Event review: tech update from NRA Show 2017

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The NRA Show 2017 in Chicago, US, saw new restaurant industry technologies with 3-D printing and better operating systems at the fore, reports Amelia Levin

At the National Restaurant Association Hotel-Motel (NRA) 2017 Show in May in Chicago, US, plenty of new technologies were on display, catching the eyes of designers and operators alike.

From tableside tablets to mobile payments, more advanced reservation systems and the power of big data, technology is a critical part of how restaurants and foodservice operators navigate today’s uber-competitive hanging business landscape.

In fact, the next generation of restaurant concepts and even non-commercial operators such as colleges/universities and healthcare facilities are using technology to reinvent the dining – and even eating – experience and define the smart restaurant of the future.

Here’s a look at two technologies disrupting the current landscape.

3D printing

While 3D printing is nothing new, having been used in the automotive, biomed and even archeology sectors for a handful of years, some businesses and operators are now experimenting with it in the foodservice realm. Perhaps the most well known experimentation that happened with 3D printing was by the late Homaro Cantu, a master of molecular gastronomy at his now-closed Moto and ING in Chicago.

Pasta product maker Barilla, in partnership with TNO, a Dutch research institute, has introduced a prototype to be able to actually print the first 3D pasta in order to make shapes that cannot be made by current industrial pasta making processes.

With the current model, graphic designers develop the unique shapes using computer graphics tools, and then by the click of the button, can produce up to four fresh, not dried, pieces of pasta – soon to be a whole plate – in 2 minutes. Chefs are finding use for it by being able to personalize and customize their creations without having to labor over making fresh pasta in-house.

We’re still some time away from seeing 3D printers more heavily tapping the marketplace in the US, but that could change. Typical printers, used to make chocolate primarily, cost between $1,500 and upwards of $4,000.

Operating systems

Yesterday’s POS systems simply no longer cut it for most restaurant and foodservice operators. Modern systems can do everything from not only manage orders to the kitchen and track sales but manage much more advanced methods of Big Data management to help operators better understand their customers, manage loyalty programs, deal with complicated reservations and now, even bring down or eliminate costs that prevent them from reaching profitable levels.

At the NRA Show, SALIDO introduced its latest prototype – an all-in-one platform reporting on labor, inventory kitchen and consumer management in one dashboard. Chefs and restaurateurs like David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Stephen Starr, Phi Suarez have Jimmy Haber have been installing the system in their multiple restaurant concepts and locations, including Chang’s Fuku, Made Nice by Eleven Madison Park + Jean-Georges’ ABC Kitchen last week.

And now, Resy, the restaurant reservations and technology platform “developed by restaurants” announced plans for continued expansion throughout the country, including New Orleans, Nashville and Portland in Summer 2017. Restaurant partners in those cities include Shaya, Cane & Table, Paladar 511, Hemingway’s, The Waiting Room, Ned Ludd and more.

The program uses a cloud-based system with flat pricing, automated waiting lists, live text messaging with guests and a paperless check payment system.

Amelia Levin

The owner of Culinary Design Center LLC, who passed away on Thursday 18 May 2017, was president of FCSI Worldwide from 1993-94

FCSI is saddened to report the passing of Michael Johnson FFCSI (PP), a long-time member and a great contributor to the Society on both the worldwide and divisional levels. He passed away on Thursday 18 May 2017.

Johnson, of Culinary Design Center LLC in Georgia, was a member of FCSI for over 25 years, serving as president of FCSI Worldwide from 1993-94. In 2005, he was inducted into the Council of Fellows, and also received the Award for Excellence in Design. His commitment to FCSI included serving on committees such as the Council for Professional Standards, as well as taking on the role of conference chair for the FCSI The Americas Atlanta 2007 Conference.


