Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery was recently able to talk to Stacey Kinkaid, vice president of product development and innovation, US Foods, Rosemont, IL, about the COVID-19 pandemic, new sanitation protocols, and holiday offerings.
Liz Parker: How is your business changing during the pandemic, since foodservice has shifted so much this year?
Stacey Kinkaid: In honor of our continued commitment to helping independent operators “Make It,” we quickly shifted our focus in the beginning of the year to fast-tracking the development of specific resources, tools and consultative services directly aimed at helping operators adapt to changes in the industry. Many have said that our tagline, “We Help You Make It” was more than just a tagline, but a lifeline.
Since COVID restrictions have been put in place, we have been helping restaurant operators pivot their operations along the way, ensuring they can evolve as the COVID restrictions and diner preferences evolve. Our webinars and consultative services have focused on “how to” subjects such as how to ... stand up and optimizing takeout and delivery operations, safely pivot to outdoor dining solutions, safely reopen and even stand-up more innovative off-dining premise solutions such as a ghost kitchen concept.
And, as we shifted our focus to these resources, we got to see just how resilient and creative operators could be with off-premise dining. We watched operators stand-up curb-side pick-up, streamline take-out menus to optimize revenues, create take-out DIY meal kits, cocktails to-go, themed take-out meal packages. They even began to leverage tamper proof packaging to support diner confidence.
Now, as we approach the holidays, we expect more diners to forgo the traditional holiday celebrations for something smaller and easier to manage such as take-out. To help operators with this, we’ve recently launched a special edition of holiday products designed to help operators take advantage of this expected trend.
For example, in our special edition of Holiday Scoop, we featured one of my favorite products, our Devonshire Premium Belgian Chocolate Chip Waffle. This is a new version of our popular Belgian waffle but with chocolate chips. This new version is also made in Belgium and features crunchy sugar pearls and bits of Belgian chocolate chips. Our operators like the fact that it’s individually wrapped so they can use it as a simple grab-and-go offering or pop it into a simple family-style take-out package. It’s also very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways on an operator’s menu such as a dessert topped with caramel sauce, honey whipped cream, mini chocolate chips, candied bacon and sweet plantains or as a breakfast item topped with our Chef’s Line All Natural Pulled Bacon and maple syrup.
LP: What new sanitation, etc. protocols have you been implementing during the pandemic?
SK: Associate safety is very important to us. We have been vigilant in our efforts to minimize the risk to our associates from COVID-19, carefully following the evolving guidance from the relevant federal, state, and local public health agencies. Some of our protocols include daily associate wellness and temperature checks before entering a facility, enhanced hygiene practices and cleaning procedures such as hand sanitizer stations in the facility, specific safety protocols to limit close contact in the facility and during customer deliveries, and of course, mandatory masks for all facility personnel, including drivers.
Not only is safety a top priority for our facilities, but it’s also a key priority for the customers we serve as they think about diner and staff safety. We’ve also been very focused on helping our independent operators understand the various guidelines that have been put in place to help them safely reopen. As part of our US Foods Reopening Blueprint Kit, we provide recommendations for approaching regulatory requirements, principles for planning an effective reopening, best practices for approaching front-of-house and back-of-house operations, and specific solutions for other foodservice formats such as cafeterias, quick-service restaurants, fast-casual restaurants, food courts, and bars and lounges.
In our past two editions of Scoop, we’ve provided our independent operators with sanitization and safety products that can help them in their commitment to diner and employee safety during the pandemic and beyond. Holiday Scoop features the Monogram Clean Force Sink & Surface Cleaner Sanitizer, an EPA-registered, no rinse, 2-in-1 cleaner sanitizer that can be used against the virus that causes COVID-19 and helps prevent cross-contamination to keep staff and guests safe from foodborne illnesses. Fall Scoop features products such as the Monogram Individual Hand Sanitizer Gel, which comes in single-use, portion-controlled pouches for easy distribution to diners eating in or taking out, as well the Monogram Tamper Evident Bag and the Monogram Tamper Evident Container, which help assure diners that their food is untouched while in transit.
LP: Do you have any holiday/seasonal products coming out?
SK: Yes, as I mentioned before, our special edition holiday Scoop features a lot of new products. In addition to the new Belgian waffle I mentioned before, we’ve re-introduced our very popular Devonshire Bomboloni, which is like a fluffy doughnut and is produced in Italy. Operators can fill them with fruit or chocolate filling, and they can be used in a variety of applications such as savory, filled, baked or fried. Another savory baked item in the line-up is our Devonshire Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake. The cake features two layers of chocolate cake with a dense, crunchy peanut butter filling that’s so thick, peanut butter is the first ingredient. It is covered in chocolate ganache and topped with real REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups, and operators appreciate the labor savings benefits of the cake being pre-cut and separated with paper leaflets.