A Big Year for C-Stores at NAFEM (Slideshow)

Six trends from the biggest food equipment trade show
Manitowoc fit Kitchen at NAFEM

Manitowoc's fitKitchen at NAFEM

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If a c-store retailer had attended NAFEM four years ago, they would have found an exhibitor base of foodservice equipment manufacturers largely uninterested in their business. Fast forward to last week’s trade show, where nearly all the major players not only named c-stores as a top growth target, but also rolled out innovative equipment built just for their needs.

The biannual trade show of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers brings together dealers and distributors, operators and more than 500 exhibitors showing off the latest in foodservice equipment technology. The emphasis on c-stores was reflected in coffee equipment and prep tables, beverage dispensers, high-speed ovens and even highly sophisticated combi ovens.

What follows are some of the biggest trends captured at the show, followed by an “Editors’ Picks” slideshow of some of the most innovative products and trends on the floor.

1. Color in the Kitchen

It used to be NAFEM was a sea of stainless steel, as far as the eyes could see. But increasingly manufacturers are rolling out customizable colors for their equipment. Everything from beverage dispensers to ovens is available in a rainbow of bold hues —a reflection of the trend toward front-of-house cooking and certainly helpful for c-store operators.

2. The Craft of Coffee

The coffee-equipment category was dominated by automation, even among craft-coffee applications. A number of manufacturers, including BUNN, GMCW and Concordia, rolled out superautomatic machines that grind and brew coffee and espresso drinks to order—often self-serve. Meanwhile companies like Franke (BKON) and Curtis (Seraphim) are helping high-end coffee shops harness the consistency and speed of technology for the perfect cup. This show was a goldmine for coffee nerds.

3. Combi Ovens in the C-Store

Eloma, Alto-Shaam, Manitowoc and Henny Penny all had on display combi ovens that would easily be at home in a c-store. Historically reserved for high-end restaurants, institutional dining or hotel operations, these kitchen beasts can roast, bake, steam and grill to precise specifications. Smaller footprints and catalytic converters have helped make them a possibility for c-stores. These ovens take training to work well, but the companies behind them seem ready and willing to help c-store take the leap.

4. More Oven Innovations

Combis weren’t the only ovens drawing attention at the show. Alto-Shaam entered the high-speed oven category (a category that arguably helped propel the evolution of c-store foodservice) with its new Xcelerate Hi-Speed oven. The oven differentiates itself with the ability to turn off the microwave setting. Ovention meanwhile brought to NAFEM its next generation Matchbox 360. This smaller-footprint version is self-loading and unloading like the previous Ovention ovens, and the closed system makes for fast cook times.

5. Beverage Boosters

Dispensed beverages, specialty smoothie programs, and coffee and tea equipment were all prevalent on the show floor as manufacturers help operators target the snacking segment, make up for lost CSD sales and overall boost check averages with specialty drinks.

6. Modular and Customized

Companies from Franke to Vollrath stressed their ability to create completely customized workspaces based on modular equipment and customer needs. Manitowoc revealed its fitKitchen program, which helps operators reduce labor, increase sales and keep menus on-trend—all in a compact footprint. It’s helping operators create a robust, day-long foodservice business in as little as 225 square feet. An interesting trend revealed by the folks at Manitowoc: The return to urban centers has led to an increase in restaurants opening in older, smaller locations—changing the needs of today’s foodservice operator. 


Concordia’s on-demand brewer makes cups and carafes of coffee to order. It was among the many equipment pieces available in multiple color options.

Perfect Parfait

The Perfect Parfait yogurt dispenser features bag-in-box organic yogurt and is portion-controlled. It allows guests to customize their yogurt parfait.


The Eloma Genius MT C 1-1 is one of the smallest combis available, according to the company, yet still fits a full size hotel pan or half-size sheet pan. 

BSI Designs

BSI Designs had a smart solution for providing calorie counts on food bars: a bar with digital screens.


In addition to showing off a new model of its Matchbox oven for smaller footprints, Ovention also demonstrated the growth of front-of-the-house designs with its brick-oven wrap.


Vollrath’s vast booth featured an entire section devoted to convenience, including soup warmers, beverage dispensers and more.


Alto-Shaam’s Xcelerate Hi-Speed oven differentiates itself with the ability to turn off the microwave setting.


Curtis’ Seraphim undercounter coffee brewer targets high-end coffee shops that want to automate—and perfectly calibrate—the pour-over method while streamlining counterspace.


Manitowoc demonstrated its fitKitchen concept, which is meant to help meet operators’ needs for delivering a robust, day-long foodservice program while keeping labor and space efficient.


In addition to its high-tech beverage machines, Franke was demonstrating its ability to build custom workstations for operators, including fry stations and beverage stations.