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Dissecting the Latest Healthcare Foodservice Trends

Dissecting the Latest Healthcare Foodservice Trends

From labor shortages to the impacts of Covid, it’s been a challenging few years for hospital foodservice directors. These hurdles were outlined in the latest version of the Foodservice Director’s healthcare foodservice survey, and there are some clear trends that emerged.


Much like other industries, staffing is a huge challenge for healthcare foodservice directors, particularly since staff sizes often consist of fewer than 10 employees. According to the 2021 survey, 39 percent of respondents report fewer than 10 workers with 75 percent reporting 25 or less. This can mean that staff is harder to replace, that staff’s headcount has potentially shrunk due to external circumstances, or both. Compare those data points with the beginning of the pandemic. Fifteen percent of respondents reported laying off or furloughing staff due to the pandemic.

The most important statistic, though, relates to the biggest challenges operators faced during the Covid pandemic, with 81 percent reporting staff shortages and illnesses as the biggest hurdle. Coming in second at 71 percent was difficulty in sourcing products.


As we just mentioned, 15 percent of healthcare foodservice directors reported the needed to lay off or furlough members of their teams. These were some of the unwanted circumstances from the early days of the pandemic, but what about now? The vaccine has created safer work environments, but what about those workers who opt out of vaccination? According to the Foodservice Director, 57 percent of healthcare foodservice operations did not require staff to be vaccinated, while 27 percent weren’t sure yet at the time of the survey, which was in March and April of last year.


One of the biggest challenges during Covid, especially in senior care communities, was to keep residents safe but also engaged. Mental health is such a critical component in senior care operations, so foodservice directors had to do whatever they could to help residents remain part of the community. The most popular method listed by survey respondents was mobile food carts, coming in at 76 percent. Other options included virtual events (59 percent) and virtual cooking classes (12 percent).

In terms of the community, 70 percent of healthcare foodservice directors said they worked with community partners during the pandemic. Individual volunteers from the community were the most widely reported at 57 percent, with local restaurants and local farmers coming in second and third at 52 percent and 28 percent respectively.


As we look back over the last two years, the survey data reveals a few other important trends. The first is that waste reduction and sustainability efforts were mostly paused during the course of the last few years, with 63 percent of respondents making that claim.

In terms of menu trends that are dictating future service, there are four important ones. Surprisingly, boosting immunity is the lowest at 23 percent with global cuisines and plant-based menu items emerging more popular at 32 percent and 34 percent. The most important menu trend for the future according to healthcare foodservice directors is portability, with 64 percent stating the importance of mobility in foodservice.


As we’ve seen, Covid and the subsequent fallouts have had major impacts in healthcare foodservice. From menu direction to patient engagement, one of the most important solutions is a successful mobile foodservice plan that keeps foods fresh and at ideal serving temperatures.

Lakeside and our team of brands can help you find solutions for successful mobile foodservice operations.

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Hot Debate: Which is Better, Heated or Non Heated Plate Dispensers?

Hot Debate: Which is Better, Heated or Non-Heated Plate Dispensers?

To heat or not to heat. That's often the question foodservice operators face when they're looking to build out banquet serving lines, upgrade corporate cafeterias, or even enhance school foodservice capabilities in K-12 settings or on college campuses. And the debate is whether to offer plates that are heated or dispense them from a non-heated plate dispenser at ambient temperatures.

So, when should you use a heated plate dispenser? There are a handful of reasons that make the most sense as it relates to using a heated plate dispenser versus a non-heated option, and we'll walk through those one-by-one now.

Are you serving hot food?

Think about your own, personal dining experiences when plate dispensing was involved. Unless you're going to the salad bar, grabbing a cold plate and filling it with hot meats and vegetables can decrease the perception of the service. Research shows that using a heated plate dispenser can help elevate that perception, while at the same time keeping warm foods at temperatures that are more desirable for diners. Simply put, if you're serving hot foods, you probably don't want to serve them on ice-cold plates.

