Tag Archives: food allergies

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!

Food Allergies and Restaurants: It’s All About Communication

Roughly 15 million Americans have food allergies, with the top eight being: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

Most all of these items are used in restaurants on a daily basis and food allergies have become more prevalent; many restaurants have adapted to ensure the safety of customers.  But there are still restaurants that have no experience with food allergies.  According to Sloane Miller, MSW, LMSW, author and advocate (AllergicGirl.com), it’s all about communication.

All About Communication

Image from Sloane Miller, Copyright David Handshuh

When a person has a food allergy, it isn’t up to the individual to assume the kitchen staff knows how to handle it.  On the reverse, the kitchen staff must work together to ensure everyone understands what the customer’s needs are.  Miller makes a great yet obvious point:  A restaurant’s goal is never to hurt anyone; it just takes some negotiation and conversation to get on the same page.

“As a diner with food allergies, I want what every diner wants—to fall in love with a restaurant.  I want to taste a chef’s special dishes,” she said.

“My relationship with a chef or restaurant or chain can last for years.  I’ve created many relationships and have many restaurants I visit a few times a week.  I’m a regular with just a few special food allergy needs.”

 

Is Your Restaurant Capable?

Not every restaurant can accommodate a person with a food allergy—and that’s okay.  Miller mentioned there are some restaurants that put customers first, and then there are others where a chef and their creation is the focus.

Now, for those restaurants with little to no experience with food allergies but who want to become an accommodating establishment, there are ways to become educated and set procedures.  Many resources are available, such as “Welcoming Guests with Food Allergies” by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

To Dos for Those with Allergies

While dining at a restaurant requires work from both the diner and the restaurant, the diner has to be prepared beforehand.

“It starts with the patient understanding their food allergy, what they can and can’t have, carrying their emergency medications and having their own emergency plan of action,” Miller said. “Then they can engage a restaurant, group or chain in the process of dialogue. ‘These are my needs; does the chef feel comfortable with my needs?’ Ask via phone or email before stepping into a restaurant. It gives everyone, the diner and the restaurant, the chance to make an informed decision.”

Miller added that upon dining out, she makes the dining experience pleasant for the restaurant, smiles a lot and develops many new relationships.

“I love dining out, I love chefs, I love food and I love tipping well.  These are things I recommend to my clients. If a restaurant is able to meet your needs, please tip well (like 20 percent on the bill) and return so staff get to know you, your needs.”

To Dos for Restaurants

“Accommodating. Communication.”

These are words Miller used frequently when she described her relationships with restaurants.  After all, despite having special food needs, she brings in money—whether it’s bringing in a group for a business meeting or a birthday party.  Developing a relationship with a diner can really become profitable, whether they have a food allergy or not.

“We are their best undiscovered asset,” she described about being a diner.

However, if a person with food allergies comes to your restaurant and you don’t feel your kitchen can fully meet their needs—it’s okay to say no.  It’s important for the person’s well-being.

Working with the customer is important and must be taken seriously.  If they ask for a manager or have their order sent back, it’s not because they don’t like it and is nothing to be offended by.  A tiny part of a peanut or something that has been cross-contaminated can be a life or death situation.

Common Misconceptions and Breakdown of Communication

Miller finds the most common misconception about food allergies is “a little bit won’t hurt.”  With a food allergy, “a little bit” can be fatal.  (Read about symptoms and reactions in our blog: The New Bully in our Schools—Food Allergies).

As a person with food allergies, Miller said if there has ever been an issue dining out, it’s when there has been a breakdown of communication.  This breakdown happens between the back of the house and the front of the house, back to the table.

“About every tenth time I dine out, someone in the back of the house doesn’t get the message and misses,” she explained.  “Even when I triple check, communication can still break down and end up in a food allergy error, which is why I advocate that everyone always have their emergency mediation on them at all times and have an emergency action plan as well.”

Restaurant In Action

One of Indiana’s most beloved restaurants is Scotty’s Brewhouse, with five (soon to be six) locations around the state.  They are a prime example of an establishment well-educated in handling food for those with food allergies.

