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Foodservice 301: Advanced Approaches

Advanced foodservice operators must continuously hone and refine menus and take advantage of seasonal offerings, and also handle high volumes, which means equipment must be top-notch, durable and flexible. There also has to be plenty of room for food storage, as well as merchandising and display.

The focus at this level is to make a larger visual presentation of the food in the stores, creating more of a restaurant image. To build a fresh food image, menus are largely centered on fresh baked breads and desserts, fresh-made sandwiches and salads, homemade soups and stews, as well as more varied hot foods. Operators should focus on creating more "visual theater" around the food production areas in the stores, which helps connect with customers and communicates pride in the program, as well as quality and freshness.


Often at this level, a more specialized approach to hot beverages is required. If specialty coffees are offered, integration of espresso brewing equipment and a designated barista are required to provide the quality and service customers demand. Look at boosting coffee quality and offering additional products such as chai, smoothies, etc. If needed, increase brewing capacity to meet demand during peak dayparts. Adding additional serving vessels is a cost effective way to meet volume demand. Other equipment needed:

  • Larger sandwich and salad making areas, soup merchandisers and a steamwell.
  • Speed ovens are a must to offer a wide variety of hot foods prepared to order quickly.
  • Pizza ovens, grills with a hood and/or fryers, depending on the menu.
  • Plenty of storage space including a walk-in refrigerator and freezer.
  • Expanded and upgraded menu boards and departmental signage to augment the food image.
  • Touchscreen kiosk(s) for customer ordering to improve order accuracy and speed of service. Costs for the above equipment upgrades can run from $80,000 to $150,000 or more, depending on the scope of the menu and facility upgrades.


Operators at the top of their food-service game are focused heavily on the visual merchandising and display of their food programs to ensure their image is properly designed and projected. Continued advances in display equipment have expanded the industry's ability to create state-of-the-art presentations. It is also critical that operators remain consistent with the presentation theme, style and tone of their brand in all aspects of their foodservice program.

The functional flow of the stores (how customers navigate through it) and what food they see at each point in the store is vitally important and food merchandisers, signage and menu boards communicate this.

Operators considering drive-thrus might have to duplicate cook lines or beverage stations, depending on sales volume and offerings. Many operators at the advanced level have an open-air concept store, which allows customers to see food preparation and engage in its theater. In this format type, top-of-the-line and well-maintained equipment is needed to handle the volume and quality, and because it communicates a restaurant image. The presentation portion of any food program requires revamping at least every five years to keep it relevant and fresh, experts advise.

Because foodservice equipment is constantly evolving, operators at this level should routinely look out for more efficient options that use less energy, require less labor or less maintenance, or reduce other costs and boost presentation.

One cautionary note from the experts — don't buy every new thing that comes along. Some equipment suppliers push equipment heavily on top industry performers because they can be susceptible to competitive pressure to maintain their competitive status. And lastly, make sure equipment suppliers have a deep understanding of your business and leverage your buying power in the form of discounts or decreased maintenance charges.

"If you are buying expensive equipment with limited uses, it may be better to look at alternatives in the menu that can eliminate that piece of equipment."

— Mike Lawshe, Paragon Solutions

"There are three key factors to determine the type and capacity of coffee brewing equipment appropriate for a location — power supply, water supply and current and expected brewed coffee volume. Don't make the mistake of purchasing equipment before understanding how all three factors apply to you."

— Burke Hodge, The Coffee Consultant

"The supplier must have a service and maintenance program before an operator should consider buying the equipment. We typically recommend ... a 24/7 maintenance program."

— Tim Powell, Technomlc


  • Focus on equipment that will help better display and merchandise your foodservice offerings and create "visual theater" in your stores.
  • Pay attention to the functional flow of your stores to ensure the beverage bars, condiment bars and other food areas are easy for customers to use and do not create traffic jams.
  • Don't buy every new piece of foodservice equipment that comes along, but stay on the prowl for equipment that is more efficient (uses less energy, requires less labor or less maintenance, or boosts presentation).
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