Consultant Q&A: John Marenic, principal, Marenic Food Service Consulting, Charlotte, N.C.

FE&S: What are the most common types of countertop condiment dispensers?

JM: There are three types — containers that are manually filled with prepackaged condiment packets, traditional bag-in-the-box dispensers and those with a motorized pump. All types provide portion control. The appropriate type is dependent on the style of the operation.

FE&S: What are the trends with countertop condiment dispensers?

JM: People are looking for nicer products with unique materials. Also, more operators are going green. Basically, these dispensers have become more aesthetically pleasing as manufacturers get more creative. There are many different types out there.

FE&S: How have condiment pumps evolved?

JM: Some condiment manufacturers offer their product with self-serve countertop pump systems, but it’s an item that is starting to wane because not all types are standard. This has muddied the waters a bit. Operators are looking for 1-ounce portioning pumps since smaller amounts are more cost-effective. The opposite is true for manufacturers, who are looking to sell more product, which increases their profits. This is where the issues begin. This equipment is preset for a half or a full pump of product, but some systems have adjustable sleeves that can distribute specific amounts.

FE&S: What are the newest innovations with condiment pumps?

JM: Pressurized pumps were big for a while, then they didn’t do as well. These have been redesigned to not clog as often and dispense smaller amounts. Slower dispense times also result in less product being used.

FE&S: What should operators consider when purchasing countertop condiment dispensers?

JM: They need to determine the amount of condiments and find out if this can be adjusted. Typically, dispensers can be ordered for certain amounts.

FE&S: How do bag-in-the-box dispensers work?

JM: Bag-in-the-box dispensers are typically purchased from condiment manufacturers along with their product. These have a big square bottom and consist of a bag that drops into a plastic container from which it is pumped. Pressure pushes the product out, but there tends to be more wasted product as it is difficult to access condiments at the bottom of the bag.

FE&S: Are there certain types of operations where condiment dispensers are more prevalent?

JM: Typically, these are seen mostly at quick-service and fast-casual restaurants looking to offer grab-and-go items as well as concessions stands that utilize countertop condiment dispensers. The main thing is to be clear on what it will be used for, the amount of product that will be distributed at one time and the look of the unit.

FE&S: Are there factors operators neglect to consider when purchasing countertop condiment dispensers?

JM: These units are typically an afterthought. And although the most common items dispensed are ketchup, mustard, relish, jelly and jams, refrigeration needs to be considered with some types of toppings. Operators also need to think about the labor aspect in terms of restocking and refilling. For example, stadiums won’t want to deal with the time and labor involved with keeping everything filled and available. The sizes need to match the operation’s volume. Cleaning and maintenance are also considerations as these areas tend to get messy more often. In addition, operators need to ensure the countertop condiment dispensers are ADA-compliant and accessible to those with disabilities.