An Evolutionary Year
What happened in Vegas started in Anaheim, Calif. This year of strong strides in equipment innovation began at the NAFEM Show in Anaheim in February, continued through May’s NRA Show in Chicago and finished strong in October at the NACS Show.
Many advances, including high-speed functionality, small-footprint pieces and automation, directly reflect the needs of convenience-store operators.
Digitizing the Menu
The commercial kitchen is not immune to the “Internet of things” phenomenon, from the POS to the ice machine. For example, Emerson Climate Technologies is using its Intelligent Store infrastructure to allow kitchen equipment to talk to one another and the operator—wherever he or she is. This includes remote equipment monitoring (“Did I turn the fryer off before closing?”) as well as energy usage and maintenance tracking.
Other services are aimed at better aligning foodservice products with the rest of the store. Debuting at the NACS Show, Orders Up from Inteladata integrates foodservice items into existing POS systems by printing bar-code labels for both made-to-order and grab-and-go items. Sales are then captured, stored, tracked and analyzed in real time in the cloud.
Touch-screen, self-service ordering continues to be more readily available to c-store operators, both in the store and at the pump. Gilbarco Veeder-Root’s Foodservice program for its Passport system guides users through the entire ordering process and also complies with menu-labeling regulations.
Beverage as Check Booster
Also on display at the show was the use of dispensed beverages for targeting the snacking segment, making up for lost CSD sales and overall boosting check averages with specialty drinks. The coffee-equipment category was dominated by automation, and a number of manufacturers highlighted their super-automatic machines that grind and brew coffee and espresso drinks to order—often self-serve.
High-speed functionality, small-footprint pieces and automation directly reflect the needs of c-store operators.
On the frozen side, FBD Partnership LP put the focus on its 774 machine, which can dispense high-overrun frozen carbonated beverages, frozen uncarbonated drinks and slush products, all with 35.6% annual energy savings. And Taylor Co. released a back-of-house version of its MagnaBlend automated blending system.
The new LPX Beverage Dispenser from Manitowoc/Servend, which debuted at NACS, has been called a “paradigm shift” by company representatives. It resembles an old-school soda fountain or high-end bar with up to eight craft-soda taps. But arguably the shift comes from its undercounter ice machine, which frees up eye-level real estate for more aesthetic design.
The system also can be used with up to two traditional 14-flavor soda towers.
The biggest pendulum swing may have been the increase in combi ovens geared to c-stores. Touting smaller footprints and intuitive controls, Eloma, Alto-Shaam, Rational, Manitowoc and Henny Penny displayed combis that would easily work in a c-store.
Combis weren’t the only category with a lot of activity this year. Alto-Shaam entered the high-speed-oven category with its new Xcelerate Hi-Speed Oven, which differentiates itself with the ability to turn off the microwave setting. Ovention, meanwhile, brought to the shows its Matchbox 360—a smaller-footprint version of its self-loading and -unloading oven. The latest Merrychef oven, which debuted at the NACS Show, offers a 12-inch cavity in a 14-inch footprint, with various options such as colors, merchandising racks and a consumer-facing video screen.