Category Archives: College Foodservice

2017 Back to School Kitchen Equipment Guide

Is your school’s kitchen prepared for another year? From elementary up to universities, we rounded up a few of the most important pieces for a successful year! For additional helpful information, visit Central’s School Homeroom page.

True TMC-58 Forced Air Milk Cooler

A staple for the lunch line, keep milk cartons within reach for kids of all ages! The oversized refrigeration system provides better tasting milk and increased sales.  Plus, show your school pride with 26 color options! Trust the reliability of True products!


True T-49 Reach-In Refrigerator

The True T-49 reach-in refrigerator is one of the best in the industry, and has a five star rating on our website! It’s spacious 49 cubic foot interior is ideal for storing anything you need for your school’s cafeteria. With a temperature range of 33°F to 38°F, you will get the best possible food preservation and safety.


Metro C539 Holding and Transport Cabinet

Often times in school foodservice operations, food is prepared in advanced and has to be stored for the various lunch periods. The Metro C539 holding and transport cabinet is the perfect solution to hold food. It comes with the choice of Lexan (clear) or solid doors that are insulated to keep in heat. The adjustable digital thermostat is easy to use with recessed controls for safety. It also includes 17 slide pairs and can hold 34 full-size sheet pans.


Flatware Holders and Cylinders

Central has stainless steel and plastic flatware holders and cylinders, which allows flatware to dry in the vertical position.

Leaving flatware on it’s side doesn’t make for a very sanitary situation as lipids, acids and chemicals are laying on each other.

The stainless steel holders have a stainless steel construction with rubber feed for stabilization.  They’re also dishwasher safe. Plastic flatware holders and cylinders are heavy duty and long wearing.


Compartment Trays

Styrofoam trays cause cafeterias to throw away money on a monthly basis, plus have several negative effects to the environment too.

There many types of non-disposable trays out there constructed of a variety of materials. Read our compartment tray buying guide to see which trays excel in certain areas to find the perfect one for your foodservice. You can also look into ENERGY STAR® rated dishwashers to save on your water costs as well.


Need Help?

Central hand-picked all the items in our School Homeroom section of our website! Feel free to contact us at 800-215-9293 with any questions for your school foodservice needs. Working on a grant or bid? We can help with that too! We work with schools to get you the total amount or quote needed so you can finalize your application. Call or live chat with us now for details.


Top Image Credit: USDA

Beer Essentials: Make Sure Your Bar or Restaurant is Prepared for Game Day

From high school to professional, it is football season! With fall right around the corner, it is the time of the year when people come together to cheer on their favorite teams and hope for a few upsets.

Game Day

Football is one of the most watched sports in America and sees huge numbers in attendance at college and professional stadiums. Dedicated fans brave cold temperatures while others choose to watch at their favorite sports bars. Wherever the big game is watched, there is one common factor that brings fans of all kinds together during football season; Beer! With a variety of brands, it can be hard to decide which beer to choose the next time you’re watching your alma mater beat the cross-town rival.

Beer Promotions

Beer companies rely on social media engagement to interact with sports fans during the peak of the season. Beer manufacturers often come out with unique packaging for this time of year that cater to specific teams and geographic locations.  These promotions become prevalent in September and can benefit restaurants and bars that carry the beer brands that football fans associate with their favorite teams. Beer can be the driving force for football fans to head to their favorite bars on game days. Sports bars create the perfect atmosphere to cheer on the home team while enjoying your beer of choice.

Be Ready for the Crowds

Football games are televised almost every day of the week, is your bar ready for a big rush? Maybe you need more seating to accommodate all the football fans or equipment that’ll clean glasses faster, whatever your needs we’ve got you covered! Central Restaurant offers a wide range of products that includes:


Need more information? Be sure to call our helpful Product Consultants at 800-215-9293 for any questions on which products are right for your bar needs!


Summer School Lunch Programs: Serving Year-Round Nutrition

Summer is just around the corner, and that means most schools will be finished with their cafeteria duties until fall. But many schools throughout the country participate in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP was created to help low-income children receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.  All children 18 years old and younger are eligible to receive free meals through the summer lunch programs at approved SFSP sites in areas where there is a significant concentration of low-income children.