Michael Johnson’s memorial will take place on Sunday 11 June at Sandy Springs Christian Church, located at 301 Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs, GA 30328. The family will begin receiving guests at 1:00pm. The service will begin at 2:00pm, with a reception to follow.
If you would like to send condolences or share memories of Michael with his family, you can post them here.
Donations to the FCSI Educational Foundation in Michael Johnson’s honor can be sent to the following:
FCSI Educational Foundation
C/o Michael Johnson Memorial
P.O. Box 4961
Louisville, KY 40204

With the National Restaurant Show 2017 due on 20 May here's our latest guide to everything you can see, hear and eat at the biggest, most exciting foodservice show in the US

While we have already published a comprehensive preview of NRA Show 2017, there is still a huge plethora of exciting options for those attending this expansive, fun show. This is our handy guide to the highlights of the broadest, most exciting foodservice show in the United States.

Big figures

  • The NRA Show is the restaurant and hospitality industry’s premier trade show for the latest in cutting-edge products, services and information. Each year more than 67,000 professionals and 2,000 exhibitors gather in Chicago for four days that will shape foodservice for an entire year.
  • This is the 98th anniversary of the NRA Show. Co-located with NRA Show is the two-day Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants (BAR) at NRA Show, a conference and exhibition focused on the critical nature of the bar program in a restaurant or foodservice establishment.
  • Building on the last year’s successful debut, the largest made-in-Italy Food & Wine Expo to be found outside the mother country once again takes up residence in the Lakeside Center exhibit hall. At Bellavita’s Wine & Food theatre, participate in one of the several masterclasses hosted by the finest top chefs and sommeliers in the business. See the full line up here.

New pavilions and exciting new attractions

  • Innovation Hub: This zone is actually comprised of a few distinctive sessions: the Innovation Theater, Tech Talks and the Startup Alley. The Innovation Hub has everything participants need to stay current on the latest industry innovations and insights, unlock best technological practices and trends and connect with tech-savvy startups poised to make a big impact in foodservice. NRA Show attendees will keep ahead of the competition with in-depth research and timely education sessions at the Innovation Theater. At this new auditorium they will participate in key discussions such as ‘The Impact of Customer-Facing Technology on Restaurant Design’ (Sunday 21 May between 2-2:45pm), ‘Key Trends Shaping the Future of Foodservice’ (Monday 22 May between 12-12:45pm) and ‘Bridging the Atlantic: US and UK Restaurant Trends’ (Monday 22 May between 4-4:45pm). Also, by participating in Tech Talks, attendees will unlock best technological practices and trends at fast-paced educational sessions. Tech Talks sessions include themes such as ‘Mapping the Restaurant Technology Landscape’ (Sunday 21 May between 11-11:30 am) and ‘Building an Enduring Restaurant Following’ (Sunday 21 May between 1-1:30pm). For a complete list of events happening at the Innovation Theatre and Tech Talk sessions please visit here.
  • SIGNATURE ’17: Ahead of the Crave – Sunday 21 May at 2:00pm- Grand Ballroom (S100)Signature ’17 is a pointed conversation between some of the brightest minds in the business. This year’s theme “Ahead of the Crave,” focuses on the empowered customer and identifies top emerging opportunities. Join NRA president & CEO Dawn Sweeney along with industry game changers such as Amazon Business’s Dan Park for a glimpse of how the landscape of business purchasing and selling is changing. Join the conversation and submit a question for us to discuss during Signature’17 using #Signature17 @NRAShowIntl. For more information, visit here.
  • Hot New Products – Every year hundreds of new products are launched at NRA Show. Select the ones that appeal to your audience so that you can write about them and their companies. For a list of new products, please visit here. Don’t miss Pete’s Living Greens Living Strips (Pete’s Living Greens Living Strips are the only packaged salad product designed for optimal flavor, freshness and convenience WITH ROOTS ATTACHED) and ZUMO Gazpacho (a 2017 sofi Award winner. It is a delicious “salad in a bottle.” They make their Gazpacho (cold vegetable soup, native to Spain) with only 9 ingredients & a touch of Mediterranean Seawater. Using Mediterranean Seawater enhances natural flavors & enriches with 78 bio-available electrolytes. Also in other flavors)
  • Special discounts – NRA Show exhibitors that will be offering discounts and product specials during the event. To learn more about the offers available to participants at NRA Show 2017 and write about the ones that would appeal more to your readers, visit here.
  • KI (Kitchen Innovations) Pavilion – For over a decade, the industry has trusted the KI Awards to recognize products that meaningfully improve the back of the house. Make no mistake–KI Award recipients will positively impact business operations everywhere. The KI Pavilion is home to all the KI Award recipients. For more information about the 2017 winners please visit here.
  • FABI Award Winners: The FABI Awards honor the year’s most delicious, unique and exciting food and beverage products that benefit restaurant operators and consumers. These are products that show breakthrough achievement in taste, marketability, creativity and profitability potential in foodservice operations. FABI 2017 Winners are here.
  • Foodamental Studio: Roll up your sleeves and, guided by industry experts, experiment with the processes and techniques behind today’s hottest food trends inspired dishes and international spices. For more information and for a complete schedule of interactive sessions, visit here.

