Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery store profits have increased nationwide. Yet in some ways, retail foodservice got the short end of the stick. Many “grocerants” were forced to alter, limit or shut down their foodservice offerings altogether: According to an April/May 2020 Technomic survey, 81% of grocery stores reduced prepared foods offerings in some capacity (usually by closing self-serve stations), and 11% closed the prepared foods department completely.
As the economy reopens, however, retailers have an opportunity to revamp their foodservice offerings to meet consumers’ shifting needs. And, like foodservice operators serving any market, this will involve taking a step back to assess how customers’ priorities have changed and crafting solutions to make retail foodservice as safe, easy and delicious as ever.
Improve health and safety—the efficient way
Once just a routine task completed behind the scenes, cleaning and maintenance in the prepared foods area has now become a main focus for retailers and consumers alike. For consumers deciding whether or not to make a purchase from the prepared foods section, seeing a clean, well-organized environment—both in front of and behind the deli counter—will likely be a requirement.
Frequently sanitizing all areas of the prepared food section—from the kitchen, to the counter, to eating areas—is a must, and communicating these efforts to customers can help increase their sense of confidence and comfort in shopping retail foodservice. Posting the cleaning schedule where consumers can see it is a great way for a retailer to demonstrate that they take their shoppers’ health and safety seriously. Applying social distancing stickers on the floor for shoppers lining up at the counter provides a similar benefit.
These principles apply behind the counter, too. Installing plexiglass dividers between shoppers and employees is a common protective measure. Requiring more frequent handwashing and ensuring back-of-house worker stations are kept at least six feet apart can also reduce the risk of transmission. And, for retailers looking to improve kitchen cleanliness without adding labor, finding ways to automate and streamline key tasks can make a world of difference.
Managing fryer oil, for example, has long been one of the most difficult, time-consuming tasks in many foodservice kitchens. Since grocerants are often located far from the back dock in a store, this can mean that hot waste oil has to be transported through aisles of the store—an inefficient and unpleasant process that can pose a hazard to employees and customers alike.
Total Oil Management from Restaurant Technologies, however, handles every step of the process: from ordering and delivering fresh cooking oil to storing, handling and recycling used oil—all at the push of a button. Automation keeps grocerant kitchens clean and efficient, as well as keeps food quality consistent.
Restaurant Technologies’ Grease Lock solution also simplifies kitchen cleaning and maintenance. Replacing traditional hood filters, Grease Lock’s metal frame and disposable filter pad captures up to 98% of airborne grease and particulates, which means hoods and flues stay cleaner longer and employees aren’t required to clean the filters as frequently.
Whether retailers are reopening foodservice areas or simply looking forward to increases in sales, solutions from Restaurant Technologies help grocers to spend less time managing fryer oil and grease, and more time navigating changes in the market to provide consumers with excellent service and delicious food.
To learn more about how Restaurant Technologies can help retailers improve kitchen cleanliness with limited labor or without adding to employee head count, visit rti-inc.com/industries/grocery-convenience
This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies