Sweet catering


An early memory I hold close is when I first realized the art and impact of the personal touch at meal service. It happened in London England when I was 8 years old. We were visiting from Canada to attend my Great Grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration. On our way to Nottingham we stayed in London for a couple of days and one night enjoyed a wonderful meal at a swanky hotel. At the close of the meal, a smartly dressed waiter approached with a trolley full of wondrous treats. I saw cakes, pastries, cheeses, and a bowl of fresh raspberries. It was then I became a member of the ‘Fresh Raspberries and Cream (with a sprinkle of sugar) Club’. I can still see the raspberries fall from the spoon into the clean white bowl, and the cream fold over the red fruit as it poured slowly from the silver jug. I can still hear the sugar sprinkle over top to finish the preparation. That taste, that moment, seemed so foreign to me at that time in my life, yet so very comforting. It made me feel very special – like a prince. It was the final part of that meal and the positive sensations have stayed with me for over 40 years.

I went to University in my 20’s and learned about the primacy and recency effect. The primacy effect means that people tend to remember the first information presented about something better than information presented later. However, there is something that trumps the primacy effect: the recency effect means that people tend to remember the most recent information presented about a product above all else. So we can safely bring all of this to familiar terms – first and last impressions with the last impressions being the most powerful of the two and truly everlasting, just like my bowl of raspberries and cream.

I learned more about food when I began my career as an hotelier and restaurateur. I worked at a hotel that had a very expensive restaurant with an amazing menu. They specialized in French Service where foods would be ‘finished’ at the table. This is where I saw the dessert trolley again only this time they called it a gueridon. On this most elegant trolley appeared a selection of desserts including pastries and cakes made by the in-house pastry chef as well as a fresh fruit salad featuring seasonal fruit. The dessert trolley included the same items every night. It was easy for the servers to set it up and keep it clean and tidy. Production was simplified as all the pastry chef had to do was to make sure he had the kitchen properly stocked in advance of service. He made the same things each day and consistency was always guaranteed. So you combine consistently excellent fresh desserts alongside personal table service and you get a powerful everlasting impression that equaled high customer satisfaction and perceived value. The perfect combination – as good as raspberries and cream could ever be.

And so, now I am in my later part of my career and I provide equipment solutions to healthcare food service clients. Over 40% of my clients offer some form of table or dining room service while the balance provide bedside tray service. I visit these locations often. I have to say that the people that work in the food service industry are amazing and very hard working. They are open every day of every year and serve three square meals each day and often the meals are customized to meet a variety of diets that would boggle the mind. It is truly amazing. So don’t take what I am about to say as criticism – rather see it as an observation of an opportunity….Where is the raspberries and cream?

I mean, why do we always see a menu at a Long Term Care Home that shows a 28 day cycle and today’s lunch has Fruit Cup at dessert while dinner there is Apple Pie. And thanks to the 28 day menu cycle, the fruit cup does not appear again on the menu until 10 days later and the Apple Pie is not offered until 22 days later. Why not offer the fruit cup and the Apple Pie every day? Why not offer a selection of desserts on a trolley every day? This trolley can be wheeled through the dining room and clients can look and chose right there at their table. They may even decide they want a bit more orange segments in their fruit salad tonight. Mr. Jones can have Apple Pie three nights in a row if he wants to. It begs the question doesn’t it– ‘do we have a cyclical dessert menu at home, or do we just grab what we want when we want it?’ Giving the residents back a sense of control will be a huge accomplishment and only goes to help improve pride, increased sense of self-worth, and positive emotion. These feelings carry over in-between meals to aid in environmental improvements as morale in the home will improve. The power of a happy resident also translates into happier and self-actualized staff as well as a proud community. The efficiency of preparing the same dessert items every meal should reduce waste and allow for greater economies and menu flexibility. It all sounds like a win win. An everlasting positive impression awaits. All we need now is for someone to stand up and give it a try! Why not start with some fresh raspberries, a dribble of cream and a sprinkle of sugar.