Are you serving food in a cold environment? 

Sometimes the ambient room temperatures might be cold or potentially unstable, which can then impact the temperatures of food being served. Serving lines might also exist in outside areas or spaces exposed to the elements. By using a heated plate dispenser, the potential for external temperatures to impact the temperature of foodservice is diminished.

Are you looking to save costs?

As you might expect, heated plate dispensers costs more than those without heating elements and the ability to warm china. That being said, saving on plate dispensers could actually wind up costing more if food quality or safety leads to food waste. If there's any potential for serving warm foods or serving foods when external temperatures could impact service, it's almost always advisable to choose a plate dispenser with heating elements. If plates will be used only for cold food service such as salad bars, an operation could probably get away with using a non-heated plate dispenser.

Plate Dispensers: Other Considerations

Plate dispenser options can also include mobile or countertop units. Moveable food dispensers are more ideal for buffets because they can be transferred quickly to any space. Countertop dispensers are more ideal for cafeterias and restaurants as they tend to be more stationary.

Adjust-A-Fit dispensers allow for multiple plate sizes to be dispensed from the unit. Need one side for salad plates and one side for hot food dishes? No problem! Adjust-A-Fit heated double-wall cabinets allow you to adjust the height and the temperature for both dispenser tubes individually. The easy, non-stick glide design ensures smooth dispensing of your bowl or plate of choice.

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Dishing Out Advice: How to Select a Plate Dispenser

Blog image with blue background and stacks of white plates in foreground

Plate dispensers are a critical component in a wide range of foodservice types. From hospitals and healthcare to hospitality and banquets, providing access to plating and tabletop can keep operations running smoothly for staff members.

So what’s an easy and effective way to distribute plates? A plate dispenser. And what are the most important things to look for and consider when choosing a plate dispenser? Let’s go through those factors one by one.

1.) Where are the plates dispensed?

This is a matter of mobility. Will plates be dispensed from a single location or will there be the need to move the plate dispenser around? For buffet lines in a banquet hall, for example, a mobile unit might be best as the serving line will likely change depending on the service. For cafeteria settings, a countertop stationary unit will likely meet challenges. To move or not to move, that is the first question.

2.) Is there a need for heat?

Hot food shouldn't be offset by chilled plates. Some plate dispensers include a heating element that keeps plates warm before they’re used in service. This is ideal when hot food is served or when there will be issues with temperature maintenance.

3.) What size plates will the unit hold?

When operators want flexibility with plate dispensing capabilities, it might make sense to consider units that provide for adjustable sizes. For example, if service includes both a salad and an entrée course, a plate dispenser that adjusts for both 7-inch plates and 10-inch plates can help provide much-needed versatility. What if china isn’t purchased yet or there’s a chance it could change in the future? Adjustable sizing can help in these situations, too. Likewise, standard dispensers are ideal when exact diameters are known or when china will remain consistent throughout the life of the unit.

4.) Does size matter?

It certainly does. Check with china manufacturers to determine variance to ensure a proper fit inside the plate dispenser unit. To calculate capacity, stack plates and compare with the capacity of the dispenser.

Looking for more information on plate dispensers to meet your unique challenges? Talk with an expert at Lakeside.

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The Best Tray Delivery Cart for Every Size Medical Facility

Woman in hospital bed smiling at nurse and holding meal tray

The Best Tray Delivery Carts for Every Size Medical Facility

Foodservice in hospitals and healthcare facilities is one of the most important but often overlooked aspects of patient care. It’s important because it so closely ties to patient wellbeing and the financial wellbeing of the facility, and it’s overlooked because… well, we’re not quite sure.

The reality is delivering food and nourishment from the kitchen to the patients is a critical component to the overall success of a healthcare foodservice operation and selecting the right tray delivery cart can make a huge difference.

