Foodservice 201: Intermediate Insights

At this stage, operators are expanding beyond self-serve, grab-and-go foods to include more robust offerings such as custom-made sandwiches, salads and hot foods. If they have not done so already, intermediate operators are looking to expand and brand their dispensed beverage programs as well.


Intermediate foodservice operators will be simply adding on to programs and equipment purchased at the beginner level. In some instances, equipment may be culled or upgraded if it has been more than five years since the basic foodservice program was launched. Consider the following:

Expand to at least an eight-head fountain. Some experts recommend between 12 and 16 heads, depending on the demands of the market and region. Also add two more frozen dispensed beverage heads if the program is doing well. Depending on your market, you may also want to consider adding iced tea and iced coffee programs, as well as milkshakes and smoothies.

Expand the coffee program based on cups per day sold. Often dual- or double-head brewers are required to keep up with volume. Larger serving vessels such as 1- to 1.5-gallon capacity shuttles may be required to meet daypart demand. It may also be necessary to increase the number of cappuccino offerings by adding additional dispensing units or upgrading to a five-plus-head unit.

Hot and cold beverage program expansion also requires reconfiguration of countertop areas, or the addition of new wall cabinetry or a beverage island. Make certain all equipment and dispensers are arranged for ease of shopping, and there is space for cross-merchandising displays, such as after-coffee mints and gum, bakery products, etc.

For a custom-made sandwich program, you'll need a 5-foot sandwich/deli prep line and cold case with a wraparound counter equipped with sneeze guards. And don't forget the menu boards to showcase your menu offering.

An oven to warm frozen foods and sandwiches with a crispy finish (convection or rapid-cook ovens). Rapid-cook ovens, which have a very small footprint, allow retailers to very easily broaden their menus.

Walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer, or multiple reach-in coolers and freezers for the back of the house for food storage.

Food warmers for hot food displays that allow for bulk preparation and extended holding times.

Estimated costs for the above equipment are between $40,000 and $60,000.


As chains expand foodservice offerings and consequently add more equipment, some operators (if the economies of scale are present) find it makes financial sense to develop internal maintenance departments. In these instances, equipment manufacturers would train in-house personnel on maintenance and repair. For smaller chains or companies that prefer not to add this overhead, repair and maintenance contracts are available from most equipment suppliers.

The primary goal is to ensure your equipment is up and running 24/7 and no piece of vital equipment is down for more than 12 hours. Some manufacturers will also offer replacement equipment while a piece of equipment is in repair.

Before purchasing equipment, request research and return-on-investment studies undertaken by equipment manufacturers, which will help operators determine how best to utilize the equipment and fully assess the pros and cons.

After purchase, operators should conduct payback calculations on all new pieces of equipment, according to experts, analyzing revenue earned and costs saved over a 12-to 18-month period.

"In foodservice, the mantra is 'menu, menu, menu.' This alone drives everything from store design to kitchen layout, and especially equipment selection."

— Larry Miller, Miller Management & Consulting Services


  • As food programs are expanded, be sure dispensed beverage equipment is upgraded and programs are expanded to keep pace with menu growth.
  • Shop around and look for the most durable, reliable and easy-to-use equipment. Cost should not be the top criteria.
  • If your chain is large enough and it makes geographic sense, consider adding an internal equipment maintenance and repair department.
  • Do payback calculations whenever a new piece of equipment is purchased, reviewing revenue earned and costs saved over a 12-to 18-month period.
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