In this special edition of 5 Things, Food Management highlights five things you may have missed recently about developments regarding coronavirus and its impact on onsite dining.
Here’s your list for today:
- Binghamton University campus dining to be takeout only this fall
After announcing his intentions to reopen Binghamton University (BU) about a month ago, BU President Harvey Stenger has unveiled a plan for the university to resume classes in the fall. According to Stenger, the plan aims to satisfy BU’s goals of protecting the health and safety of its faculty, staff and students, maximizing the educational value of the university, continuing research activities and contributing to the local economy.
Among its stipulations, the plan calls for on-campus dining to be takeout only, though off-campus students will be provided with a place to eat while complying with physical distancing guidelines. The plan also noted the possibility of a food delivery system and mobile ordering.
- Rise of the robots
This lengthy Los Angeles Times article details the growth of high-tech automated food preparation and service machines from vendors like Chowbotics, whose CEO Rick Wilmer says demand for its Sally the Robot automated salad making unit has skyrocketed since the pandemic hit, particularly in hospital cafeterias and grocery stores that have removed salad bars due to safety concerns.
The company found a particular niche in hospitals with 24-hour workers and patients, where sales hit their peak after the cafeteria closed. “Unlike at salad bars, food is contained, minimizing oxidation and contact, keeping food safer and tastier!” Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La., wrote on Facebook pre-pandemic.
That niche has only expanded since March. According to Chowbotics, 70 hospitals now have Sallys, quadrupling its placements in just three months. (Farmer Fresh, a Midwest company whose vending machines dispense jarred salads, has also seen business double at its 100-plus hospital sites since COVID-19 hit.)
- Remote working poses challenges for company cultures
While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to work remotely, the long-term effects of such an arrangement have yet to be determined, particularly when it comes to maintaining corporate culture and inter-staff relationships. It is a particularly important issue for onsite dining providers in the business world because one of the key rationales for maintaining onsite foodservice is to foster collaboration and team spirit.
A recent Prudential Financial survey of 2,050 Americans who are working remotely found that 55% felt less connected to their company, though 54% said they would like to work remotely in the future, and 59% said that they felt as productive working remotely as they did at their worksite.
However, one reason remote working appears to be succeeding during the crisis is because teams already know each other, but developing bonds for new staffers working remotely may be challenging.
Andi Owen, CEO at furniture maker Herman Miller Inc., hasn’t found a substitute for dropping by an employee’s desk and asking about their children. “That unplanned kind of interaction that contributes so much to how we build relationships with people and how we build culture, those things are what are missing,” she observed.
Read more: Is remote working bad for corporate culture?
- Delaware North partially reopens HQ restaurant
Delaware North has partially reopened its Patina 250 restaurant for courtyard dining inside the Westin Buffalo hotel in downtown Buffalo. Sunday brunch service begins June 21. Patina 250 is located in the Westin, which is attached to Delaware North’s 12-story headquarters complex and is operated by the company’s Patina Group subsidiary.
Read more: Delaware North reopening downtown restaurant
- School cafeteria renamed for staffer who died of COVID
A food service worker in the Clark County School District in Nevada who died after contracting COVID-19 in March will be memorialized by the school he worked at with a name change to the cafeteria. The district’s School Naming Committee approved a request by Ronnow Elementary staff to name the school cafeteria after Ronaldo Cesa, who had worked there for over a decade before his death.
Cesa’s colleagues requested the name change in honor of the cafeteria manager they described in letters as a fixture of the Ronnow campus who ran an efficient kitchen operation and remembered the names and dietary needs of the students he served.
“He willingly placed himself at risk to provide breakfast and lunch to students once CCSD schools closed because he knew how much the children depended on this service,” wrote teacher Kelleen Prue. “In this respect, he literally gave his life in service to our children.”
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]