The Age of LEED
The finalization of LEED for Retail standards the previous November, which applied a major building sustainability certification program to commercial spaces like foodservice facilities, boosted what was already a rapidly growing interest in more efficient kitchen and foodservice display equipment. In this exhaustive roundup, FM provided readers with examples of the latest technologies and tips on how to build sustainability into their facilities.
K-12 Power Players
FM adapted its successful annual Top 50 Contract Management Companies template to the school market with the first Power Players installment, which profiled the school nutrition operations in the 25 largest public school districts in the country. The Power Player model was soon extended to other onsite markets like higher education, hospitals and senior living communities, all of which are now annual features that provide readers with a convenient roundup of what’s going on among the largest operators in these various markets.
Food Trucks Go Multi-segment
No longer the “roach coaches” of societal disrepute, food trucks gained considerable buzz over the last decade as purveyors of all sorts of funky and exotic cuisines, and onsite operators started to grab on to the trend by launching their own food truck concepts. Schools saw them as monotony breakers, summer meal outlets and catering opportunities while colleges used them to supplement fixed outlets with postings at intercept points. Even some hospitals and corporate dining programs soon got into this promising meals on wheels trend.
Getting Closer to Zero Waste With Every Plate
One of the most prominent offshoots of the sustainability movement has been a growing awareness over just how much food is wasted—some 40%, per the article—from perfectly good crops left to rot in fields to leftover food scraped off plates and into the trash. To mitigate or even eliminate that, onsite operators began to implement solutions like donating excess prepared food, reducing plate sizes, implementing trayless dining in all-you-care-to-eat venues and reusing leftover ingredients. Even formerly “unusable” but perfectly edible items like misshapen vegetables eventually found value as ingredients in soups and stews while chefs started exploring nose-to-tail uses for previously discarded parts of animal carcasses.
Build Your Own
A boom in customization was the natural offshoot of consumers taking charge of their own diet approaches, and onsite operators embraced the trend with a slew of concepts that allowed diners to build their own dishes, from noodle bowls and stir frys to pizzas, salads and subs, an approach that also provided the benefit of presenting the customer with a freshly prepared—rather than pre-prepared and held—dish.
Plant Based Takes Center Stage
One of the most significant food trends of the past decade has been the growth of plant-based center-of-the-plate options that are a far cry from the simple veggie-burgers of yore, with operators turning to beans, grains and assorted vegetables as substitutes for animal proteins. The trend, driven by both ecological and health reasons, has grown to the point where major companies are making commitments to reserving a certain—and growing—percentage of their menus for plant-based dishes.
Food As Medicine
Coming full circle from FM’s first issue cover story on The Dramatic Age of Nutrition is this analysis of how onsite dining programs are not only serving nutritious food but educating customers along the way about the benefits of healthy diets. Introducing new fruits and veggies to schoolkids, offering food literacy programs in colleges and cooking demos in hospitals are some of the ways programs across the onsite dining universe were embracing this aspect of the mission.
With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic a couple months earlier, FM took stock of the effects and possible future implications of the resultant lockdowns, mandates, restrictions and consumer anxieties on the onsite dining community’s various markets. Though it anticipated a likely return to “a semblance of normalcy by fall,” the article also predicted a number of longer term impacts, such as continued restrictions on self-serve bars, an expansion of grab and go programs, a boom in remote ordering and even an escalation in the use of delivery robots, characterized as “at present an exotic adjunct to a few campus dining programs.”
Originally intended as a one-off celebration of the dedication demonstrated by front-line personnel during the pandemic’s early months, Foodservice Heroes was soon adopted by FM as a long overdue annual recognition of individuals who do all the unit level tasks from prep and clean-up to order taking and serving and are the face of a dining program to customers. It is now a regular part of the magazine’s yearly features calendar.
FM’s last print issue was also a celebration of the onsite dining community’s meeting the challenge posed by the coronavirus over most of the year. It highlighted innovations that were quickly refined and deployed by operators across the various markets, such as the curbside meal programs developed by K-12 operators, the takeaway meal services created by campus dining departments and the home/apartment packaged meal delivery cart programs put together by senior community dining operations.
With the ceasing of print issues, “cover story” became a misnomer as the magazine embarked on continuous publication of stories on its website at food-management.com. While allowing more timely coverage of breaking news, the all-digital model also still accommodates cover-story-type features ranging from extended profiles of innovative programs and roundups of how onsite chefs are exploiting cutting edge food trends to examinations of critical issues like labor, technology, sustainability and wellness, plus the annual features readers have come to expect, such as the Top 50 and the Best Concept Awards.