Raising the (Salad) Bar

September 6, 2023


Fresh Ideas has partnered with Swedish company, Picadeli, to install a tech-enhanced salad bar at its Maryville University dining hall. How does the product work and what benefits does it offer?

A great salad bar is an asset to any dining experience; providing a wide range of prepared salads and salad ingredients for those seeking fresh and healthy meals, great taste, convenience, and flexibility.

That being said, salad bar installations pose several challenges to food service operators,

To maintain food safety and quality, prepare ingredients, and monitor inventory, a fair amount of labor is required. In addition, since it is difficult to anticipate demand and keep perishable foods fresh for longer periods of time, there is often a lot of waste.

At Fresh Ideas, we have always worked hard to overcome these hurdles. But our latest investment – the Picadeli salad bar – promises to be transformative.

The Picadeli Salad Bar

Picadeli was founded in 2009 by a Swedish salesperson who craved healthy fast-food options when he was on the road.

What soon evolved was a sleek, convenient, and easy-to-use salad bar. Picadeli is well designed, affordably priced, optimized for food safety, committed to using locally sourced ingredients, and focused on waste reduction; it checks all the boxes.

The company designs, owns, and brands all of the equipment for its turnkey salad bar solution, and rents it out to customers around the world.

Today, it is deployed all over Europe, and is increasingly found in grocery stores across the United States. Maryville University, however, is the nation’s first university to install the bar.

Director of Dining Services, Linda Thacker, first spotted the innovative salad bar in her local supermarket and immediately recognized its potential to improve the dining experience for students at Maryville University.

Before long, a partnership with Picadeli was formed. The salad bar launched at Maryville, and the school’s dining team is excited to see its impact.


Fresh Ideas and Picadeli Go Together Like Salad and Dressing

All of the benefits associated with the Picadeli salad bar align with Fresh Ideas’ core values. Here’s how:

1. Food Safety

Health and safety are top priorities at Fresh Ideas.

We go to great lengths to ensure that food is stored and served at optimum temperatures, dining halls are kept clean, and kitchen equipment and facilities are used properly.

The Picadeli salad bar adheres to these high standards. For example, it is equipped with ultraviolet lights, which are used to disinfect the product’s surfaces while sensors track and regulate the temperature of ingredients. These sensors can also monitor how long a product has been stored and when it is no longer fresh – reducing the likelihood of human error.

In addition, salad serving tongs are suspended above the food containers – rather than amongst the ingredients – to reduce cross-contamination.

2. Customer Service

At Fresh Ideas, we care deeply about the people we serve. On university campuses, our team members take the time to properly get to know students, so they can cater to their preferences and offer them a personalized experience. We celebrate birthdays, we remember guests’ favorite meals, and we know what time the college soccer team arrives for dinner following late-night practice.

The Picadeli salad bar is a low-maintenance product, which means the Fresh Ideas team has additional time to spend on these meaningful activities. Every evening, it preserves food until the following day. Further, all the ingredients come prepared and pre-cut, so it’s quick and easy for our team members to refill.

3. Waste 

Fresh Ideas is wholly committed to sustainable business practices. We source locally-grown produce whenever possible, serve a wide range of plant-based meals, and reduce food waste wherever possible.

A useful feature of the Picadeli salad bar is its ability to automate inventory management to help reduce waste. For example, it monitors usage and inventory levels to automatically create orders as new ingredients are needed.

  1. Space Optimization

Our kitchens are always bustling, so it’s important we find ways to optimize the space to streamline processes and drive efficiencies.

For example, we recently installed a pizza robot, the xPizza Cube, which stores and dispenses all the necessary ingredients to make pizzas from a cabinet that sits atop the machine.

The Picadeli salad bar operates in a similar manner, featuring a built-in refrigerated storage area for incoming deliveries.

5. Flexibility

The students we serve in our dining halls are always on the move; juggling classes, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and social occasions.

We look for ways to accommodate this fast-paced lifestyle. For example, the FreshX app, which we launched in 2015, offers flexibility and efficiency by enabling students to plan their meals and order ahead of time.

Since the Picadeli salad bar is automated, it can stay open for long hours.

At Maryville, it will be available all day, which means students can pick up a healthy meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are currently around three dozen menu choices, which will change throughout the year. Plus, we’ll work to tailor the salad bar’s offerings to meet the preferences of our students.

6. Innovation

There’s no doubt that automation is on the rise within the food service industry.

However, at Fresh Ideas, we are cautious not to implement new tools and technologies without careful consideration. Rather, we carefully consider them with our customers and teams in mind.

In this instance, there was little to deliberate. We know that our students value flexibility, choice, efficiency, and sustainability, and with the Picadeli salad bar, that’s exactly what they’ll get.

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