Here are five important areas to consider when purchasing a meal delivery cart for your hospital.


The people served in hospitals are there for a reason. There’s no need to give them an illness caused by foodborne pathogens. Yes, when it comes to delivering meals from the kitchen to the bedside, safety comes first. Food should be held at proper temperatures, and when it is, there’s a high probability those foods will also retain their desired, nourishing qualities that are so important for patient recovery. So, yes, safety comes first, but the byproduct can also be wellness.


Similar to safety, when food is held in the ideal storage conditions as it moves from point A to point B, there’s a better chance those foods will retain their desired qualities. Why is this important? Patient satisfaction. And patient satisfaction ratings play a key role in the reimbursement rates a hospital receives. What’s one of the biggest contributors to high or low patient satisfaction ratings? The quality of the food. Well-made tray delivery carts will help foods maintain temperature, contributing to safety, wellness, and quality.


The key word in “tray delivery cart” is delivery. Moving a collection of meals from the kitchen to patient floors is the goal, and that requires maneuverability and mobility. How far away do meals travel? How narrow are the hallways or turns? Over what type of surfaces will carts roll? These are all important questions, and with a food delivery cart designed for handling and equipped with high-end casters, maneuverability will be made easier.


The flip side of the maneuverability coin is durability. Even for the best-handling food tray carts, there are still likely to be times when carts bang against walls, crash into closing doors, or roll across hard surfaces that will shake and rattle the cart’s construction down to the core. This is when design and craftsmanship become important in order to extend the life of the equipment.


Lastly, healthcare foodservice operators must consider volume. The right cart will most certainly vary from hospital to hospital based on the number of patients served, how long the runs from the kitchen to the bedside, and in some cases, even what is being served. Quantities are key, as having a tray delivery cart capacity that’s much lower than the volume served will result in additional trips and overstretched labor.

Find the tray delivery cart that’s right for your hospital foodservice program.

The team at Lakeside specialize in food delivery systems for hospitals and other types of healthcare facilities. Schedule a free healthcare foodservice equipment assessment with one of our experts today, and find the right tray delivery cart that meets your unique set of challenges.

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6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Foodservice Cart

6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Foodservice Cart

The right foodservice cart can be a huge asset for any type of foodservice establishment. While different types of operations will certainly have different sets of challenges and solutions, as a general best practice, it’s important to ask a series of questions before determining which cart is right.

Let’s go through them one by one.

What are you serving?

The first question to ask is what’s on the menu? This will have a huge impact on the type and capabilities of the foodservice cart needed to execute successful service. Things to consider are the need for refrigerated merchandising, warming, or even a potential menu board. Will grab-n-go food and beverages be available? What you’re serving will impact how it’s served. Volume is also important. This will potentially impact the size of the serving station and features like shelving and storage. Lakeside has a wide variety of utility carts with different weight capacities that can be used in various operations offering the perfect solution.

Where are you serving it?

A foodservice cart can be stationary, or it can be mobile. If you’re looking for versatility through mobility, a traditional serving line or a permanent kiosk won’t work. Decide whether or not you want to move the point of service around the property or the establishment, and then select serving carts that support those goals. Consider the space and terrain, as well. If the cart will be used in a hilly area with inclines, it might be appropriate to consider a motorized cart with brakes.

Who are you serving it to?

This is where the type of operation enters the equation. Are you serving coffee to staff and guests in a local hospital? Students on a college campus? Sandwiches outside a hotel conference room? No matter how you look at it, the customer will always dictate how food and beverages are distributed, which will impact the selection of a foodservice cart.

What should the cart look like?

Appearance and aesthetics tie into the type of operation and the end customers, too. If a serving solution is located in a fancy ballroom, the expectation is that it should have a certain elevated appeal that matches the décor of space. If it’s a coffee cart in a local high school, it should have a more spirited, durable appearance. Yes, we first eat and drink with our eyes, but in most cases, before we get to look at the food, our first impression is of where the food is being served. With Lakeside's wide selection of utility carts, you'll be sure to find the perfect cart for your operations.