Interactive presentations

All interactive presentations are extremely good. The official lineup includes:

  • Cool as a Kinilaw: Saturday 20 May between 3:00 – 3:45pm. Ricardo Jarquin from Travelle Kitchen + Bar (@TravelleChicago) will teach the Audience how to make a Filipino style ceviche made with traditional Filipino ingredients and flavors.
  • Food in a Flash: Sunday 21 May between 10:00 – 10:45am. Audience members will learn from famed food photographer Huge Galdones of Galdones Photography, the best strategies for photographing food for social media.
  • You Gotta know when to fold ‘em: Sunday 21 May between 1:45 – 2:30pm. James Lintelmann from Baptiste & Bottle will teach the audience how to make traditional Gyoza Japanese dumplings and educate them on different folding techniques used by various chefs.
  • Pasta perfecto: Monday 22 May between 12:30 – 1:15pm. Making the perfect pasta is an art so it’s essential to master the fundamentals. Chef Cameron Grant of Chicago’s Osteria Langhe, will teach the audience all the basics of pasta making, while walking through some of his most treasured and beloved years in Piemonte, Italy.
  • Cold Soups are Hot: Monday 22 May between 1:45 – 2:30pm. Are you ready for Summer? Join Angelina Bastidas (@chefangelinab) from Bin 36 as she shows how to take Spring and Summer fresh ingredients and turn them into cool soups perfect for the warm weather.
  • Break the mold: Tuesday 23 May between  12:30 – 1:15pm. Chef Jove Hubbard (@jovetee) from Cindy’s will demonstrate preparing a sorbet popsicle base, creating a popsicle mold and the steps to creating the refreshing treat, including dipping and finishing the popsicle.

World Culinary Showcase

Education becomes entertainment at World Culinary Showcase, where celebrity chefs demonstrated the techniques, tips and tricks that catapulted them into the spotlight. To know more about the chefs performing demonstrations, please visit here. We recommend:

  • Saturday 20 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm Chef Maneet Chauhan (@ManeetChauhan). A recognized TV personality, cookbook author, active philanthropist and permanent Judge on Food Network’s show Chopped. Chef/owner of Chauhan Ale & Malsala House and co-owner of Mantra Artisan Ales in Nashville.
  • Saturday 20 May between 3:00 pm – 4:00pm – Duff Goldman (@duffgoldman ‏). Veteran of French Laundry, Vail Cascade Hotel and Todd English’s Olives. Opened Charm City Cakes in 2000. Star of hit Food Network show, Ace of Cakes. Graffiti artist, metal sculptor and musician.
  • Sunday 21 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm– Stephanie Izard (@StephAndTheGoat). Executive Chef & Owner, Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat. James Beard “Best Chef: Great Lakes” recipient 2013 and 2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef.” First woman to win Bravo’s Top Chef.
  • Sunday 21 May between 3:00pm – 4:00pm – Matthew Kenney (@MatthewKenney_). World’s leading plant-based chef, the writer of several best-selling cookbooks, a culinary educator, and an entrepreneur specializing in the plant-based lifestyle.
  • Monday 22 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm – Barton Seaver (@bartonseaver). Executive chef, Director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard, author and internationally recognized speaker on sustainable practices.
  • Tuesday 23 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm – Jeff Mauro (@JeffMauro ‏). Host of The Kitchen and Sandwich King. Season 7 winner of Food Network Star. Executive chef of Pork & Mindy’s restaurants and retail line of sauces and meats.

