guided shopping experience, allowing shoppers who have downloaded and registered on the QuickEats app to browse and handle the offerings, then pay only for what they take. The concept was introduced earlier this year at a California apartment complex.
Best Customer Service Concept—robot meal delivery to campus and community, Bowling Green State university/Chartwells
While a number of college campuses have introduced robot meal delivery, Bowling Green extended the service to the surrounding community as a way to foster relations with its surroundings. This fall, the service is planned to expand into delivering groceries to both the campus and the community from a major area retail grocery chain.
Best Management Company Concept—Mood Boost, Chartwells K-12
Mood Boost is designed to help K-12 students make the connection between what they eat and how they feel. With a combination of engaging characters and cafeteria decor, on-trend recipes focused on mood-boosting foods and a variety of fun giveaways, Mood Boost makes learning about foods and nutrition enjoyable for youngsters.
Best Menu Concept—Beet Root, Morrison Healthcare
This concept designed for healthcare environments leverages the nutrition benefits of beets by incorporating the root vegetable as the main ingredient in a variety of dishes. The stalks, leaves, stems and skins provide distinct textures and tastes to each recipe in this unique but ultra-health-oriented concept.
Best Special Event—pizza pickup program, Houston County (Ga.) Schools
What do you do with all the whole pizzas purchased and stocked for a normal school year when the schools suddenly shut down due to a national pandemic? Houston County Schools decided to use up its stock by putting on a series of pizza pickup nights for the community, turning a potential $30,000 loss into nearly $125,000 in revenue.
Best Station Concept—Cook’s Corner, Restaurant Associates/Capital One
Cook’s Corner highlights the cooks and chefs behind the food at two Capital One facilities, showing the inspiration behind their dishes as well as their culinary journeys and any stories that the featured culinarian wishes to tell. The concept not only emphasizes the talent behind the dining operation but also the diversity of its culinary staff.
Best Wellness Concept—meal box program, CentraState Health System
In an effort to assist COVID patients with recovery and to celebrate their being discharged, the CentraState food service team created boxes of food and meals to be sent home with patients. The nutritious meals are designed not only to help the former patient continue to regain health but also to tide them and their families over after an especially traumatic experience.