E&S Extra

Editorial Director Joe Carbonara provides insights and commentary on the state of the foodservice equipment and supplies marketplace.


One Size Does Not Fit All

Chain restaurants will continue to push for better user interfaces that help maximize use of labor and ensure consistent production of menu items.

Technological advancements represent a curious phenomenon. For example, almost any time Apple releases a new product one can expect to see lots of loyal customers camping out to be among the first kids on the block, so to speak, with the latest and greatest gadget. And, to a certain extent this makes sense. Being on the leading edge of certain consumer technologies keeps us better connected to those important to us and certain apps can even make us more efficient.

So it seems only logical that continuing to advance all technologies, including the interfaces, and developing more apps universally makes sense, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, which features and benefits become the most relevant and add the most value really depends on the person using them.

Take apps and loyalty programs, for example. Every restaurant seemingly has one of each these days. But that does not mean every customer that walks through the door needs to have the app or be part of the loyalty program. Think about it. If you had an app on your phone for every restaurant you visited there would be no space for your Angry Birds app. That’s why consumers rightly choose which apps work best for them. For me, it’s the Starbucks app.

The same applies when it comes to updating foodservice equipment. Some new features or benefits will receive universal acceptance from operators. For example, operators will likely give a warm embrace to any improvements that reduce energy or water consumption, provided they don’t have to pay too much more for the equipment, because these features lower their expenses.

Chain restaurants will continue to push for better user interfaces that help maximize use of labor and ensure consistent production of menu items. And it makes sense for restaurants that use hourly employees with little to no culinary training. However, another operator segment with a similar employee profile might not be as enthusiastic about high-tech interfaces. I am referring to the correctional foodservice market. In this segment, operators can view computer-based graphical user interfaces as a detriment because these features invite tampering or worse by the inmates who often work in the kitchen. (To learn how various consumer trends continue to impact foodservice design and equipment selection, see page 28).

Indeed, there is no shortage of good ideas and technological developments in today’s foodservice equipment market. And they offer great potential when applied correctly. But not every good idea will be right for every operation.

Operators need to see past the potential of new technologies to understand how these features can positively impact their businesses and then choose wisely. The supply chain, in contrast, needs to balance their exuberance surrounding new technology with an ability to listen and understand what keeps their customers up at night. Taken together, both approaches become a winning combination.