Maybe it’s because my summer garden is in its early stages that my thoughts turn to all things salad. As I watch my little spinach, kale, and snow pea sprouts grow, I know that my mini self-serve garden salad bar will soon produce a nice bounty. But for those without their own garden, will their choice of salad and salad toppings be relegated to prepackaged varieties or limited to those visits to a restaurant? Or will they have to buy all the fixings separately and construct their own? In other words, what will become of the salad bar?
For over a year now, self-serve foods, including salad bars, were discontinued to safeguard consumers during the pandemic as part of operators being ultravigilant about safety and sanitation. As most states allow foodservice establishments to reopen at full capacity and retailers to lift pandemic-related restrictions, will the salad bar and other self-serve food options return? And will consumers, now presumably more informed about safety and sanitation, be willing to embrace the return to self-service food options?
Some establishments have pivoted to a served salad bar, where foodservice employees handle the assembly of a customer’s salad, reducing the risks associated with multiple customers handling utensils and potentially cross-contaminating food products. Operating this way is much slower because customers can be indecisive and requires more labor. Other operations are exploring the use of salad robots, which can deliver customizable options and eliminate the added labor component. Will we see some sort of hybrid collection of all these options in the near future?
For tried-and-true gardeners such as myself, we can forgo the salad robots, instead relying on the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor to provide a return to the self-serve salad.
Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D., Editorial Director