Locating exhibitors and exporters

To find exhibitors that have expressed an interest in finding dealers, distributors, brokers or manufacturers’ representatives For more information, visit here.

To find exporters visit here.

Special Events

The fun shouldn’t end just because the show floor closes in the early evening. Keep things going well into the night with exclusive access to popular after-hours events. After-hours events include:

  • International Reception – ONLY for international visitorsNetwork with trade executives, exhibitors and other foodservice professionals from around the world who are interested in expanding their operations. Saturday 21 May between 5:00 – 6:30pm – North Building, Level 4, Room N427.
  • IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards:Celebrate the nation’s top operator talent at the IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards hosted by Joseph Fassler, 1996 Gold Plate Winner. Learn more here.
  • Restaurants Rock: Jam to the live grooves of the world’s premier Prince tribute band, The Purple Xperience. Have a drink (or two). Cut a rug. Chat up hundreds of hospitality pros. Whatever your pleasure, it’s all here for the taking at the official after-party of NRA Show and BAR 17. Tickets available via NRA Show registration: Register now here.
  • NRA Show Block Party: Chicago’s hippest bars, restaurants and clubs open their doors to serve up free food and drinks along with entertainment for NRA Show attendees. Attendance is free with your NRA Show badge. Learn more here. Monday 22 May between 9:30pm – 12:00am.
  • Specialty Pavilions: Sprinkled across the Show floor, these curated specialty areas and pavilions are grouped by top trends, products and emerging technology to help you navigate easily.
  • Startup Alley – showcases the creative, innovative startups poised to make a big impact in the foodservice industry. The list of companies can be found here.
  • Alternative BiteStyle: Spotlight on products and ingredients for vegetarian/vegan, low sodium, gluten-free, and allergic sensitivities.
  • Organic And Natural Pavilion: An oasis of organic, natural labels and products that ingredient-savvy consumers want to see on your menu.
  • Technology Pavilion: Top-to-bottom tech including mobile apps, mobile payment, POS, digital signage, data-driven solutions and more to improve transaction speed, communication, efficiency and cost.
  • Microsoft Digital Transformation: NRA Show once again teams up with Microsoft to bring you a fully immersive experience that not only explains digital solutions but also demonstrates how to make it work for your operation–from mobile apps to front-of-house management tools to smart kitchens.
  • Conserve Solutions Center: Sustainability focused products that lower costs, waste, energy use and environmental impact, plus attract eco-minded guests.
  • American Food Fair: U.S. Food producers and processors seeking export
  • Fast Innovation of Fast Casual & Pizza Summit – Join us for an exclusive networking event where you’ll learn from those innovating in strategic, market-savvy ways in this wildly successful foodservice concept. And walk away with ideas how to implement their key learnings into your own operation. (Separate registration required). Saturday 20 May between 8:15am to 3:00pm For more information, please visit here.
  • Foodservice at Retail Conference – Foodservice in grocery and c-stores continues to grow at an exponential rate. Let NRA Show’s Foodservice @ Retail Summit help you tap into this dynamic segment’s great potential. Sunday 21 May 21 and Monday 22 May. For more information, please visit here.
  • Non-Commercial Conference – This is a one-day conference built around topics that are unique to the education and health care space. Attendees can learn insigths at this new conference that tackles issues ranging from food sourcing, concept development, and adapting to ever shifting palates. Monday 22 May. For more information, please visit here.

Free education sessions on the show floor

Walk away inspired, informed, and ready to take on your big challenges. For four days and innumerous learning opportunities for attendees to refresh their skills about workforce development, business operations, food & nutrition and technology. All sessions are great, we recommend many including:

  • Saturday 20 May – 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM – Trends in Training: The Substance Behind the Buzzwords – Workforce Development
  • Saturday 20 May – 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM – Keeping Your Great Food Safe – Food & Nutrition
  • Saturday 20 May – 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM – Brand Buzz: 3 Breakthrough Secrets for Building a Winning Brand – Business Operations
  • Sunday 21 May – 10:00 AM – 10:45 AM – Attracting and Retaining Talent in a Challenging Environment – Workforce Development
  • Sunday 21 May – 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM – The Impact of Customer-Facing Technology on Restaurant Design – Business Operations
  • Monday 22 May – 12:00 PM – 12:45 PM – Key Trends Shaping the Future of Foodservice – Business Operations
  • Tuesday 23 May- 10:00 AM – 10:45 AM – Global Innovation: What We Can Learn from the Best New Concepts – Business Operations

Whatever you are hoping to see in at the show, enjoy and take in as much as you can. A final words of advice: comfortable shoes are recommended – there’s a lot of show floor to cover.