“First off, we start with training employees how to handle allergies when an order comes back,” said Luke Duncan, director of kitchen operations for Scotty’s Brewhouse Inc.  “The cooks related to the items take off their gloves and wash their hands.  We have separate utensils, cooking pans and cutting boards we use for all allergy items.  Also, especially for gluten-free items, we take ingredients out of the back from fresh batches and not what we have on our cook line to avoid cross-contamination.”

Also, each location has a guide of products readily available for managers to reference to if they are uncertain about hidden allergies, such as an item that doesn’t include peanuts, but was processed at a plant that processes nuts.

“We make every effort for an allergen plate to be handled by the cook (who cooked it from beginning to end without interruption whenever possible) and the manager on duty only, this way we do not introduce contamination from a third party not thinking about what they’re doing,” Duncan added.  “The manager finishes the plate with two American flag toothpicks (one on each end of the plate) to ensure any food runners to not grab the plate by mistake.  We have managers run the food whenever possible or a specific delegate if they are tied up elsewhere.”

Duncan said a diner who comes in with a food allergy is a challenging scenario when they are busy.  However, Scotty’s instructs servers to inform guests it may take a few extra minutes to ensure their order is properly handled.  And for a safe and enjoyable meal, that customer sure won’t mind.

Recap for Diners

  • Fully understand your allergy/allergies
  • Carry emergency medications
  • Have a personal emergency plan of action
  • Engage with a restaurant by calling or emailing ahead of time and discussing needs
  • Be pleasant, tip well and return upon having a good experience so the staff get to know you

Recap for Restaurants

  • Set procedures in place for food allergies and train all employees
  • Talk with the customer to ensure your kitchen can meet their needs
  • Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t think your restaurant is capable
  • Ensure full communication with all staff members, both front and back of the house
  • Don’t be offended when asked to speak to a manager or have a dish sent back

Foodservice Industry Week in Brief: 4/2-4/6

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for
April 2-6.

Food Allergies in American Children on the Rise
From Family Practice News, Read Article

Over the last few years there has been more awareness for food allergies, especially in children.  It’s become a huge issue in schools, but restaurants and foodservices are also taking precautions to accommodate those with allergies.  According to a recent article from Family Practice News, food allergies in children are up 33 percent. These numbers are based from a Centers for Disease Control study of over 90,000 patients.  The article says these numbers could be higher because there is a higher sense of awareness of food allergies and also, more children are being tested.  Read the full article on the Family Practice News website for more statistics from the study.

Burger King Making a Strong Comeback

This week Burger King began their strong comeback and rolled out new menu items which include smoothies, salads, frappes, chicken fingers and snack wraps.  Speaking of the snack wraps, there has been some buzz this week about a pulled commercial they put together with singer Mary J. Blige.  Some say it was pulled because some viewed it as stereotypical.  However, in an article from the Associated Press, they say Burger King actually pulled the commercial due to a licensing issue.  Either way, the video is still floating around on YouTube and they say the video will be back soon.  Check it out, it’s a tune that will stay stuck in your head all day!

Baseball Stadiums Accommodating Those with Peanut Allergies
From Time NewsFeed, Read Article

Extending on the allergy conversation, this week marked the beginning of the 2012 Major League Baseball season.  Some stadiums are doing something a little different this year and are accommodating fans with peanut allergies with some sort of peanut-free zone on specific game days.  In a recent Times article, they say the New York Mets and Yankees are two stadiums that have come up with different variations so those fans with allergies can enjoy a game.  Read the full article on the Times NewsFeed website.

Central’s Spring Blood Drive

Today is Central’s spring blood drive! Many employees have made appointments to raise their sleeve to help those in need.  It’s a great way to get employees involved, so if your business is interested, get in touch with your local blood center and host a drive.  After all, according to the Indiana Blood Center, did you know every two seconds someone needs blood? And one pint of blood can help up to three people? They also say nearly all blood used for transfusion in the United States is drawn from volunteers.  Check back next week to hear how our blood drive went!

