A well- designed display cooking stationcan give noncommercial operatorsa unique opportunity to capitalize on those "Sizzling Salads" concepts have become best sellers in many commercial restaurant venues, says Mary Keysor, director of food and nutrition services at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
"Our cold salad bar has always been one of our most popular stations, and during the Atkins diet craze period last year we had added many protein choices to it," she explains.
"One option was to have hot protein components added to create 'sizzling salads' at the stir-fry display cooking station that adjoins the salad bar at the entrance to the MMC servery," she adds. "The no carb demand has moderated, but we still do a booming business selling the warm salads."
MMC sells about 150 of the custom-prepared salads a day in addition to another 450-500 from the extended salad bar. Customers can either order the warm salads from the menu or design their own if they want since each warm salad is made as needed.
The best seller is a warm taco salad; other favorites include a poppyseed chicken salad, buffalo chicken salad, turkey with roasted apple salad, and a chicken Thai salad.
Each capitalizes on the varying spaces in the servery. "The stir-fry station is the first thing you see when you walk in," says Keysor. "Now, with more protein options we are able to serve entrèe style salads from all over the food court. We've had excellent feedback."
Keysor's department also uses the high visibility position of the station in various "guest chef" promotions, with some guests chosen from MMC administration, as a way of building organizational community.
According to Paul Hysen, the foodservice consultant who worked on the original MMC servery design, "we are seeing much more interest in integrating point of service preparation into operations to permit this kind of option. Combining a char broiler with a salad station is an increasingly popular option. For example, that lets you do a London broil to create a beef Caesar salad, or alternately do a hot shrimp salad or a grilled Oriental chicken breast salad."