Seems like people often want help identifying the next great equipment or supply item that will help propel their foodservice business forward. In other words, everyone continues to search for the foodservice equipment and supplies industry’s version of the iPhone. Unfortunately, such an innovation does not exist nor will it any time soon.

The type of technology that will have the greatest impact on the foodservice industry is anything that the consumer interacts with. Consumers like the idea of ordering via a website or mobile app, at an in-store kiosk or using tableside tablets. For example, just last month Papa John’s reported digital and mobile channels account for more than 50 percent of its sales. Papa John’s may have been the first to make such a claim but they certainly won’t be the last.

Customer-facing technologies hold plenty of promise because they allow consumers to have control over the ordering process. Consumers feel these technologies will help them pick the meals best suited to help meet their needs and expedite the ordering process, allowing them to get on with their busy lives or even socialize with their family and friends.

When it comes to back-of-the-house technology, the foodservice industry remains far from what anyone would consider bleeding edge. Yes, foodservice equipment has made leaps and bounds when it comes to reducing the consumption of energy and natural resources. More intuitive interfaces make equipment easier to use by allowing operators to preprogram recipes and other tasks, thus allowing foodservice staff to function more efficiently. Some solutions do a wonderful job of reclaiming the heat generated and using it to heat water.

All of these are solid, foundational developments that continue to serve the foodservice industry well. Unfortunately, they lack the “wow” factor people look for when it comes to innovation and many operators have been slow to adopt much of this technology.

In order to uncover truly innovative foodservice equipment and supplies, it’s important to change your thinking, focusing it on your business and its needs. From an operator’s perspective innovative foodservice equipment and supplies items that will allow them to further maximize their investment in labor, increase yield and flavor profiles from the local and seasonal ingredients they use, and help create an environment that appeals to their target customer base will be seen as innovative. Firepower and longevity will be the name of the game.

The one tie that will bind all successful foodservice innovations, though, will be their ability to provide a reasonable return on investment. The products meeting these criteria will be as diverse as the operator base that uses them. As a result of the industry’s interest in innovation there should be something for everyone on display at The NAFEM Show, which takes place Feb. 19-21. I look forward to seeing you there.