Good Friday and Easter Recipes

As this weekend many will be celebrating Easter, here are a few websites with recipes for both today (Good Friday) and Easter.

Lifestyle Food: Easter Good Friday Recipes

Food Network: Celebrate Easter, Recipes and How To

About: Gluten Free Easter Quiche Recipe

Rachel Ray: Easter and Good Friday Recipes

Taste of Home: Easter Recipes

 

Foodservice Industry Week in Brief: February 17

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for February 13-17.

Tip-Income Questions with Answers from NRA
From National Restaurant Association, Read Article

As we move into tax season, the National Restaurant Association wanted to be sure some of the major questions were answered.  They put together an article that talks about restaurateurs filing tip-reporting data with the IRS, qualifications for a federal income tax credit on the FICA payroll taxes paid on certain employee tips and a reminder on law requirements.  Read the full article on the NRA website

Senate Approves Lower Minimum Wage Requirements for Servers, Bartenders, etc. in Florida
From Orlando Sentinel, Read Article

Florida workers who rely on tips aren’t too happy about a recent bill that passed through a Senate committee. Why? According to a recent Orlando Sentinel article, the minimum wage requirements will allow restaurants and employers to reduce the current minimum wage of $4.65 an hour to $2.13 an hour. Many workers are infuriated.  The Orlando Sentinel said the bill was proposed by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.  “The organization argues that it’s necessary because the minimum wage, which under state law rises annually to cover inflation, is among the expenses financially crippling restaurants in Florida,” they said.  Read article in full on the Orlando Sentinel website.

Valentine’s Day Specials at Chain Restaurants Image: alvimann/MorgueFile
From L.A. Times, Read Article

Valentine’s day was Tuesday, February 14.  It’s a very popular day for couples to eat dinner out, but with the United States’ current economic situation, not everyone can afford fine dining.  Fast food chains and quick service restaurants picked up the slack and provided great deals for those who didn’t want to cook their own Valentine’s Day dinner.  In a recent L.A. Times article, some of the specials they mentioned were Papa Murphy’s heart-shaped pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts heart-shaped doughnuts.  For more details on what restaurants were planning for, check out this L.A. Times article.

Chicago Schools Will Soon Stock EpiPens
From Education Week, Read Article

The number of food allergies is on the rise.  In a recent Education Week article, they found statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics that say approximately every one in 25 school-age children has a food allergy.  To help prevent possible life-threatening allergic reactions, Illinois has passed a law and soon all Chicago Public Schools will stock approximately four to six EpiPens each.  They will also train school employees on how to use them.  Read the full article on the Education Week website.

Restaurants Gearing Up for Lent
From Restaurant Hospitality, Read Article

Next Tuesday, Feb. 21, is Mardi Gras–then the following day is when Lent begins.  During Lent, Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays, so many restaurants update their menu to provide Lenten specials.  In a recent Restaurant Hospitality article, they say many fast food chains have a fish sandwich, and those who don’t usually have one will add one.  Then other restaurants will provide other specials during the season with seafood menu items such as tuna and shrimp.

If your restaurant hasn’t considered updating your menu for Lent, Restaurant Hospitality says, “Pick up a couple items that would work within your restaurant’s pricing structure/service scheme and you’ll have a mini-Lenten menu you can promote.” They also say this is a good way to “pump a little life into your restaurant in what can otherwise be a drab time of the year.”  Read the full article on the Restaurant Hospitality website.

All images used from MorgueFile.com.

10 Tips for Food Safety

Is your foodservice establishment following safe food handling practices?  Whether you’re a restaurant or school cafeteria, food safety should always be a top priority.  Over time (especially during peak meal times), employees may become lackadaisical to food safety.  Be sure to remind them how important it is and use these tips to ensure your establishment is safe for your customers.

1. Thoroughly cook food. 

Under-cooking food runs the risk of making your customers ill in a variety of ways from food poisoning to E.Coli.  Use a thermometer to ensure foods are cooked thoroughly and maintain a safe temperature if left out.  Food Safe Schools put together this PDF which gives a reference on control time and temperature.

