Foodservice by Design

Team members from PROFITALITY discuss how industrial engineering can be applied to the foodservice industry.


Facility Design Perspective on Equipment & Technology

Lots of pieces of foodservice equipment offer lots of promise to help operators become more effective and efficient. The key to properly deploying foodservice equipment and technology, though, is striking a balance between an operation’s needs and the features available. Consultant Juan Martinez explains.

Here is a question: “Can your foodservice equipment and technology take you to the moon?”

The reason I pose this question is that sometimes I get into a concept and/or visit equipment suppliers and realize the technology or equipment they are using or demonstrating may be supersized relative to what they hope to accomplish.

Joe Carborana’s editor’s perspective on foodservice-related technology provides some good food for thought in this regard. Essentially, Joe’s message is that make sure the equipment or technology specified needs to add value to an operation. Lots of products offer lots of promise but if they don’t make an operation more effective and efficient what’s the point?

When trying to determine how much of any resource a project or foodservice operation requires, we apply an industrial engineering technique known as the theory of constraints. Too much is a waste, costing the foodservice operator more money than they need to spend, while too little creates a constraint that could impact a key customer deliverable such as service, quality, labor and so forth.

When looking at an operation’s existing equipment package, this analysis can be helpful, too. It can help identify features an operation may not be using but that can enhance productivity. Conversely, this approach can also point out current features or applications that are not adding value as promised.

No matter the approach, though, the bigger picture here is making sure a foodservice operation deploys all forms of technology in such a way that it optimizes unit economics. That’s because at the end of the day, foodservice design, including the application of equipment and technology, is all about unit economics. Everything else is secondary.

Every component of a foodservice operation impacts unit economics. From sales building tools to cost reducing devices to design enhancements – they all impact an operation’s ability to achieve its financial goals. Few can argue the importance of providing the proper return on investment and the role it plays in fueling growth.

So how does having the right foodservice equipment and technology impact unit economics? Take a look at the figure I am attached to this blog post. The equation suggests that if you have the right equipment or technology you can drive sales by enabling better hospitality. In contrast, too much technology can drive profits in the wrong way, by requiring the foodservice operation to spend too much.

Bottom-line, make sure you apply or specify the right foodservice equipment/technology, in the right place, at the right time. This becomes the ticket to maximizing a concept’s unit economics by ensuring the capacity to drive sales and customer hospitality (top of the equation), with the cost that can negatively impact profits (bottom of the equation). Good unit economics translates into a good return on investment.

Equipment manufacturers need to watch against designing equipment and technologies that have too many features – commonly referred to as bells and whistles – that operators don’t need, especially if these add cost to the device. As an operator, you have to do the same, and subscribe to the concept of keeping it simple. Believing less is truly is more is a good principle to follow.

My biggest advice is to make sure that you balance needs with the availability. As you do this keep in mind that operators do not need to go to the moon, so don’t add (as supplier) or buy (as operator) features that may be intended to facilitate space exploration.  Just sell the right food, with the right service, in the right environment.