While different types of operations will certainly have different sets of challenges and solutions, as a general best practice, it’s important to ask a series of questions before determining which cart is right.

Who is staffing it?

We’re in the midst of a national labor shortage in just about every type of industry. Foodservice has been one of the hardest hit. Now more than ever, when selecting a food and beverage serving cart, it’s also important to consider staff. Questions to ask are: How easy is it to clean a unit? Is maintenance difficult? Is it easy to transport the station across the property? Essentially, usability is a key component when selecting a foodservice cart.

How durable does your foodservice cart need to be?

Every cart should be well-made and durable, but on a deeper level, how rigorous will its usage be? For example, does the type of material matter? Would steel be better than rubber? Should the cart have bumpers because it’s being maneuvered in high-trafficked areas with lots of obstacles. Select a foodservice cart for durability if it will be subjected to severe usage.

Now that you have your answers, what do they mean?

The first step is to consider and compile answers from the questions above, as they will dictate the type of foodservice cart you need. The harder part can be interpreting those answers. That’s where the team at Lakeside and our family of brands can help. Schedule some time with us to go over these six considerations, and we can help you locate the foodservice cart that makes the most sense for your desired goals.

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Casters 101: Everything You Need to Go

Casters 101: Everything You Need to Go And equipment that doesn’t have solid, durable casters might not be capable of reaching those far-off locations to achieve mobile service.

If we all agree that mobility and versatility are desired benefits in a foodservice operation, we can also agree that it’s casters that can help make everything go as it relates to mobile foodservice.

In most cases, whether it’s a mobile serving cart or a tray rack, the casters are the only things that are grounded, so it’s important to make sure the journey is as easy as possible.

Before we get into the details on casters, we need to consider the challenges presented when using mobile foodservice equipment.

Depending on the type of operation, units might need to be moved all the way across a property or even a college campus. There could be a combination of gravel paths, bumpy sidewalks, and even grass to navigate. And equipment that doesn’t have solid, durable casters might not be capable of reaching those far-off locations to achieve mobile service.

Let’s take a look at the different things to consider when looking for mobile foodservice equipment that gains its ability to go from casters.


Casters can be made of different materials, and each has its own unique set of benefits. Some are better for rolling on carpeted surfaces, while others are better for outdoor applications. If the goal is to move serving carts outside on sidewalks or driveways, fully pneumatic casters with treads are the best option. Semi-pneumatic casters are great for carpeted surfaces, while hard rubber casters are great for staying within a kitchen. For the best versatility, polyurethane casters are typically the best option.


The next question is size. How big should casters be? The most common size of foodservice caster is five inches, but as a rule of thumb, the heavier the equipment being moved, the larger the caster. When casters are larger, it makes moving them easier, especially for heavy loads.


While some smaller foodservice equipment and supplies such as mop buckets might have plastic bearings, heavy-duty equipment like serving stations and tray racks should have heavy-duty, metal ball bearings for adding durability.


For equipment that is being steered across a room or even across the property, it’s highly recommended that at least two of the casters have swivel capabilities to make movement easier. Steering a unit with four fixed wheels is nearly impossible, so using swivel casters makes tight turns a lot easier.


Brakes or stops are a great way to prevent accidents and keep units locked down in a single location. Especially when units are large and heavy, having the ability to slow them down when descending a hill, or being able to lock them in place once service begins, can be a great benefit. Brakes help.

Learn more about casters from an expert at Lakeside.

Book time with one of our representatives today and discover why we use heavy-duty casters on all of our equipment to ensure longevity and durability.

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It’s a Setup: Layouts Where Linenless Equipment Steals the Show

It’s a Setup: Layouts Where Linenless Equipment Steals the Show

We’ve already detailed how linens can create extra costs for foodservice operations. Whether it’s in a hotel banquet room, a restaurant, or even on a college campus, the use of linens – while elevated – can actually bring down an operation’s bottom line.