Summer lunch program background

The SFSP started in 1968 as an amendment to the National School Lunch Act. In 1975, it became a separate program. Currently, the SFSP is the largest federal resource for local sponsors to combine children’s nutrition programs with summer activity programs.  The SFSP is administered by Food and Nutrition Service, which is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. In the summer of 2012, about 39,000 sites provided meals to more than 2.28 million children.  In 2012, Congress spent $398 million on the SFSP programs across the country.

Why have summer lunch programs?

When school is out, only 1 out of 7 children who receive free or reduced lunches during the regular school year will continue to receive meals during the summer months. Good nutrition is essential for children’s physical and social development. Schools, local governments, camps, non-profit universities, and private non-profit organizations can sponsor SFSP programs. Resources for those interested can be found at the Food and Nutrition Service website. These resources includes a Summer Meals ToolkitFAQs for sponsors, and tips on how to raise awareness. As a part of this program, sites will be reimbursed, based on the number of meals served.

A sponsor site has the option to prepare its own meals, purchase meals through another school, or contract meals from a food service management company.  For sites that have their own kitchen and are able to prepare their own meals for the summer lunch program, a higher rate of reimbursement is given for “self-prep” rates.

Central’s school cafeteria products

School trays, Summer Lunch Programs

Central carries everything you need for your school cafeteria.

Whether your school is preparing for a summer lunch program, or getting ready for the upcoming school year, Central has you covered. If you need equipment – check out our selection of refrigeration, cooking, and food prep. We also carry supplies such as food trays and pans, as well as school furniture for your seating needs. If you’re not sure where to start, we have a school product buying guide. We also have expert solutions online, and many manufacturers offer extended warranties to schools. Shop online or call 800-215-9293 to speak to a product consultant!

5 Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Trends

The foodservice industry is constantly evolving.  One minute we’re focused on one thing, then six months down the road something new pops up.  In our 2011 “end of year” foodservice trends and predictions review, quite a few trends have really stuck such as mobile ordering devices, local food and double-sided menus (menus that separate healthy and unhealthy, such as McDonald’s recent “Favorites Under 400“).  Then there are other trends we haven’t heard much about such as plate shapes.

So as you can see, a lot can change in eight months.  Here are some of the latest trends, and we hope you will share what you are seeing in our comment section below.

Pop-Up Restaurants

Food trucks aren’t the only form of mobile food, pop-up restaurants are too.  A pop-up restaurant is a temporary dining experience that can be used for a chef to try out different menu items, a landlord wishing to rent out space during downtime or a dining experience for an event such as the pop-up Goodness, which lasted the duration of New York’s fashion week in February.

However Intuit doesn’t say pop-ups are anything new, because they have been around for quite a long time.  They are starting to show true staying power though.  Perhaps it’s because  it’s cheaper to start a pop-up than to open a restaurant, it’s a great way to test out an idea or maybe there is something to be said for the power of social media to draw customers.

Upscale Kids Menus

Quinoa, black bean and corn salad, stuffed zucchini boats, pesto pasta, apple oat balls and felafel wraps are just five of the 54 winning entries of the first Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on August 20.  Just to reiterate, these ideas weren’t whipped up by professional chefs with years of experience, but just children.  With the new USDA guidelines for schools and an overall push for better eating habits, restaurants have started to pick up on revamping kids menus and provide out of the box menu ideas.  For instance Applebees offers a grilled chicken sandwich with a variety of sides (the side advertised being broccoli) and Ruby Tuesday offers kids chop steak with broccoli and white cheddar mashed potatoes.  These menus are much more advanced compared to the days of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and macaroni and cheese.

Gen Y Changing the Game

A recent Food Management article looked closely at Packaged Fact’s  “Collegiate Gen Y eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report” and it appears that college-aged Gen Y’ers (18 to 22) are starting to define new trends in food.  According to Food Management, it’s because of the way they are exposed to new foods and they predict these trends will stay because the foodservice industry will have to adapt once all these students enter the workforce.

The report found students “are nutritionally minded, crave flavorful foods, look for comfort and indulgence and need speed and convenience.”  Some recent foods or trends that have been introduced in college foodservices have been going meatless, chickpeas, different fruits and vegetables, Asian cuisine, comfort foods (such as Italian or Mexican) and foods one can eat while on the go.

