3 Major Market Forces Behind the ‘Climate Shift’

Unlike history’s actual global event, foodservice’s version of the Ice Age, specifically with regard to food holding, isn’t moving at a glacier’s pace.

Instead, in just a matter of a few years, operators have found themselves in need of new solutions for keeping chilled foods at optimum temperatures.

Here are 3 major culprits.

1. Consumers Want Fresher Foods

While this colossal movement has been pervasive throughout the entire food industry for several years, it continues to impose ripple-effect changes that are somewhat new.

For instance, the depth of the demand has kitchens not only changing menu items, but also switching out afterthought staple ingredients for those that now introduce food-holding requirements.

A shelf-stable artificial strawberry syrup, for example, is being replaced with a natural strawberry juice that requires refrigeration.

In some cases, it might not present a major challenge. But, in others, particularly where conventional refrigeration is out of the question—like self-serve—it can create difficulties.

And why is self-serve or, more broadly, consumer point-of-use so important?

2. Consumers Want More Food-Customization Options

If one half of the broader consumer demand for “dining experiences” is continuously evolving menu innovation, the other half is hands-on customization.

Technomic saw this coming on quickly in 2016 when its report, Trends Shaping Foodservice Through 2020, cited that “72% of consumers expect DIY options at restaurants.”

Whether it involves patrons building their own pizzas, salads and sandwiches, or simply adding house-made and other unique condiments and dressings to their plates, satisfying this DIY flavor diversity can’t happen without a mix of chilled options.

Neither, of course, can it happen (not efficiently, at least) without self-serve concepts that, for chilled-food holding, create unique challenges—which, incidentally, are about to get tougher . . .

3. Health Departments Are Going Cold on Conventional Ice Baths

Even if a chain or operator is all in on serving the customization craze, it’s often a bite-the-bullet decision, because it calls for holding chilled foods on open ice—a notorious maintenance nightmare scenario, even for reliable staff.

But here’s why it’s becoming an even bigger issue.

These same trends that are moving the industry toward fresher foods are also sharpening the health inspector’s eye on food-borne illness prevention. And that means they’re getting even stricter about holding consistently precise food temperatures.

If ice baths were already a major maintenance pain, the pressure is intensifying. And effective alternatives that are a practical fit in a self-serve space are difficult to come by.

Operators who understand these market forces can see the related challenges as opportunities and leverage them to strengthen their own brands in a hyper-competitive foodservice industry.