Sanitary Food Service – Future of the Buffet

Sanitary Foodservice

In 2020, the foodservice industry has been hit hard and forever changed. As restaurants, hospitality and venues reopen their doors to a new post-quarantine world, business does not simply go back to normal. Many are wondering what the “new normal” will look like, and how they can adapt to address the concerns of a forever impacted consumer mindset. One thing is for certain – guests will expect and look for utmost sanitary conditions for their dining experiences, and regulatory groups will demand it. The Buffet setup as we knew it prior will need to evolve with a higher degree of hygiene consideration and physical distancing. Pico is here to help make this transition achievable with smarter, sustainable and more sanitary solutions for foodservice operators to adopt.

Out with the Old Buffet, In with the New Food Stations

The days of large, crowded open buffets with lineups have likely passed. The post pandemic diner is apprehensive about germs being spread and having common touchpoints with numerous other people outside of their inner circle. However, the self-serve buffet concept itself doesn’t necessarily become obsolete. In fact, there will always be a need for buffet style servings. What requires modification is the density and centrality of the food stations, allowing for adequate physical distancing, plus the manner in which food warming and cooling are executed with minimized touchpoints. Foodservice needs to be made more nimble, scalable and repeatable in a new format of smaller separate food stations. Pico offers the ideal food temperature control tools to make this transition seamless.

Gotta Keep ‘em Separated

Large chafers with toxic gel fuels… are quickly becoming a way of the past. The new-look buffet will be comprised of numerous small-scale food stations where crowds will be avoided, thus enabling physical distancing. This separation minimizes the risk of cross-contamination and supports peace-of-mind for guests. For instance, a banquet hall for a wedding party can arrange a mini serving station at every other table, rather than having 200 guests lineup at one long table while touching the same utensils and surfaces. Foodservice operations can implement scalable new technologies, designed by Pico, to maintain the right food temperature at separate mini serving stations. These solutions include: cordless lithium ion battery-powered H1X Hot Cells, freezer rechargeable C1 Cold Cells, and water-activated HeatBlaster Instant Hot Catering kits.

Portability & Flexibility Are Key

The portable and flexible design of Pico’s versatile VidaCasa line of flameless food warming and ice-free cooling solutions make any setup possible. The only limitation is your imagination! Whether catering to large or small groups, foodservice operators can leverage the freedom that these small, lightweight, cordless, and flameless systems provide – repeating them as much as needed based on the application and putting them literally anywhere.

For instance, numerous Hot Cells can be supported simultaneously via the accessory 6 port or 18 port Battery Charging Dock. Backup batteries can be fully charged and ready to swap out as necessary, while the used batteries return to recharge. Since the battery life of Hot Cell exceeds 2 hours (at minimum with the High heat setting), it typically covers an entire serving comfortably and poses no safety risk. Hot Cells can be transported and used wherever needed – in a dining room, VIP lounge poolside, or in the middle of a football field!

Cold Cell has the identical footprint as Hot Cell and equal versatility, making these two polar opposites interchangeable. Simply slide in a Cold Cell to keep salads, seafood dishes and desserts chilled for up to 8 hours with no worries about pools of melted ice. Cold Cell is powered by charging in a standard freezer for 24 hours, without the need for electrical connection. This revolutionary freeze pack retains an ultra cool temperature for an extended duration with an evenly distributed cooling surface that far outperforms wet ice, blue gel and ice packs.

Safe & Sanitary Catering

Pico’s versatile VidaCasa line of flameless food warming and ice-free cooling solutions present foodservice operators with safer, more sanitary methods of maintaining the new world buffet. As the heating and cooling elements operate underneath the food trays, they are not accessible and have reduced touchpoints. There are no open flames that present hazards, and no melting ice pools to be attended to. The set-and-forget operation of HeatBlaster, Hot Cell and Cold Cell provide a “hands-free” low maintenance food station.

For short duration servings, HeatBlaster offers a highly hygienic and easy to use foodwarming alternative. Just add water to the HeatBlaster pack, and steam heat is diffused in under one minute, lasting 30+ minutes. See it in action on our Videos page! No preparation is required, and there is no need for any fuel, flame, or even electricity. The patented VidaCasa HeatBlaster packet is an innovation of science that contains no harmful biproducts and does not produce toxic fumes. It emits water vapor, hydrogen and oxygen. Used packets are disposable in everyday trash. Furthermore, the Instant Hot Catering Kits include budget-friendly disposable buffetware, so a fresh clean set can be used at every serving. Typical applications for HeatBlaster are environments with open flame restrictions, that only need short duration heating. Such settings often include: drop-off catering, corporate lunches, and festive events.

Flameless foodwarming solutions such as HeatBlaster and Hot Cell eliminate the inherent risks of fire, dangerous fuel spills, and toxic hazards. Unlike induction heating methods, Hot Cell and HeatBlaster do not need any electrical outlets for operation, thus avoiding potential tripping over cabling and draining limited power resources. Additionally, the C1 Cold Cell freeze pack is a hygienic alternative to wet ice. Wet ice naturally melts to create unsanitary pools of water, which are hazardous for slip-and-falls.

The Need for Speed

If it sounds like a lot more work, managing multiple food stations under a tight schedule, rest assured that VidaCasa makes it fast and easy! Hot Cell, Cold Cell and HeatBlaster are agile solutions that can be setup in under a minute without the expertise of a foodservice professional, as follows:

  • HeatBlaster simply needs a little water to start steaming in under 1 minute;
  • Hot Cell literally operates at the push of a button, and only needs 8 minutes for the glass surface to heat up;
  • Cold Cell is good-to-go right from the freezer!

With such simplicity, it only takes minutes to replicate these food warming and cooling across several food stations.

VidaCasa offers extensive compatible Buffetware options to complement and optimize the performance of its food temperature control systems. The Universal and Classic lines are available in Full and Half sizes for scalability and versatility.

  • The elegant Classic Buffetware is intended for use with its custom designed selection of porcelain and melamine plates;
  • Universal Buffetware can be used with market standard GN 1/2 and GN 1/1 pans.

Select the stylish Buffetware option that’s right for you, and you’re off to the races!

Between events and servings, VidaCasa systems are stackable for ease of storage, and simple to transport with thermal carrying cases. Furthermore, converting to Hot Cell frees up a lot of storage space, as a single H1X battery replaces 518 lbs of gel fuel! A single Cold Cell replaces countless buckets of ice, plus the labor involved in lugging all that ice around.

Go Digital

Adopting modern ordering technologies can also assist in providing heightened sanitary foodservice and making patrons feel more at ease. Be sure to get rid of those card menus on your tables, and put up attractive digital menu boards. Contactless payment should be readily available as an alternative to cash or terminals that require “chip and pin”. Finally, Mobile and online ordering systems are excellent tools that can boost efficiencies while limiting person-to-person interaction.

Pico is here to help your foodservice operation adapt and excel in the “new normal”. To discuss your sanitary strategy in more detail, contact us today!