Bill Main FCSI compares the merits of social media versus the value of word of mouth recommendation in foodservice

As the world of technology continues to explode, some principles never change. As a consultant, my clients want ‘new’, ‘exciting’, ‘breakthrough’, ‘different’ and ‘innovative’.

Take media, for example. Social media in particular. The wave of the future; the next generation of marketing outreach, the next bandwagon to jump on. Yet, I’ve always believed that the most powerful form of advertising is ‘word-of-mouth’.

As a foodservice and hospitality marketer, there is no rule, law, or principle more powerful. Those words are as absolute as gravity, death and taxes. They are non-negotiable.

Yet, when I hear the hysterical pitch from the social media professionals, advocating (at least) 1% or more of annual sales to be spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a dozen others, my eyes glaze over. Social media has, in many ways, replaced mass media (TV, print radio, etc) as the “spray and pray” medium of choice. It seems we are always looking for the shortcut, the quick fix, the sure-fire way to boost sales.

But, the consumer knows. When we want a recommendation for a restaurant, a baby sitter or a car repair facility, we ask our friends.

Why things catch on

Then I read the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. The best $15 I ever spent. Berger challenges conventional wisdom by asking this simple question, that I invite you to ask in your day-to-day associations: What percentage of word of mouth recommendation do you think happens online?

Always the curious and skeptical consultant, I took his challenge and asked 25 professionals I knew the same question. The average answer I received comported exactly to his prediction…50%.

Yet, the actual number from Berger’s research is 7%. Not 47%, not 27%, but 7%. One in 14 people are getting (formerly) personalized word-of-mouth suggestions online.

Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7% of word of mouth happens online.

Why is this? Because the power of personal word of mouth is measured by an intangible common to us all: emotion. And emotion triggers decisions. Whether to select a certain coffee brand, a restaurant, or a specific television program.

Want to understand emotion, and how it affects the contagious nature of word-of-mouth?

Watch this clip.

Observe, in all it’s glorious, ugly and painful detail, the judges and their smirking arrogance and egotistical prejudice. Their condescension, their attitude of so-called “competitive wisdom”, starkly and boldly presented, easily comparable to the belief that social media is the next marketing and communication medium.

When you finish watching, you will truly understand the power of emotion and how it triggers word-of-mouth. I love Jonah Berger’s book, I’ve read it twice, and continue to use its lessons every day in my practice.

Bill Main FCSI

With an attendee list set to top 67,000 foodservice professionals, NRA Show 2017 is a huge event with plenty to appeal to consultants, operators and manufacturers alike

More than 67,000 foodservice professionals are expected to attend the 2017 National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show, held May 20-23 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Roughly 2,300 exhibitors will represent 900-plus product categories, while celebrity chefs like Rick Bayless, Maneet Chauhan and Fabio Viviani will demonstrate different dishes at the World Culinary Showcase, running all four days.

“The renowned celebrity chefs participating in this year’s World Culinary Showcase demonstrate some of the first-class techniques, tips, and tricks that catapulted them into the spotlight,” says Eyvazian. “Their combined expertise and insights are part of what makes the NRA Show 2017 a one-stop destination for any foodservice operator.”

Education, education, education 

As always, each day will feature a packed lineup of education sessions, and this year, they’ve been capped at 30 minutes and moved from the upstairs conference rooms to right on the show floor so that everyone pressed for time can attend. Consultants might find particular interest in Introducing Generation Z; Sustainability Trends and Tips; The Impact of Customer-Facing Technology on Restaurant Design; Robots in Foodservice, and Global Innovation: What We Can Learn from the Best New Concepts.

