In 1998, Arby's Inc. initiated a kitchen redesign and new equipment technology project that resulted in the development of our Pinnacle prototype that opened last November. The development and design of this project was driven by the need to have a true partnership with a major equipment producer who would listen and take ownership with us. The success of this partnership depended on both partners setting common objectives, coupled with a desire and willingness to produce and serve quality products.

The project progressed from ideation to a full-scale mock-up with various volume simulations used to measure results against varied labor deployment templates. Throughout this process numerous equipment manufacturers partnered with us, as well as selected Arby's franchisees in testing and validating our design. One vital issue and challenge in the project was to arrive at production solutions that could not be resolved with our existing equipment. We were fortunate to partner with a leading equipment conglomerate that had just opened a new R&D facility and which offered its resources to assist us in the development of a new kitchen design and related equipment solutions. The manufacturer's "what if" approach was critical in the development of two prototypical pieces of equipment that addressed two critical product quality areas.

Our manufacturer partner also brought in a restaurant design consultant to assist us in understanding what we needed to change and to determine the most functional equipment design and placement. The manufacturer was also aware that the equipment package would not include only its branded products and might even result in none of its products being specified. The conglomerate and its various equipment divisions nonetheless supported us fully during our prototype development process.

[Our partner's] "what if" approach was critical in the development of two prototypical pieces of equipment.

Other vendors also contributed their resources toward modifying existing equipment or developing prototype equipment to meet our project's requirements. As a result, we have a new dry-contact toaster that will soon be in the majority of our system's stores. We are also currently working with the same vendor on a new thermalization process and equipment design that will result in Arby'sw being able to offer hotter, higher quality products to our guests. Another equipment manufacturer developed a new production slicing machine for our signature roast beef that is safer, more efficient and less expensive than previous models. This vendor also provided various financial packages to lower the capital expense that franchisees would have to spend to purchase the new slicer.

In most instances, end-users have to deal with vendors who persist in pushing their equipment without determining if it offers the optimal solution. The key message with the manufacturers we partnered with was that they truly listened to us. In too many instances, operators have to deal with vendors who choose to push their own equipment without determining whether it offers the best solution. The vendors that we partnered with, in addition to working toward the optimal solution, also greatly helped our efforts by providing key contacts that were available to assist with any issues that came up. For our people to be able to communicate directly with specific individuals who are as committed to the success of the project as we are is vital to reaching the optimal result. In the foodservice industry, it is very important to have equipment producers who conduct business in this manner because it builds loyalty with the end-users. As Arby'sw continues to source new equipment, guess who we will call first?