Patrick White 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Between the Lines When it comes to serving lines, form and function combine for food delivery success. Management consultants will tell you that it’s not enough for a new program to be sound in theory—it also must be put into place properly. The “delivery mechanism” is what determines how effectively that program will work in practice. In school nutrition, the serving line is the ultimate delivery mechanism. No matter how nutritious and delicious the food, unless the serving line delivers that food to the students in an organized, timely manner, all the hard work done in the kitchen could be wasted. Plenty of types of serving line products are available to school nutrition professionals— permanent, portable, self-serve, operator-serve, hot, cold, long, short and so on. To prevent chaos or bottlenecks in meal delivery, school nutrition professionals must contemplate the type of serving line system that will work best at a particular site. Are You Being Served? “All of our serving systems are designed to help drive participation in schools,” says Richard Arthur, marketing director at Duke Manufacturing. “The flow and the physical appearance need to work. [The lines] need to be bright and exciting.” Budget considerations often drive operators to select certain serving line models, but Arthur insists that Duke can offer operators choice and flexibility at every price level. “We have basic serving systems—the AeroServ line—all the way up to our fully custom Insignia line, with all the bells and whistles: granite counters, backlighting, TVs [built into] the counter,” he explains. Also available is a popular “modular-custom” line—Expressions—which offers the many features of the custom unit in a moveable format to give schools greater flexibility than a built-in serving system. While Duke has installed its “high-end” serving systems in a number of high schools, Arthur says many districts opt for the company’s lower-cost Thurmaduke serving counters for their secondary schools. Like the base AeroServ line, Thurmaduke serving units are modular. “The AeroServ line is commonly used in elementary schools, because it has a narrower body, which makes it easier for students to reach the food, and it also comes in lower heights,” he states. “The wider Thurmaduke modular counter is typically used in middle and high schools.” Arthur encourages school nutrition operators, when shopping for serving systems, no matter what brands they are considering, “to really lean on the manufacturers” and their representatives for guidance on available options. He also advises seeking units that allow signage (including photos, logos, etc.) to be changed out periodically. “You’re probably going to have the serving counter for 15 or more years, so you need it to be durable, but you also want to be able to switch signage from time to time so the unit doesn’t look outdated,” Arthur explains. Flexibility and Functionality Kim Aaron, marketing manager with Carter- Hoffmann, also touts the modular style of her company’s Quick Serve Speed Lines, as it gives schools flexibility to move them, as needed. “Some cafeterias are multi-purpose rooms, and that kind of equipment works well for them,” she explains, adding, “They’re also popular with programs that have a central kitchen and transport food to the schools. That way, the schools can set up the serving line wherever convenient, whether it’s in a gym or outside on a patio.” The units are constructed on wheels, so they can be moved easily out of the way after the meal period, if desired. In many cases, these units, which are available in both hot and cold configurations and require electrical power, are used to serve entrées and foods that need to be kept at certain temperatures—for example, burritos, pizza, juices or fruit cups, says Aaron. “We do offer a solid-top unit that doesn’t require electricity and allows schools to set up displays of chips and individual serving foods,” she adds. All the company’s units can be latched together via connections at the bottom, allowing schools to form large, uniform-looking serving lines. Tray slides are not standard, but Carter- Hoffman can add them if requested, assures Aaron: “That happens more at grade schools, where children are younger and more likely to spill their trays without the slides. At high schools, they sometimes don’t like to use trays because if the students [are holding] a handful of food, there’s less chance of pilferage. It’s also easier to reach the baskets inside the units without the tray in the way.” Other customization options include use of school colors and logos. “We even did one in a school bus theme,” she reports. “The primary reason they’re successful is that you can serve a lot of people in a short period of time,” Aaron emphasizes. The company reports that the modular equipment can be set up in as little as 600 square feet and still serve 400 students in 20 minutes or less. “Plus, they have quite a bit of food capacity built into them, and they’re easy to re-fill,” she notes. Wells Are Swell “Our Shelley line features mobile units. That is by far the most popular for K-12 schools,” reports Marcy Mathews, serving line product manager with Delfield, noting that this line is available in several sizes, determined primarily by the number of wells—hot, cold or frost tops— required. Units are available from as small as one well to as large as six. Custom sizes also are available. The wells fi t standard-size hotel pans. “They’re set up for 12x20s, and you can put in different size adapter bars, so you can use your one-sixth, one-third and half-size pans,” says Mathews. Another available option is a 1-in. recess around the wells that allows operators to also use sheet pans on the serving equipment. “For instance, one day you can serve a traditional hot item, such as macaroni and cheese, out of a hotel pan. Then the next day, you can serve something like pizza from a sheet pan. It gives you the flexibility to use it sort of like a hot-top unit or a traditional well,” Mathews states. The Shelley serving units can be specified as all-hot or all-cold, or as a combination of hot and cold wells. No matter the size or layout of the serving line, Mathews urges school nutrition operators not to overlook the importance of sneeze guards. “As of the beginning of 2011, there are many new NSF rules for sneeze guards,” including coverage area, she cautions. “You really want to be sure you understand the rules and guidelines when you buy new equipment, so that when a health inspector comes in, there isn’t a problem,” she advises school nutrition operators. In addition to playing an important role in food safety, sneeze guards can be used to dictate serving line protocol. “You can select a self-service, full-service, single- or double-tiered sneeze guard or even a sneeze guard that can be converted from self- to full-service, with one position in between. That position is used if the operator wants to pass food through to the students underneath the protector but doesn’t want students to be able to serve themselves, so there’s just enough room to pass a tray through,” explains Mathews. Line It Up Whether you purchase a serving line for your operation from one of the companies mentioned here or another provider, be sure to talk to the company representative about your specific needs and requests to ensure that you and your vendor are on the same page. This careful attention on your part to your operation’s needs will lead to a fluid, dynamic experience for your students as they move through the serving line during meal times. And as Duke Manufacturing’s Richard Arthur suggests, you even may experience an increase in your participation! Patrick White is a freelance writer in Middlesex, Vt., and a former assistant editor of this publication. BONUS WEB CONTENT In addition to the companies cited in this article, there are many other vendors that provide serving line equipment and options to the K-12 school nutrition market. To learn a little bit more about some of the product offerings from 12 additional companies (including Carlisle, Colorpoint/Low- Temp, Galley, Unified Brands and Vollrath), visit www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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