What can you learn about salad bars from a culinary professional whose university has 30 eating locations and does 47,000 transactions a day? Quite a lot, it turns out. On Your Plate recently chatted with Lesa Holford, Corporate Executive Chef at The Ohio State University to find out more about her operation.
With a campus of more than 66,000 students and six salad bars on campus, Holford knows a thing or two about ways to keep a noncommercial population coming back for more, every day. She shared these three top tips for ways to build sales and ensure satisfaction.
1. Some like it hot
“We just added a hot bar as part of the existing salad bar in our Union Market this semester, and it’s increased sales dramatically,” Holford says. “We made one bar into two lines and put a hot bar in the middle.” She says that students love the Whole Foods-like model, and seem to enjoy having hot and cold foods on their plate. “They might put a piece of fried chicken on top of a fresh green salad, or add a tiny dab of mac and cheese on the edge of their plate,” she explains.
2. Compose the bar
Salad bars don’t have to just be a bunch of segmented ingredients. OSU’s operation has also experienced success with including composed salads on the salad bar. “We do a curried cauliflower salad with cashews and peas; roasted winter squash with kale and pepitas and a marinated beet salad, made with cooked beets,” Holford says.
3. Roam the world
The hot bar has allowed her operation to include even more globally inspired offerings, including Indian food and a weekly Asian cuisine themed day. Fusion is still a major trend. “People want to see different cultural influences in their food, which allows us as chefs to be more creative in our mash-ups. We do a vegan General Tso’s chicken, made with seitan, and it’s been really popular,” she says. “People who might not order an entire vegan entrée have been trying it, and they love it.”
T. Marzetti tip
Marzetti® Simply Dressed® clean label dressings are made without high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors or gluten and are available in gallons, 32 oz. bottles and single-serve packets and cups.