Once an operator or foodservice division runs the calculations and determines the lifetime costs of linens just aren’t worth it, the next step is to decide how to move away from them. And then once an operator selects the right type of linenless serving solutions to make the lineless transition easier, the final step is to determine where to set up the points of service.

Ideation for Linenless Foodservice


Take foodservice outside. This has been the theme for the last 18 months or so, but outside dining opportunities were very popular well before Covid. The problem has always been setting up the points of service, and getting those points of service to the right location. When an operator has a foodservice kiosk with the ability and durability to move it poolside or across campus without the need for linens, it makes outdoor food and beverage options not only attainable but desirable.


Hotel lobbies are one of the main differentiating advantages over personal home rental services like Airbnb and VRBO, and for hotel foodservice operators looking to increase sales, they can be transformed into points of sale with the right equipment. From a wine cart next to the fire on a warm night to a grab-n-go service for busy business travelers, there are always great ways to transform lobbies into much more than just a hello or goodbye.


Whether it’s a long corridor in a convention hall or outside classrooms on a college campus, hallways are a great place to consider service without the need for linens. The one great advantage they have is foot traffic, so why not take advantage of it by providing thoughtful foods and beverages?


Speaking of foot traffic, consider the amount of foot traffic seen on a stadium concourse, quad on campus, or any surrounding area to a large event like sports or concerts. With an endless amount of mobile retail opportunities for concessions, merchandise, and souvenirs, or a combination of all three, dirty linens would only hamper point of sale success. All the more reason that operators are big fans of linenless equipment.

Do any of these locations sound like future points of service?

Lakeside and our collection of brands comprise a range of linenless serving solutions that can fit just about every occasion. The trick is finding the right type of unit for current and future needs, and we can help by going through a catalog of considerations. Start your search for linenless foodservice solutions today by talking with one of our experts.

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Bottom Line Booster: Linenless Serving

Bottom Line Booster: Linenless Serving

Americans are quitting their jobs in droves.

In fact, many are calling the current labor shortages The Great Resignation as more and more people are looking to earn their green in greener pastures.

But the reality is labor has been a challenge for much longer than the last few months for hospitality foodservice, restaurants, caterers, and other types of operations.

Even before the pandemic began, staffing was one of the top challenges foodservice operators faced. Now, as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s the top one.

Even in the current climate of rising costs and supply chain issues, three out of four operators say recruitment and retention is their toughest challenge according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Mid-Year Update. 

This has many hotel and hospitality foodservice operations looking for answers and solutions. One option is to consider a linen service, which can be even more expensive. The other option is to just pull the tablecloth off the table altogether.

Reduce Staffing Needs and Boost Your Bottom Line

Linens. The bottom line is they’re expensive, and they can impact your bottom line. From staff hours required to prepare and store them to the expensive utility costs that come with cleaning, linens can be a drain on profitability, and when you add up the lifetime cost of linens.

Many operators are looking at linenless alternatives that won’t impact the elevated aesthetics that linens provide, and our team at Lakeside has come up with some great solutions.

Lakeside’s Traveler Series Serving Tables

Create the ideal serving table to match the aesthetic of just about any operation with the Traveler Series. With 12 different laminate finishes and the ability to easily move tables throughout the property, operators can drop the linens while also adding mobility to the point of service.

The Key to Linenless Service…

… is to make sure the units you use will elevate service in the same way a white tablecloth can, without all the overhead that linens require. With solutions from Lakeside, we can help.

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Worth the Wash? The Lifetime Cost of Linens

Worth the Wash? The Lifetime Cost of Linens

As the years add up, so does the cost of using linens in hospitality and conference center foodservice operations. Depending on the size of the facility and the volume of events, it can literally cost thousands of dollars annually to purchase and maintain linens, and that doesn’t even include the additional labor costs. When you add those years up, the numbers can be staggering.