Two Summits at the Show will dive deep into the world of retail and non-commercial foodservice operations. As foodservice in grocery and c-stores continue to grow at an exponential rate, the NRA Show has expanded its Foodservice @ Retail Summit, held Sunday, May 21-Monday, May 22, with a presentation on the latest trends by Technomic as well as a tour at Latinicity and presentation of the Latin food hall’s founder, Richard Sandoval.

The Non-Commercial Summit, held on Monday, May 22, will address various topics impacting K-12, healthcare and college/university operators such as healthy foods, technology/online ordering and more.

Back for its third year at the NRA Show, Startup Alley will showcase emerging, tech-savvy startups in the restaurant technology space.

Plant-based foods, premium authentic beverages, new bakery products, and more are among the 36 FABI Award recipients selected this year.

“The FABI Awards offer restaurant operators an inside look at the future of food and beverage as the industry continues to innovate and move forward,” says Eyvazian. “It’s very exciting to discover new flavors, on-trend menu items, and delicious food that’s both nutritious and allergy-friendly.”

FCSI will not have a booth at the show, according to Wade Koehler CAE, executive director of FCSI The Americas, but he encourages everyone to attend the annual networking and cocktail party, hosted by The Upper Midwest Chapter, at The Godfrey Hotel’s Urban Roofscape Lounge on Sunday, May 21, from 5pm to 7pm.

2017 Kitchen Innovations® (KI) Awards

This highly-anticipated lineup of new, innovative equipment this year features 18 selected solutions to address operator concerns from labor, energy and water efficiency to food safety, sanitation, cross-functionality and space-saving.

“The engineers and inventors who develop these KI Award innovations work tirelessly to solve the challenges of back-of-the-house operations, to the great benefit of restaurant operators,” says Atour Eyvazian, convention chair for NRA Show 2017 and multiunit owner of 107 Jack in the Box restaurants in Houston and San Antonio. “The KI award is a testament to their contributions in improving the foodservice industry.”

Among this year’s winners are a multi-cook oven, a dual zone egg station for all-day breakfast, a high efficiency warewasher with drain water energy recovery, a hot water glasswasher using reverse-osmosis filtration to eliminate the need for hand polishing, a hot-holding cabinet with a touchscreen display to show what’s being held across the kitchen, an induction cooktop that works with any kind of pan, a silverware rolling machine, a convection oven with removable, dishwasher-safe doors, and more.

This year’s Kitchen Innovations judges included Dan Bendall FCSI (Principal, FoodStrategy, Inc.); David Chislett (executive principal, Ricca Design Studios); Jeff Cook (chief engineer, Restaurant Solutions Group, McDonald’s Corporation); Richard Eisenbarth FCSI (president / COO, Cini-Little International); Foster F. Frable, Jr. FCSI Associate AIA (president, Clevenger Frable LaVallee); Randy Homer (program manager, Food & Beverage Operations Asset Management, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts); Jim Krueger, Jr., CMCE, NRAMF (chief, Air Force Food & Beverage Policy, Procedures, Business Development & Strategic Initiatives Air Force Services Activity [AFSVA] San Antonio, TX); Aaron Lamotte (senior director, Performance Interiors
, Sodexo Performance Interiors), and Steve Otto (director, Capital Equipment Purchasing, Darden).

Amelia Levin

When it comes to mobile ordering and payment systems, the times are changing. Avanti Commerce's Jason Strashek looks at what the latest innovation means for the QSR industry

Since 2010, mobile order and pay platforms and applications have been gaining traction. Companies like Starbucks, Subway, and Panera Bread are ahead of the curve. As a result, other companies are playing catch up. Around the world, quick service restaurants (QSRs) are investing tens of millions of dollars to offer mobile on-the-go service to their customers. The most important element of these services is speed and convenience. This means one thing for those working in the industry, they can either adapt to the changes, or get left behind.

Keep up or get left behind

As these restaurants continue to streamline, they are doing two things to stand out. First, they’re offering more competitive pricing. Second, they’re creating VIP incentives to create relationships with their most loyal customers. What makes one restaurant stand above another is the integration of technology. This is minimizing the need for human interaction, and where it could have an impact is the industry’s workforce. Right now, technology at QSRs has the potential to cut out servers and cashiers altogether. However, it is creating an opportunity for growth in other areas; most notably in customer service.