Awareness of Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions on Menus

This section isn’t necessarily a trend, but restaurants are starting to pay more attention to food allergies and dietary restrictions and take them more seriously.  Even as far back as a couple years ago, people weren’t thinking about gluten-free.  Today?  Several restaurants include gluten-free items on their menu.  But food allergy awareness extends further than the menu.  In the back of the house, restaurants have to ensure people with severe food allergies remain safe.  Many restaurants have put procedures in place while others are still learning and take food allergies on a case by case basis.  To help, manufacturers of foodservice products have begun to create products to help with food allergies, such as San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone cutting boards.  Then when it comes to just health or dietary restrictions, restaurants are including nutritional information or helpful guides to help diners make informed choices on the food they eat.  For instance noting an entree is low calorie or low fat.  Others may let customers know an item has a low amount of sodium.

Local and Sustainability

Consumers are really starting to care more about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what the animals they may consume are eating, etc.  Over the last couple years there has been a rise in locally sourced food.  This rise went as high as restaurants going “hyper-local,” where they grow their own food.  It provides customers with a fresh product while keeping it in a community.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum where people and/or restaurants care about where their meat comes from and what the animal is eating.  There are some individuals that can tell a difference in taste between a grass fed cow and corn fed cow.  In a Forbes article, they said people “can now buy specialized breeds, meats raised on different diets, and those without antibiotics or hormones in just about every major city.”

What changes are you seeing in the foodservice industry? Restaurants, schools, etc.?  Please share below!

Alternatives to the College Cafeteria

Last month we told you about The Latest News and Trends for College Foodservices focusing on the ways campuses are working to provide alternatives to the usual cafeteria lines.   This month we’ll take a look at how students are taking dietary matters into their own hands and going outside the traditional food provided on campus.  With alternative kitchens, convenient delivery and even a hands on approach, students are taking it upon themselves (with a little help from outside chefs, restaurants and local farmers) to make sure they’re never caught wondering what’s for dinner.

Sorority/Fraternity Kitchens

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Though students living in a Sorority or Fraternity are still located on campus, they often have the distinct advantage of living in a location with its own private kitchen.   Along with this private kitchen usually comes a cook or chef of some sort to provide those living in the house with their meals.  This chef is frequently chosen and paid for by the members of the Sorority/Fraternity.   The downside to this is that it usually also means finding the most affordable person available rather than someone that will provide the healthiest or best tasting meals.   However, one of Central’s own customers, Campus Cooks, is helping to change all of this in over fifty Sorority and Fraternity houses across the country.   Campus Cooks sets itself apart from the average campus cafeteria by providing quality food and kitchen management at a flat per person rate to ensure that students are getting the most out of what little money they have to spend.  The company takes on the responsibility of hiring on-site cooks to make fresh lunches, dinners and snacks for each house.   In order to develop these healthy and creative menus the cooks use feedback from the students living in that particular house so the food is customized their specific tastes and preferences.   This in-house option is also a great alternative for those suffering from food allergies and dietary restrictions because the cook can make meals specifically for these individual to avoid any adverse reactions.  Cooks are even trained to incorporate the newest food trends to keep the meals interesting and nutritious on a daily basis.

Online Ordering from Local Restaurants

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While not all students are lucky enough to have a chef cater to their specific tastes, any academic with a little extra cash has the ability to order out.   However, ordering food has never been as easy as it now is with the recently launched Deals4MealsOnline, a concept created by former college students for current college students.  

While attending Seton Hall, founder Kenneth Cucchia and his friends ran into a problem that he was sure others on campus had also encountered…they didn’t know where to order food from.  Cucchia told The Sentonian, “I was just sitting on my couch one day with my roommates, and we were trying to figure out where to go to order some cheap food.  I Google’d it and it took me forever to find a list of places to order from in South Orange (New Jersey), and that’s pretty much where the idea came from.”  This desire for take out inspired Cucchia to solve the problem for years to come by developing Deals4MealsOnline, a site that allows students to search for just about any type of food they’re craving in their area, order online and have it delivered right to their door.  And on this new one-stop food delivery site, students are the only ones to benefit.   Restaurants also reap the benefits of  having the ability to receive online orders at a more afforable price as well as the advantage of targeted advertising on the site and via social media. 

