In the wake of a year that is commonly — but perhaps understatedly — referred to as “unprecedented,” dining operations of every kind should reevaluate how they’re serving and whether “business as formerly usual” will continue to make sense. Simply put, foodservice operators no longer have the luxury of not thinking about and planning for the unexpected.
Like so many other trends that accelerated as a result of the pandemic, this one got its start years ago.
Following the ravages of Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, I spoke with an architect who was designing the rebuild of a corporate cafeteria that had been completely destroyed by flooding. She didn’t want to put in the same high-end equipment that had been there before — and subsequently trashed by the flood and discarded. Instead, she opted for an alternative that might have been a surprising choice under normal circumstances but that provided her client the financial freedom to rebuild should disaster strike again.
“This happened once. It can happen again,” she said.
As a result, the notion of building flexibility into foodservice designs will become a requirement moving forward. By designing with flexibility in mind from the outset, we can change the old design mentality of setting up for a specific operational style — and nothing else. Hot foods here. Cold foods there.
By shifting perspective to consider how to make each component as flexible and changeable as possible, operators may discover the options for what foods to serve and when and where to serve them are suddenly much broader.
This versatility sets up operators to meet all kinds of needs, whether anticipated or not, from major disruptions like a pandemic to engaging opportunities like a corporate catered event. By tapping into a variety of options and finishes — like quartz and real wood — modular counters can be designed to look like an upscale custom system. With modern engineering, the seams between elements are nearly invisible to the customer.
When most of us think about modular serving counters, words like “cart” and “mobile” come to mind. We’re automatically picturing the school cafeterias from our youths, with their institutional stainless-steel blocks on casters, mashed together to create something that passes for a cohesive serving line.
You’re picturing it, right?
Well, it’s time to leave those old impressions behind and embrace modern modularity and all the flexibility and convertibility it can offer.
What is now a traditional servery with stationary serving counters — the kind that are custom made and bolted down — has no flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. Modern modular options give that flexibility back.
Modular serving counters can be separated into their component sections and easily relocated. Need to keep people separate as during the coronavirus pandemic? No problem. Put separate serving counters in various serving areas. Want to increase access for passersby to grab a quick breakfast or snack? Move one of your modular units to a foyer or heavily trafficked hallway.
The opportunities to make flexible design are limited only by your imagination.