The New Normal in Catering Design

Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode 39

Kristine Holtz Smiling with her long blond hair sitting gracefully on her black jacket and blouse catering design

Buffets. Carving Stations. Passed Hors d’oeuvres. Plated meals. Boxed lunches. What do and will in-person catered events look like in the time of a global pandemic. From personal protection equipment to social distancing, event organizers and food service operators are challenged with creating mouthwatering dining experiences that are inviting yet address guest concerns.

In this episode, Tracy chats with Kristine Holtz, CEO of Cornerstone Foodservice Group about current and future catering design, food safety standards and how to address guests’ concerns as we open our doors to welcome attendees and guests back to the table.

What do safe, inclusive & sustainable food and beverage experiences look like to you?

As if making sure your food service and events are inclusive of the needs and desires of all guests wasn’t tough enough, COVID has added a whole new level of complication and challenge to safely feeding groups of people. Many businesses – from restaurants to stadiums, leisure and business hotels, colleges and business catering – are working to determine how they can serve food safely and welcome guests back to their establishments.

Finding ways to offer food away-from-home with adaptions to lessen the threat of transmission of COVID pathogens is the primary “ingredient” to the recovery of our industry. But operators don’t have to worry that there is no way back to communal dining. In fact, with some well thought out modifications to your catering design and service you can offer safe and elegant dining solutions in almost all situations.

Do you have an example of a situation that negatively effected you and/or other individuals or groups’ food and beverage experience?

Food is such a critical part of our experience as humans- we love to gather and we love to eat! Food has always been an integral part of many of life’s events- for business, for celebrations, and even in grief. But beyond these planned events, eating away from home is a practical issue as well.

I was recently traveling with my sons baseball team. On a zoom planning call with 60 parents, the team made the hotel decision based on one that would offer breakfast as part of the package. You can imagine everyone’s disappointment when the boys were handed a brown bag with a muffin, granola bar and small water as breakfast. It left us all scrambling to get the boys enough food, through local drive-throughs, to fill the tanks a 15-year-old athletes who were going to play baseball all day. On the flip side, our next trip took us to a hotel that offered hot breakfast in a well-managed and “COVID-safe” way. That hotel brand became our standard for booking rooms for the rest of the season.

Right now, everyone is doing their best. I recognize this is a situation we’ve never faced and is very challenging, but I want to help operators understand ways they can be on the winning side of bringing back guests to their establishments profitably and sooner rather than later.

What do you wish people knew about what you do?

We don’t just supply innovative and quality products, we also help advise on the design and functionality of foodservice layouts. We work with major brands across the foodservice industry on best practices for functionality, safety, and maximizing the guest experience. Food and the dining experience doesn’t start and stop at the table, there are a number of factors that go into a properly presented dining experience. There is a lot to consider- and we’re here to help.

What is a best practice you use/or have seen to create safe and inclusive F&B experiences?

We are focused on helping businesses resume operations within proper guidelines. As you think about returning to the new normal, there are things you can do to start serving guests again and also make guests feel safe for the long term.

  • FOOD SAFETY — Addressing the need for proper cooking, warming, and displaying of food without degrading quality, freshness, or safety. catering design
  • SANITATION — Preventative measures to decrease likelihood of cross-contamination between guests and/ or staff.
  • SATISFYING GUESTS — Addressing guest perception and how to ease concerns surrounding personal health and safety within foodservice.

We’re seeing a broad range of creative solutions surrounding safety. For instance, one hotel group owner has implemented protocols to protect their employees and allows event planners to pick the level of safety for their guests. We also discussed in a webinar previously that caterers can add safety precautions as add-ons to the event package to allow guests to add the level of safety they prefer – thus allowing them to add revenue against the cost of new safety items while giving guests the opportunity to be as precautious as they would like.


Kristine Holtz has more than 25 years of experience in the foodservice industry. As a former leader at HJ Heinz, CEO of Market Day, and now the CEO of the Cornerstone Foodservice Group (Spring USA, LloydPans, Astra Manufacturing), Kristine has helped develop leading products and solutions across many areas of foodservice. Today, Kristine works alongside and advises leading brands on their foodservice operations and shares industry insights to help organizations create guest-centered and profitable dining experiences. catering design


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