Foodservice on Parade

Branded coffee, fast ovens among highlights of 2005 NRA Show

CHICAGO -- Whether your goal was to find new food products and beverages or new ways to prepare them, the 2005 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show offered many of the latest offerings for foodservice and hospitality professionals.

The aroma of coffee was definitely in the air, with branded programs being pushed in several booths. Sara Lee Coffee & Tea North America announced plans to offer high-end Douwe Egberts coffee, which is undergoing tests in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Krispy Kreme debuted a branded [image-nocss] program for restaurants and convenience stores through its Krispy Kreme Coffee Co., which features multiple blends and a 28-day freshness guarantee.

Meanwhile, Juan Valdez is appearing in Shell, Chevron, Diamond Shamrock and CITGO stations among others in select U.S. cities through Coffeecol Inc.'s Caf aREALE program, which is built on shelf-stable, 100% Colombian liquid coffee concentrates that surpassed Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks blends in a market research study, according to the company.

On the equipment side, things got toasty in the Kitchen Innovations Pavilion, where Enodis and Turbochef highlighted ovens designed to prepare food in a fraction of the time. Enodis' Merrychef division featured the 502 accelerated cooking convection oven, said to cook appetizers, entrees and desserts up to 12 times faster than conventional ovens.

Turbochef showcased its Tornado oven, which harnesses microwave, impingement and irradiant heat technologies and is currently toasting sandwiches at Subway locations across the United States.

The NRA show also offered a series of educational sessions on topics ranging from fuel costs to healthy food trends. In a session on making the drive-thru a success, consultant T.J. Schier of Incentivize Solutions, Flower Mound, Texas, explained how small, incremental improvements at the drive-thru can make a huge difference in winning over customer loyalty. Running the drive-thru better will make more customers move over to the highly satisfied category, he said.

He highlighted as a paragon of drive-thru operation Sheetz's self-serve drive-thru. They sell more food in a day than the average Wendy's or Burger King, Schier said. They just went from a gas station that sells food to a restaurant that sells gasoline. He noted that the self-serve, touchscreen format of the drive-thru automates the transaction, but continues to keep customers satisfied with service.

To whip a drive-thru into optimal shape and to keep service times tight, Schier said that retailers need to balance speed, hospitality, accuracy and quality. This can manifest itself in:

Clear signage. Make the drive-thru easy to get in to and out of. Easy-to-navigate menu. The menu should be photo- or graphic-driven so that customers do not have to wade through a sea of text to find their food choice. Simple price structures. Take a page from movie theatres, which often charge a multiple of 25 cents for all of their food and beverage items, and include tax. This makes making change a much easier, quicker task for employees. Go deluxe. Offer versions of entr aes and meals with all of the fixings, so employees aren't interrogating customers about desired condiments and sides and eating up valuable service time. Hit repeat. Schier advised repeating customers' orders two to three timesduring ordering, prior to providing the total, and when the food is given to the customer. This goes a long way toward increasing accuracy. Welcome suggestion. In a market study, researchers discovered that 48% of drive-thru operators suggestively sell, and only 30% of them are successful. Schier said that Sheetz drive-thru customers encounter a suggestive sell four times during an order, and 98% opt for at least one of the upgrades. Here, ensuring that all drive-thru operators suggestively sell consistently is key.

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