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ANAHEIM, Calif. — With foodservice sales growing faster on a percentage basis at convenience stores than at restaurants, it’s no surprise that many exhibitors at this year’s NAFEM Show — held here Feb. 19-21 by the National Association of Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers — were showing products to improve the operations of c-store chains.
From quick-cooking ovens to new coffee systems to iced tea makers, c-store retailers were sure to find something new and exciting to help them grow their foodservice business.
Guy Strayer, foodservice director for Country Fair Inc., the Mid-Atlantic convenience store chain owned by United Refining Co., told CSNews Online he attends the NAFEM Show so that he is “aware of all the many facets of equipment and services provided to the foodservice industry.”
This was Strayer’s third time at the NAFEM Show. His goal this year was to find services that would make his company’s foodservice operations more efficient and productive.
“I have always found something unexpected that has given our company an opportunity to become more profitable,” he said.
COFFEE, ESPRESSO, ETC.
“When it comes to espresso in the c-store world, retailers are trying to figure out if they are competing with McDonald’s or if they are competing with Starbucks,” said Jon Shalen, president of Espresso Soci, an importer of premium espresso machines. “They are torn between self-serve and employee-served systems.”
The company recently installed its Faema XI espresso machine with patented auto-steam technology at about 100 QuickChek stores. Shalen said QuickChek Corp. is expected to roll out the machine chainwide by the end of the year. The employee-served machine is so easy to use that he remarked: “I trained a QuickChek manager over the phone.”
Meanwhile at the Bunn-O-Matic Corp. booth, Strategic Account Manager Randy Vickery said specialty drinks and regional coffees (think blends from Sumatra, Ethiopia, etc.) are in greater demand by consumers, and c-stores are broadening their hot coffee offerings to meet this demand.
Bunn was showing two units of particular interest to c-store retailers: the Trifecta, a brewer that uses air infusion to brew a superior cup of coffee; and the Sure Temp, a self-serve espresso machine with an intuitive touchscreen interface for easy use.
Another popular c-store supplier of coffee brewing equipment is Wilbur Curtis Co. Getting a lot of attention from retailers at the company’s booth was Curtis’ TFT Freshness Monitoring System. The system includes a digital timer, volume indicator and flashing LED lights to alert store employees to refill the urn, ensuring fresh coffee is always available to customers.
Frozen yogurt continues to be a rising trend in the c-store industry, said Tricia Bennett, senior director, global marketing for Rockton, Ill.-based Taylor Co., which makes a broad range of foodservice equipment for frozen treats, frozen dispensed beverages and grilled specialties.
Fun and tasty treats, like frozen yogurt and frozen carbonated beverages, get the coveted Millennials involved and offer them the ability to customize a frozen treat of their choice, Bennett added, predicting that smoothies are likely to become the next big c-store hit in the not-too-distant future. These products can create an environment for repeat traffic visits that customers enjoy, while increasing daypart sales for the c-store operator.
The growing use of blenders to make a variety of products, from smoothies to specialty coffee drinks, was not lost on Vitamix Corp., which introduced a new line of color-coordinated blender containers at the NAFEM Show. The containers make it easy, by sight, for operators to keep food and drink ingredients separated to avoid cross-contamination. All the containers work with the company’s The Quiet One blender, a popular c-store item.
Vitamix was also showing its Modular Blending System (MBS), which debuted last October at the NACS Show. Taking up only 30 linear inches of countertop space, the MBS provides precise measurements of ingredients, improves speed of service and reduces waste, while being able to make a wide variety of customizable drink options.