The desire for fresh, healthy dining choices is growing. More consumers want food they can feel good about eating—and healthcare foodservice operators are reinforcing the link between nutrition and health with salad bars and portable hot food lines.
Why does it work? While fresh and healthy are the main considerations, it also provides convenience for consumers and operators. For operators, it’s easy to implement. For consumers, choices are quick and easy to find. Best of all, when people choose their food, there’s a greater likelihood they will eat and enjoy it.
Which brings us to the salad/food bar. There is perhaps no easier way to offer a variety of fresh, healthy ingredients than through salad bar and hot food bar serving lines.
It gets even easier if you use a portable bar. You can wheel the bar in and out of your dining room to make it a special offering. You can move it to different areas of your building on different days to serve different patients, residents and employees.
You can move it into the lobby or some other central location in the morning to encourage employees to buy to-go breakfasts and lunches. And you can move it back into the lobby at shift’s end to encourage employees (and visitors) to take meals home.
There are few pieces of foodservice equipment more versatile or better suited for promoting fresh, healthy foods.
Making food bars better
Gordon Food Service Healthcare Segment Manager Dana Fillmore, RD, advises operators to showcase the right menu options and consider safety to operate a successful portable serving line. Here are four suggestions:
Offer a bounty. Salad bars, she says, are built to accommodate a colorful variety of fresh vegetables and other salad fixings. That makes them ideal for showcasing local produce.
“Identify products from local farms and suppliers—that will add to customer perceptions of freshness,” she says.
Maintain balance. Be sure to provide choices for a balanced meal. Lean proteins, legumes and whole grains should supplement fresh produce. Soups and build-it-yourself bowls are ideal accompaniments to the produce spread. You also may consider offering a few more indulgent items to appeal to customers who don’t prioritize fresh and healthy.
Capitalize on popularity. Feature your most popular (and profitable) items in a prominent position—typically up front and at the entrance to the serving line. Otherwise, guests may fill their plates before they get to the foods you really want them to pick.
Make appearance a priority. Make sure you keep foods looking fresh and beautiful. Stock the bar to keep it looking full and have containers of backup product ready to go. Accompany the fresh produce with soups and build-it-yourself bowls. Grain bowls and broth bowls can even be a stand-alone bar.