2. Avoid cross contamination.

From our Cross Contamination Prevention Guide, did you know cross contamination is the sixth largest contributing factor to food borne illness?  Avoid cross contamination and make it easier for restaurant workers by using a color coded system. There is a commonly used color scheme used for cutting boards, knives and gloves. Read more in our Cross Contamination Prevention Guide.

 

3. Wash hands and change gloves frequently.

There are times when it’s okay to be conservative to save money, but when it comes to food safety, it’s never okay to put anyone at risk for the sake of saving a few dollars. Employees must wash hands and change gloves frequently, especially between tasks and upon exiting/entering the kitchen.  To put the importance into perspective, review Foodbeast’s “Handwashing Awareness & Helpful Tips” infographic.

4. Stick by the two hour rule.

If food has been sitting out at room temperature for two or more hours, get rid of it.

5. Accommodate guests with food allergies.

Food allergies are serious and create a variety of reactions from discomfort to anaphylactic shock.  Note on menus or menu cards if items contain or are around certain foods.  Also, post signage and put in menus a request for customers with allergies to inform the wait staff.  In return, employees must understand the seriousness of food allergies and convey the information to the kitchen.  Some of the top food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, soy, gluten and wheat. 

6. Have a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM). 

iPura covers this in their blog “FDA Retail Food Safety Initiative—Focus on Protection,” which is a FDA initiative that will become more well known as time moves on.  Establishments with a CFPM are more compliant with regulations and have less risk factors.  Straight from their action plan, the duties of a CFPM are to make their presence a common practice, strengthen active managerial control at retail to ensure better compliance, encourage widespread, uniform and complete adoption of the FDA Food Code and to create an enhanced local regulatory environment for retail food operations.

7. Utilize food rotation labels.

Food labels  help employees know which foods are fresh, which foods need to be used quickly and which foods are no longer good for use and need to be discarded.  Ecolab has put together an entire page dedicated to food rotation which includes their “First In, First Out” method to ensure food is served fresh and is safe.

8. Be familiar with your food supplier. 

Smart Blog on Restaurants covers this in their blog, “Food Safety Checklist for Restaurants.”  By knowing your food distributor and using a trusted one, you can work with them to ensure food is safe and of the best quality.  SmartBlog also has this reminder, which is similar to what we said earlier about never sacrificing food safety to save some money: “Be wary of suppliers that are guided solely by price; food safety as a cost, but it’s worth the investment.”

9. Wash foods properly.

Photo by Maxstraeten on MorgueFile.com

That being said, kitchens should also know which foods aren’t recommended for washing.  There are quite a few specifics when it comes to proper food washing and the USDA has put together this “Safe Food Handling” guide on their website to help with proper food washing methods.

 


10. Create a plan and stick to it.

Make sure you have safe food handling practices and your employees follow them.  It’s a serious matter.  Employees must know safe food handling practices are one of the most important aspects to their job and everyone needs to comply.

How does your foodservice establishment handle food safety? What are some methods that have been successful?

Eggs

Living with Dietary Restrictions: Eggs

When it comes to dietary allergies, eggs may be one of the most restrictive.   There are so many items that obviously contain eggs like most desserts/baked goods and noodles, but there are just as many, if not more foods that use eggs in a more veiled way.   Luckily, while eggs are harder to avoid than other food allergens, it does occur a little less often.  According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, “Egg allergy is estimated to affect approximately 1.5% of young children.”  The good news is that on average it is an allergy that can and will be outgrown.  However, it’s still smart to know what to avoid and the risks that an egg allergy presents.

EggsHow do egg allergies develop and can they be prevented?

Like most allergies, egg allergies are the body’s immune system attacking an element that it thinks is invading, in this case the egg protein.  According to the Mayo Clinic these attacks can manifest in symptoms including: Skin inflammation (most common), asthma, nasal inflammation, stomach issues and in severe cases anaphylaxis.  The reason for this allergy can range from a family history of the allergy and most often the immaturity of the digestive system, which is why the allergy shows up in children, but can be outgrown.  The Mayo Clinic continues to say those that suffer from this particular allergy are also more likely to suffer from other health problems as well.  These problems include other food allergies, hay fever, atopic dermatitis and allergic asthma.

