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:
- Coronavirus furloughs hit Compass
Compass Group North America, the largest contract foodservice firm in the country, has confirmed that it is being forced to furlough workers because of the coronavirus pandemic, just as many other smaller firms in the market are. With so many sites it serves closing, the company said it had to make “the extremely difficult decision” to begin employee furloughs. The company declined to say how many people it furloughed.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to make the extremely difficult decision to place some associates in Charlotte and across the country on temporary leave, or furlough. This allows them to remain Compass Group associates during this time and retain their existing healthcare benefits,” the company’s statement said.
“I want you to know this is not about profit or numbers...We are taking this measure (regarding furloughs) so we will ultimately be in a position to hire back our associates as quickly as possible,” CEO Gary Green said in a letter posted on the company website.
- Facebook donates $300K of food it had in stock to charity
When the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order went into effect on March 17, tens of thousands of tech employees were sent home, and all their free, three-meals-a-day cafeterias were immediately shuttered as well. In the subsequent days, not only did Facebook’s cafeteria-deprived 45,000 Bay Area employees basically crash restaurant order/delivery firm DoorDash, but it was revealed that Facebook and other area high-tech firms have enormous piles of produce, dairy and grains stockpiled all the time.
In Facebook’s case, some of the company’s employees stepped up to give it all away—some $300,000 worth—and with the approval of upper management, Facebook’s cafeteria staff and employees across various departments worked around the clock to send its bounty to the Bay Area (and beyond) during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine.
- School district offers home delivery option of meals
When Minnesota schools were shut down in mid-March due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit Lakes Public Schools immediately began offering free lunch and breakfast for parent pickup to help keep students dependent on the district for regular meals from going hungry, but now, there's a home-delivered option available as well.
"We are delivering to homes per parent request," Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke revealed recently. "Parents should call into the food service department…or email them…for more information."
The pickup service will also remain open during the extended school closure, Froke added, noting that between the three pickup sites and home delivery, the district had served 1,142 meals on just one day, Thursday, March 26, which was "pretty amazing."
- Yale food donations, packaged food options continue amid shutdown
Even as the on-campus student population shrinks dramatically due to coronavirus shutdowns, Yale University continues to serve the residents of New Haven who depend on the city’s soup kitchens. For decades, Yale Hospitality, the university’s dining operation, has provided them with unused dining hall food and this is continuing.
“Our community soup kitchens were very much on my mind as we began planning for our reduced food production,” says Yale Hospitality Associate Vice President Rafi Taherian, “They are not forgotten—we are thinking of them and will continue to take care of them.”
As soon as it became clear that Yale students would not return to campus after spring break, Yale Hospitality began collecting perishable food items for donation to DESK—the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, which Yale has been supporting for more than a decade—and Haven’s Harvest, an environmental organization that shares excess food with soup kitchens and groups with similar missions.
In Yale’s Culinary Support Center, Managing Director Christina Wethington and staff are preparing daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners in to-go containers for students who are unable to leave Yale and for critical staff members who are still working on campus. About 400 pre-packaged meals are produced and distributed daily.
“We are producing extra packaged food options so we can donate meals and other food products to DESK and Haven Harvest,” Wethington said. “We also share our post-service packaged leftovers with them.”
- L.A. regulators shut down restaurants selling groceries
Foodservice operations selling unprepared food may want to check local and state ordinances about what entities can operate as retail grocery stores. That is what a few Los Angeles restaurants struggling to maintain footing amid the COVID-19 outbreak by selling groceries found out recently when the city's public health department shut them down because don’t have grocery permits.
"It's not really possible for a restaurant to become a grocery store," Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health, said in a briefing. "You cannot just decide you want to sell groceries."
"Elderly people in the neighborhood really enjoy coming to Bacari PDR," Robert Kronfli, the co-owner of one such restaurant-turned-grocery store, said. "We have inventory," he added, including toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies—the very items that notoriously disappeared from shelves weeks ago when fears started to spread around COVID-19. Many patrons flocked to his business for those goods, he explains, and they also appreciated that they could touch and feel the produce without worrying as heavily about how many hands had touched it first.
Though he says that his conversation with the county health inspector "hit a brick wall," Kronfli is appealing his case to the California Restaurant Association, to Councilman Mike Bonin (D–11) and to the L.A. Department of Public Health. He's hopeful that the city will grant him the right to run his fledgling grocery business again.
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]