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Down the hatch

Drinks—whether potent or soft, cold or hot—hold some of the biggest profit potential for any operation. The newest beverage dispensing systems aim to serve drinks faster, more profitably and at just the right temperature for peak flavor.

Java jive
If your customers are going to be serving themselves directly from the brewer, there are two primary options in coffee dispensers: the traditional basket-style brewers that use ground coffee and the sophisticated automatic brewers that use powdered or liquid concentrate products to brew on demand. When buying traditional brewers, it’s important to examine your coffee usage closely to determine the right brewer size. Too large a machine and you wind up discarding excess coffee; too small a machine and you may brew more batches than you need, again leading to wasted coffee. With brewers ranging in size from around 20 cups to 100 cups or more, it’s easy to find an appropriate size. Also check out ease of cleaning, since the brewers will have to be cleaned often, both on the inside and outside. The new line of aluminum urns from Proctor Silex Commercial feature one-hand dispensing and a brushed finish that resists fingerprints.

The automatic machines can brew single cups or pots quickly on demand. They also offer more variety in output (such as cappuccino- or espresso-style drinks) but are considerably more expensive. If you’re looking at these machines, you may need to allow extra storage space for the coffee; some of these concentrate products require refrigeration as well. Ease of cleaning is also essential—particularly in those machines using a milk product. Nescafé’s Crane TT tabletop brewer is a versatile choice; it uses freeze-dried coffee to brew up to eight different coffee drinks, including lattes and mochas, in 20 seconds.

Pop art
Due partly to the rise in self-serve soft drink bars in QSRs, customers are now accustomed to “pouring their own.” If you’re thinking of converting to a self-serve soft drink dispenser, you can estimate that a maximum of eight customers a minute can use a single dispensing point. Additional time for flavor switching, top-offs and sampling can lower that figure considerably, so a careful counting of your rush-period crowds is essential to finding the right machine. To satisfy even the most persnickety “do it yourself” customer, Servend’s Flav’R Pic250 machine serves up 16 beverages and eight flavor additive choices (such as lemon or cherry syrup) in just 30 inches of counter space.

Another operational concern with front-of-house soft drink dispensers is ice handling. For a standard countertop dispenser, manual ice refilling is impractical, so an automatic machine is a necessity. When considering a top-mounted automatic dispenser, be sure to check for sufficient clearance and ventilation room above the unit. A remote ice machine may be an alternative for operations with tight spaces. Follett, for example, makes an icemaker that can be mounted in a cabinet under the drink counter, and connects to its Vision beverage dispensing system.

Beer bash
Patrons may be used to pouring their own coffee and soft drinks, but beer systems aren’t traditionally thought of as being self-serve. Now the FAS-Taps draft table aims to take the bartender totally out of the equation, as the beer taps are built right inside the customers’ dining table, allowing them to “pull their own.” A tab can be run for all the beer consumed, or patrons can pay in advance.

While soft drink dispensers can fall back on ice to help keep the product tasting cold, beer dispensers also have to maintain proper CO2 levels to maintain optimal serving temperature (around 38°F.) from keg to tap. But the refrigeration units needed to hold this temperature can add to an already-warm environment in the kitchen (where they’re sometimes mounted) or bar area. The new ArctiCold Remote Beer System from Perlick allows the refrigeration unit to be mounted at a distance—even outside the building. A glycol bath chills the beer lines to maintain proper temperature.

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