As said before, many children do outgrow the allergy as their digestive system develops.  Kids Health says that an, “Egg allergy usually first appears when kids are very young, and most kids outgrow it by the time they’re 5 years old.”  However, it’s important to know that this is not always the case.   Allergic Child reported on a recent research study done on this topic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.   According to the study, “In what are believed to be the largest studies to date of children with milk and egg allergies, researchers followed more than 800 patients with milk allergy and nearly 900 with egg allergy over 13 years, finding that, contrary to popular belief, most of these allergies persist well into the school years and beyond.”

There has also been work done to help to actually prevent the allergy from appearing in the first place.  The study presented in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggested introducing eggs to a baby’s diet between the ages of four to six months.  While it’s not conclusive whether or not it actually prevents the allergy, it has been found that it at least does not increase its development.

What should be avoided?

With every food allergy, it’s essential to be aware of what a dish or product contains by reading labels and asking questions.  With eggs it’s also imperative to know the names of items that are egg related yet are not just simply called eggs.  The Mayo Clinic list these terms as the following: Albumin, Globulin, Lecithin, Livetin, Lysozyme, Simplesse, Vitellin, and words starting with “ova” or “ovo,” such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin.  It’s also a good rule of thumb to avoid certain foods in general, unless they are specifically noted as not containing eggs.  Some of these items are anything made with a mix or batter, mayonnaise and items that include this ingredient, marshmallows, salad dressings and most baked goods and pastries.   It’s also wise to avoid drinks like beer, lattes and cappuccinos that use eggs in foaming agents, anything glazed and even many shampoos which use egg proteins for strengthening.  A final item that might not be as obvious is the vaccine for the flu.  The reason behind this according to the Center for Disease Control is that the vaccines are grown on egg embryos, which means they’ve been mixed with proteins from the egg itself.  However, with this item it’s important to talk with your health service provider before making a decision as they will be able to tell you if your allergy is or isn’t severe enough to cause a reaction to the small amount of protein.

Egg alternatives and eating on the go

While there are some specific alternatives to cooking with eggs like Egg Replacer by Ener-G, there are also many items that you may currently have in your house that can be used in place of eggs as well.  PETA provides many detailed options on how and what to use to substitute for egg use.  Similarly, you can try these great options compiled by Calorie Lab:

1 gelatin packet, 2 tbsp. warm water
1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tbsp. vinegar, 1 tbsp. liquid (such as water)
1 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/2 tbsp. oil, 1 1/2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. yeast, 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 of a medium-sized mashed banana
1 tbsp. ground flaxseed and 3 tbsp. warm water
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp. xanthan gum
In place of an egg wash, use melted margarine.
*Note:  It is important to know that these alternatives may not turn out well when a recipe calls for more than three eggs though.

When eating out with food allergies of any kind, Eating With Food Allergies advises that it’s helpful to either eat earlier or later than the normal crowds (i.e. before 6 PM or after 9 PM).   Doing so will help in allowing you to get more attentive service both at the table and in the kitchen.  Another handy item to remember when venturing out to eat is a Kids Health great cutout for your wallet that lists different foods and ingredients to avoid.  In addition to this cutout, checking sites like Special Gourmets can assist you in making decisions on the most appropriate place to eat.  The search engine bills itself as, “The largest global guide to restaurants, shops & hotels with options for gluten-free, dairy-free & other allergen-free diets.”   Not only is this guide helpful when looking for new places to try or when out of town, but it’s also handy when your or others you’re with are allergic to more than one item since it allows you to check off multiple items for your search.