The integration of automation

There’s no doubt that the foodservice industry is becoming more automated. Technology is changing, and will continue to change the way restaurants are laid out and how customers experience and interact with brands. From my perspective, the biggest change is that technology will eliminate the need to line up for a cashier to take your order. In many restaurants, the amount of seating will be reduced. When customers arrive, they will be greeted at the entrance by a host. The layout will evolve and the structure will allow customers to easily pick up their order. Once customers move past the entrance, there will be a series of pick-up windows or wickets, where customers will collect their orders. The most important element, convenience, means customers’ orders will be ready for pickup by the time they arrive. Most notably, the level of human interaction will be decided upon by the customer. Customers will have the option to grab and go, or stay and interact with staff.

Looking to the future

The last piece of the puzzle is what this means for the QSR industry workforce. There’s no denying the role of the worker will evolve. However, the streamlining of the industry does not necessarily mean lost jobs. What it means is that those jobs will evolve and become more customer service oriented. Less time will be spent taking routine orders, because that will be done ahead of time. Instead, the purpose of the employee with be to welcome customers and if they choose to stay, to make sure their experience is as service-oriented as possible. Technology has already affected the way QSRs function. From my perspective, this is just the beginning. Perhaps Howard Schultz’s ‘Third Place’ will come to fruition after all.


About Jason Strashek:

With more than a decade of experience in the ever-growing mobile commerce industry, Jason Strashek has gone from working across initial trials of mobile ordering for major brands such as McDonalds, Starbucks, and Panera Bread to creating his own company: Avanti Commerce. Avanti Commerce is the company behind Subway Restaurants’ highly successful entry into global mobile ordering. After selling the majority of the company to Subway, and faced with the opportunity to retire early, Jason relaunched Avanti; tailoring the platform, taking the most powerful parts, and adapting it for use amongst restaurants of any size.


A new report shares insights into the behaviours and attitudes to dining at home, at work and in restaurants among Mexican consumers

The prevailing trends among diners in Mexico are increasingly shaped by their busy lifestyles. That’s according to a new survey from Culinary Visions Panel. The research and trend forecasting firm surveyed more than 1,000 consumers about their opinions and behaviours related to eating at home, at restaurants and in their workplace.

It is the overriding theme of Mexico’s Global Dining Survey, which also outlines five main insights that are important to Mexican consumers where their eating habits are concerned.

“Mexico’s consumers are increasingly looking for dining options which are both convenient and save them time,” says Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions Panel. “Besides caring about convenience, Mexican consumers also desire additional dining choices such as kid-friendly restaurants, quality products and restaurants that cater to dietary needs. They also have an increased appetite for global and specialty regional foods that they find difficult to make on their own.”

The survey found that over three quarters (76%) of the respondents found sharing a meal at home with the family remains important while 69% valued preparing a meal together as a family. Child-friendly restaurants hold an overwhelming importance to Mexicans when compared to the attitudes of other nations – 63% of those surveyed said this was important as opposed to 35% in other countries.

Food trust is another issue highlighted in the report. The consensus among a majority of responders (76%) was that it is important they trust the restaurants and supermarket delis they visit while 68% preferred to shop at local fresh markets because they know and trust the vendors.

Mexican consumers also differ from other countries when it comes to choosing restaurants based on their dietary needs, with 66% of those surveyed stating that having choices that meet their dietary needs was important. Of the responders 52% said restaurants catering to individual dietary needs was important versus 39% in other countries.

Fitting with the busy lifestyle issue, the survey found that convenience drives demand in Mexico – 58% said that quick and easy drive their choices when eating at work while 51% said they preferred shopping at a deli as opposed to the market because it is more convenient. Finally, the panel concluded that Mexican diners are driven by an interest in global and innovative regional foods – 75% said they enjoy ordering Mexican food when eating out, 69% appreciate international foods and 45% said they loved ordering American food. Convenience plays into this too as 63% said they lacked the time to prepare international foods. Among their national food Oaxacan cuisine remains a favourite with 65% of diners saying it is the most innovative in the country.

Culinary Visions Panel believe the findings reflect a desire for big quality ingredients, preserving family values and innovative cuisine even in the face of a shortage of time.

