E&S Extra

Editorial Director Joe Carbonara provides insights and commentary on the state of the foodservice equipment and supplies marketplace.


Transparency in All Things

Add transparency to the list of foodservice trends already in motion but gained new momentum and meaning due to COVID-19. And, much like the need to social distance and wear a mask to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the concept of transparency isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

joe carbonara hsDuring the years leading up to 2020, transparency was most commonly associated with the menu. For a generation of self-proclaimed foodies begat by the FoodNetwork, it was no longer enough to order a burger from their favorite restaurant. They needed to know not only what kind of beef it was but also where it was raised, the cow’s lineage and whether it had a happy childhood. Some restaurants, like B. Good, take things a step further by placing maps on their restaurant walls that show the origins of their ingredients. 

There was no better time to be a menu writer in the industry. Some of the most romantic copy being written the past few years has appeared on menus. 

Playing a supporting role in transparency’s rise to food fame were open kitchens. People had to see it to believe it. Plus, the pick-and-point lines used by fast-casual stalwarts like Chipotle not only support transparency and the notion of freshness, they also allow for customization, something today’s consumers constantly crave. By simply following their burritos down the makeline, consumers can play an active role in creating their own meals.

Thanks to COVID-19, though, the concept of transparency not only became more important, it became more widely applied throughout many foodservice operations. 

For example, prior to the pandemic, restaurants, and all foodservice operations for that matter, were some of the cleanest and safest businesses one could visit. It was rare, though, that an operator wanted its guests to see the various cleaning and sanitizing aspects of the business. That’s why so many open kitchens function with hearth ovens front and center while the warewashing area remains tucked in the corner, despite the fact that both play extremely important roles in delivering excellence in customer service. And when resetting tables between parties, operators often trained their staff to be as unobtrusive as possible. 

For the foreseeable future, though, one can expect the tables to be turned, so to speak, as operators become more transparent in their sanitation efforts in an attempt to show guests the business takes their health and safety seriously. Operators will continue to do this not only to adhere to local ordinances but also in a nod to the fact that consumers right now prioritize safety over food quality, as numerous studies by Datassential point out.

As a result, expect regular performances of sanitation theater to continue. This includes signs that greet guests, letting them know all of the steps the operator takes to keep their business clean. Expect operators to continue to execute these steps in plain view of the guests because, as the old cliché goes, seeing is believing.