While you’re out, the most reliable dining option would be to find a specifically Vegan venue.  These restaurants are always a great option for those with egg allergies because Vegans do not eat products that come from animals like eggs and the food is unlikely to suffer from cross-contamination as well.  Unfortunately, Vegan based dining options can be few and far between.  If you’re on the go and looking for an often occurring fast option, check out Taco Bell and Dairy Queen.  Taco Bell is a helpful option because most items do not contain egg products and since most items that do contain them are not necessarily created on-site, the risk for cross-contamination is lowered a bit.  As for Dairy Queen, there are some great options for you to get your ice cream fix.  However, even on their website they do warn of cross-contamination possibilities and encourage getting an ingredient listing from that specific restaurant for extra safety.   For a sit-down experience, On the Border provides a viable egg free option.  Most items there can be enjoyed normally since most of them don’t use eggs, but often require requesting the item without sauce and/or sour cream.

Delicious egg free recipes to try at home

Oven Baked Eggless Zucchini Fries from Eggless Cooking

Sweet Potato Biscuits from The Sensitive Pantry

How do you or your family members deal with being Egg Free?  Please share your story. 

10 Back to School Products and Ideas for School Cafeterias

The beginning of the school year is the best time to go over standards and policies.  It’s also the time to make sure all the right tools are available to make every day a successful one.

Here are 10 products and ideas from Central to help get your cafeteria started right for the upcoming school year.

1. Food safety is critical.  All cafeteria employees should go over proper food and hand washing techniques at the beginning of the year, followed by periodic refresher meetings and posted signage.  Also, when wearing gloves, upon stepping away from a workstation, or moving on to another task (even if just for a second), dispose of the gloves immediately and put on a new pair when returning.

2. There are trays designed for a quick turnaround.  Melamine compartment trays dry the quickest and are an excellent choice for schools with a quick turnaround. Click on any of the following for more information: #17K-046, #17K-047, #17K-051 and #17K-052.

3. Planning menus in advance, and making them easy to access, helps everyone.  Can students and parents easily access your menus?  If they are only sent home with students, don’t forget about the ones who lose things easily or forget to take things home. Consider posting menus online and also having menu boards in the cafeteria. This way, everyone stays informed.

4. Cold food/salad bars are a great way to make fruits and vegetables available for children and promote healthy eating habits.  These types of food bars are really making their way into schools.  Even one of Michelle Obama’s initiatives of “Let’s Move!” includes the campaign for “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.”  The Carlisle Six-Star food bar or Cambro Versa Bars are great choices that come in a youth height for easy access.

5. Create a rewards program to help teach students healthy eating habits.  Make sure the program doesn’t reward with more food—especially junk food.  Work with other members of the school to create incentives to eat healthier such as free time or fun activities.

6. Learning doesn’t have to stop during lunch time.  On top of promoting healthy eating habits, use meal times to inform students of your school’s green initiatives and get them involved. This can set them up to be environmentally conscious in their every day life.

7. Food allergies are very serious.  All workers should be prepared in the event of an emergency, even if you don’t have any students to your knowledge with allergies.  A student’s life can depend on it. In last week’s resources blog, we found excellent information about food allergies from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, including this Food Action Plan.

8. When shopping, there are warranties exclusive to schools.  Keep your eye out for these. Some brands that have these special warranties are Garland, Vulcan, APW Wyott, Cres Cor, Duke and Univex. (At Central, we mention ours in our school catalogs. Feel free to contact a Product Consultant for help).

9. Keep cereal fresh.  For breakfast programs, cereal dispensers keep food fresh, save space and control portion sizes.

10. Dispose of the disposables. For flatware, both the Windsor and Dominion medium weights are great options for schools as well as our Central Exclusive Tumblers. Also, while you may not always think of ice as a disposable, have you ever considered reusable ice? It saves money and you will never have to deal with the mess regular ice can bring. Check out mat #647-001 or singles #647-002.  And if you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, the Jackson CREW44 conveyor dishwasher is one of the top picks for schools.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s resources blog to keep informed going into the school year. Also, check out our February blog “Top 10 Ways Central Can Help Your Cafeteria Go Green” if you’re looking to make your school cafeteria more eco-friendly.  Don’t forget to share your favorite products and ideas below.

Thanks to Central’s Category Managers Laura Bedillion and Elizabeth Price for providing great product suggestions.