Local Food Programs

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Students are not only creating new ways to find meals, they are also growing, selling and cooking the food on many campuses.   Through programs like Farm to College, many students are getting the opportunity to know exactly where their food is coming from by being a part of it in every stage.   Over 150 colleges and universities participate in this program where students can participate in activities like product research, planning gardens, farming, preparing food and even coordinating the purchase and delivery of products to dining halls that are available locally, but not necessarily on-campus.   Although currently the majority of the Farm to College programs are still overseen by campus foodservices or other administrative services many of the programs were initiated by students and at least twelve of the schools programs are currently completely student run.

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In addition to growing and preparing food on campus, some students are event selling it for both student and community use.  One example of this is the student-run farmer’s market at the University of Massachusetts (also a participant in the Farm to College program).   This year, three of the schools sustainable living programs joined together to put on the farmer’s market in order to raise awareness and promote farm-to-table living.   According to an article in The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, “In addition to the farmer’s market stand, the Student Farming Enterprise – a six-credit course consisting of two one-semester sections – runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.”  These programs allow students, faculty and other community members to receive education on healthy food as well as a trusted local source to buy it from.

What cafeteria alternatives have you seen popping up on campus?   How do they compare with the typical campus cafeteria?

The Latest News and Trends for College Foodservices

College foodservice is an ever-changing industry. Here are some of the latest trends and news about campus food across the country.

The Push for Healthy

Are the days of the traditional “all-you-can-eat” buffet on college campuses over? Well, students are always going to be hungry and have extra meal plan dollars to use,  so they’ll probably never be over.  However, according to the College and University Consumer Trend Report, mentioned in this Food Product Design article, only 28 percent of students are happy with the amount of “healthy” foods they are provided. There has been such a huge push for healthy grade and high schools, so why wouldn’t it trickle over to the college campus? Many college foodservices are going in a healthier direction too, one being Sodexo.  They are mixing it up with healthy and customized Mediterranean food—which seems to have resulted from their own student’s research.

Grab n’ Go

When a student is in a rush between classes, they don’t exactly have the time to sit down and have a meal in the cafeteria, especially if it’s during odd hours.  This is one of the moments where Grab n’ Go’s really get their time to shine, but students are always looking for something quick and different.  After all, one can only have a ham or turkey sandwich with chips everyday for so long before it gets old. Some campuses are mixing up their Grab n’ Go selection, such as Bennington College with menu items like the Chipotle Smoked Turkey and Bacon Wrap, Vegan Hummus Wrap, Protein Salads or Tangy Roast Beef Sandwiches.

Food Trucks

Without a doubt, it’s been the summer of the food truck. They are fast and convenient, making the college campus a perfect place for them.  What makes it even better is they are convenient for students as the truck goes to wherever they are. So you’re not losing the students who don’t feel like walking across campus to eat.  Catering to laziness? …no.  Not necessarily.  You could think of it as being more convenient for those pressed for time, or helping the students out.  (Sitting in an hour and 45 minutes of calculus can be really tiring).  Either way, it’s more money in your pocket.  This Napa Valley Register article talks about Napa Valley College—who due to budget cuts can no longer serve lunch out of its cafeteria and have rolled out a food truck pilot program. The article says, “about six food trucks will be available on campus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Fifteen food trucks are participating in the program, so the food options will vary each day.”

Social Media

Social media is a great way to inform customers in a quick and timely fashion, not to mention it’s mostly free too. With most students being glued to their phones 24/7, social media is probably one of their preferred methods of being contacted. (Do college students even check their email anymore? And are they going to know about your latest special if it’s only posted at the location…which they may or may not travel to?) Back in February, QSR wrote this article which covered a study saying 95 percent of university food operations use social media in some way. So, if you’re in that 5 percent, you may want to reconsider revamping your marketing campaign a bit. All the different types of social media sites out there can be a bit overwhelming, but that’s where websites like TweetDeck come into play, that can automatically post to several different sites at once.  You can even schedule posts ahead of time and could have a full day’s worth of posting ready to go in 10 minutes before the day really even gets started.  So no more excuses about not having time when a site like TweetDeck will do it for you…..for free.  The students will appreciate it.

What college foodservice trends are you finding?  What resources do you use that everyone should bookmark?