So, what are the alternatives to using linens? Why are they used in the first place? And what are the important considerations when going linenless in a hotel catering or banquet service? Let’s take a look at the three most important details.


It’s important to begin with the reasons linens are used in the first place. Simply put, linens add an element of refinement to a service. They look nice and are aesthetically pleasing, so operators use them to elevate an event.


Linens are also popular because they can convert tables or serving stations in any location into a point of service and do it in aesthetically pleasing ways as mentioned above. The point is buffets and serving lines aren’t always in the same places, so linens are mobile, so to speak.


Lastly, linens are easy to store and don’t require a lot of space when they’re not in use.

The Benefits of Linen vs. the Alternative

The reasons linens are desirable are obvious. We all love refined service when we’re at a wedding or an important catered business function. But this is from the guest perspective. What about the operator?

As we mentioned, linens are costly and require a significant amount of labor to keep them clean. Cleaning requires either the ability to wash them in-house or use an expensive service. When linens are cleaned in-house, water and electricity usage climbs. It can literally translate to thousands of dollars in cost.

There are alternatives, though, that still meet the benefits listed above, and one of those solutions is the Traveler Series Serving Tables from Lakeside. These durable units do not require the use of linens and can be easily moved throughout the property. Let’s look at the Traveler Series through the lens of the benefits.


Lakeside’s Traveler Series Serving Tables come with beautiful laminate finishes. With 12 optional laminate top finishes and even more solid surface finishes available, operators will find an aesthetic that matches the existing space. From Victorian Cherry to Sand Stone, the looks are as varied as the guests who will use them.


All units come with durable casters that allow for transport across the property. This means just about any area of a hotel or conference center can be turned into a serving station in a matter of minutes simply by rolling a table into place. Units come in various sizes, too, from 30-inches all the way up to 60.


The Traveler Series Serving Tables can be purchased as nesting tables with the option for two or three different heights. This makes storage easy while also providing an added level of versatility.

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The Environmental and Financial Impact of Foodservice Linens

The Environmental and Financial Impact of Foodservice Linens

When we think about linens, we often envision the white tablecloth in a fine dining restaurant or the hundreds of cloth napkins at a business banquet, or even the coverings on a serving line. While they can help create an aura of elegance and refinement, the reality is linens can have a negative impact on the environment, which in turn can have a negative impact on a foodservice operation’s bottom line.

Buying linens isn’t just the only expense. It also costs money to use them and keep them clean, and those costs can be quite expensive. Just consider an Atlanta area restaurateur who spends roughly $2,000 per month on linen costs spread across six different locations.

What are the reasons linens are so costly? The same reasons they can also have a negative impact on the environment — utilities.

As energy prices rise and water becomes scarcer, it’s going to cost foodservice operators more and more to operate a business using linens. Energy uses more of our natural resources, and just one look in the newspapers in the American Southwest is all that’s needed to see just how important water is today.

Of course, operators also need staff to help set up, break down, and clean linens. In today’s environment, staff is harder to find than ever, particularly in the foodservice industry. This creates an additional burden for operators who are looking to add fine white to a food serving line.

Whether it’s in-house staffing that can be hard to find or expensive linen services, foodservice operators are now looking at other alternatives to traditional linens that can consume resources and finances.

What are the alternatives to linen?

More than just about anything, linens are used for aesthetics to create an air of refinement. Whether it’s tables or buffet serving lines, when operators use serving stations that meet visual standards and can complement the overall décor of the room, it goes a long way toward the elimination of linens. Look for serving stations that have a variety of aesthetic options, or even better, that provide the level of customization needed to create the desired look.

Lakeside has solutions specifically to help erase the need for linen by providing functionality, durability, and a level of aesthetics that will enhance any serving line situation.