Secrets to Keep Your Self-service in Great Operation

Are you like learning about kitchen gadgets and use them efficiently for your business? This synergy of food and machines is vital to a proper or profitable operation. A lot of researches reviewed the equipment and tools available to serve popular pizza. Now let’s take a look at the operation of the salad bar and other self-service systems.

If your customer has a salad bar, it can be expanded. If he doesn’t have one, he probably should. As a sales rep for food products, you benefit from the addition of menu items for a salad bar. At the same time, you are doing your customer a service by helping him to review his highly profitable self-service operations.

Fast Food is an American Invention

In order to serve the hoard that rushed to California in the quest for gold, self-service coffee shops were set up to meet the needs of the hungry traveler. The introduction of the salad bar was a major event in the evolution of self-service systems. Over half the restaurants and 80 percent of colleges and universities in the United States take advantage of the salad bar concept.

  • Salad Bars

The salad bar offers an easy way to add menu items to an otherwise limited operation due to restrictions in the availability of cooking equipment. And for competitive operations that are similar in concept, it gives the operator the ability to experiment in order to attract more customers. The salad bar is a creative tool that can reward a profit-minded imagination.

The increased consciousness about nutrition is another reason why the salad bar is so popular. The kinds of food being offered there are perceived to be of good value and the patron has freedom of choice and portion size. Over half of restaurant patrons say they have chosen a restaurant specifically because it had a salad bar. At this stage, the term “salad-bar” is a grandfather clause that encompasses a never-ending variety of specialty self-service stations. The bread bar is an easy one to set up with little need for equipment and a small space requirement. The breakfast bar is a winner in many operations; a simple table with iced pans for milk and juices along with cereal and rolls, or a heated buffet, as well, for scrambled eggs and bacon and such.

  • Soup Bars

All the soup bar needs is room for a pot with a ladle and some bowls. Merchandising and showmanship go hand in hand. A clever attention-getter for a soup bar is the vessel that looks like an old-fashioned black iron pot. Plug it in to any outlet and the soup stays exactly warm.

Other than the customers’ desire and satisfaction with the concept itself, there are also some tactical advantages to self-service. There is one less order for the waitress to take and fill along with the service to the table. And, the customer now has a fun thing to do while waiting for the main course: a chance to stretch and be creative; an opportunity to start a new conversation.

Maintain Your Business by Caring for Your Kitchen

They can be offered as part of the entree or as a profitable main course on its own. Some operators sell it by the size of the plate and others price it by the ounce, using a portion scale at the end of the line to tally the cost.

The plates and the procedures for handling them should be chosen with care. Wood bowls not only look and feel nice but they insulate and help keep the food crisp. There are special aluminum alloy bowls designed for the salad bowl system that look and feel cool.

China is, of course, the most common, and care must be taken so that warm dishes or warm pots just out of the dish room are never placed at the salad bar. There’s no faster way to destroy the credibility of the entire food-service operation than to place warm plates there. Pre-chilled plates or bowls are best and there is equipment designed expressly for that purpose.

Self-leveling plate dispensers are available with a built-in refrigeration system. Two or more dish “tubes” can be provided in a mobile unit that plugs in. The procedure is to load both tubes well in advance so they have a chance to chill. Only one tube should be used until it is empty. Refill it, shut the cover and open the other one for use. Hot dishes carried from out back and loaded on top of chilled ones will kill the system. The tubes can also be installed directly in the counter top with a refrigeration system cooling the space.

Other compact refrigerated cabinets, without the spring-loaded feature and originally designed for ice cream storage, can also be used. Several stacks of china can be set inside and reached by the patron. The customer will find the coldest stack and take from it.

The primary piece of equipment is the horizontal refrigerator that maintains the integrity of the foods while putting its best foot forward for the presentation.

The Importance of Refrigeration for Keep Food Fresh

Refrigeration of the salad mixing is essential, not only to keep the product looking fresh but also to keep it safe. All foods should be kept in refrigerated storage until the bar is ready to be set up, and just enough products should be on display so that frequent replenishment will keep them fresh and chilled.

Prepared salads, such as chicken salad, is of prime concern in terms of deterioration, and a pocket thermometer should be used from time to time to be sure the food is maintained at a temperature below 40 degrees. The only limit to the number of options of ingredients is the space available. The simplest cold pans are molded plastic modules that can be set on any table. A ready supply of ice must be handy to be down contains of ingredients and to keep the bed fresh as the ice melts. Flake ice, crushed ice, or smaller ice cubes can be used. If the operation only has a full-size cube and doesn’t want to invest in another machine at this time, you might suggest the purchase of an electric ice crusher that will convert tubes into salad bar ice in jig time.

  • Modular salad bar units come free-standing or on wheels for handy mobility. Ice pans of plastic or stainless steel are available. An attached drain line makes clean-up and wipe-down at the end of the day much easier.
  • An even more efficient cold pan configuration for the high-volume operation combines both ice and mechanical refrigeration. The pan itself is refrigerated and does most of the work, with the ice poured in around the containers for extra cooling and for show. The ice melts much more slowly in this scheme and stays fresh-looking for a longer period without the need for frequent replenishing.

Even though the bed of ice has merchandising impact, some volume operations, such as a fast line at a school, might be subject to spillage that can’t be controlled quickly enough, so that soiled ice results. This problem is alleviated by stainless steel plates with holes to accommodate the containers. It is much easier to wipe clean these than to remove and replenish ice.

One manufacturer has brought this concern one step further through a custom-made top with holes cut specifically for the configuration of containers wanted by the customer. The round stainless steel containers are set down through the holes into a continuously circulating cold water bath. The one-piece stainless steel top is particularly easy to clean.

  • If space permits, traffic should be allowed on both sides of the salad bar. This not only speeds up the line but also makes it easier to check the ingredients and add as necessary.
  • Some models have built-in holding refrigerators below the top so that commonly used items are handy. And one design holds large insulated containers that can be loaded ahead of time, kept in the walk-in, and stored under the counter so that there is always a ready supply of ingredients.
  • Required by most health codes, the salad bar must include a sneeze guard mounted in such a way as to protect the food from the breath of the patrons. Cross-contamination of respiratory diseases, although quite rare, is the concern. If the unit is built by a reputable manufacturer and is a cataloged item, it probably displays the seal of the National Sanitation Foundation and is listed by them. The NSF has strict standards to which the equipment manufacturer must adhere.

If the bar is custom-built or home-made, local regulations should be checked to avoid any possible problem in the future. The handling of the food itself is the most important concern, and it must be held at either below 40 degrees or above 140.

In Summary

Finally, be sure that adequate lighting is provided. Special lamps are made that fit under the sneeze guard and brightly illuminate the entire display. There is a move to bar the use of any glass over food or food preparation areas. All bulbs or fluorescent tubes should have a protective plastic covering so that if breakage were to occur, the food would not be in danger of being contaminated. Just as the exterior panels come in various finishes for merchandising decor, the use of creative lighting to highlight the salad bar at its station can be used. The salad bar is a profitable menu item capable of constant change and upgrading. The equipment and tools available for a successful operation are tried and true.