Tina Nielsen




Plant-based foods, premium authentic beverages and new bakery products among F&B products showcasing ground-breaking developments at NRA Show 2017

The National Restaurant Association has announced the recipients of the 2017 Food and Beverage (FABI) Awards, recognizing innovative food and beverage products that make a significant impact in the restaurant industry. Each award recipient and their product will be showcased throughout the exhibit halls at the NRA Show 2017, held from 20-23 May 2017 in Chicago at McCormick Place.

This year’s 36 FABI Award recipients were selected based on their positive benefits to restaurant operators and consumers by an independent panel of experts, representing a variety of both commercial and non-commercial industry segments.

“The FABI Awards offer restaurant operators an inside look at the future of food and beverage as the industry continues to innovate and move forward,” says Atour Eyvazian, convention chair for NRA Show 2017 and multiunit owner of 107 Jack in the Box restaurants in Houston and San Antonio. “It’s very exciting to discover new flavors, on-trend menu items, and delicious food that’s both nutritious and allergy-friendly.”

Registration is now open to attend the NRA Show for $75 (until 7 April) at

The 2017 FABI Award recipients include:

ACE Bakery®/Weston Foods

Baguette Bagel

Handcrafted using nothing but simple ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast) and absolutely no preservatives, Baguette Bagels possess a creamy texture, airy interior and crisp, golden crust—the same characteristics we love in a French baguette, but in the shape of this iconic staple!

Arriving frozen and pre-sliced for limited waste and flexibility, these non-GMO bagels are lighter, and have fewer calories per serving than traditional bagels.


Atalanta Corporation

Roasted Porchetta with Herbs

Made using pork loins wrapped in pork belly, this flavorful, all-natural Porchetta is marinated in a scented brine of traditional Tuscan herbs and spices for 48 hours before being slow roasted for over 10 hours and glazed with the same spice mix.


Beyond Meat®

The Beyond Burger®

The world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks and satisfies like fresh ground beef, The Beyond Burger is non-GMO, soy free and gluten-free, providing a delicious way for consumers to reduce their red meat intake. Although completely plant-based, it cooks through like a regular burger, features the same juicy deliciousness, but with a better nutritional profile than ground beef including 20g of protein per serving.



Individually Wrapped Ciabatta Bites

These award-winning Ciabatta Bites now come individually wrapped in heatable packaging, allowing operators to keep the breads both warm and individually sealed, improving inventory management and waste. Fully baked and frozen for maximum flexibility, the bread contains no preservatives or additives; is Non-GMO Project Verified as well as Kosher and Vegan; and has a barcode if sold at retail.



Original Flat Sandwich Bun

Recognizing consumer demand to minimize calories, Boulart has transformed its classic Ciabatta recipe into a much thinner profile while maintaining the same airy texture, crispy crust and holding power. Fully baked and frozen to allow for quick reheating and waste reduction, the pre-sliced bun contains no preservatives or additives and is Non-GMO Project Verified, Vegan and Kosher.



Olive Oil and Fine Herbs Focaccia

Made with simple ingredients like olive oil, sea salt and herbs, this focaccia comes fully baked and frozen, so it can be thawed or reheated as needed, a great way to reduce kitchen waste and manage inventory. Non-GMO Project Verified, Vegan, Parve and free of additives and preservatives, this deliciously versatile bread is perfect for sandwiches, a pizza base or just by itself.


The Coca-Cola Company

Barrilitos Aguas Frescas

Delivering a refreshing, naturally flavored taste with only 50-60 calories per 8-oz. serving, this line of aguas frescas consists of lightly sweetened, flavor-enhanced water beverages available in seven flavors, including fruit fusions and authentic Mexican flavors like Horchata and Tamarind. All are flavored with real fruit juices, purees and/or spices—perfect for the consumers who want less sugar without sacrificing taste.


Colonel Pabst

Worcestershire Sauce

Flexible as a marinade, finishing sauce and cocktail complement, this small-batch Worcestershire Sauce from an old Pabst Family recipe using all-malt Milwaukee lager beer and 20 other all-natural ingredients from around the world, is simply the finest, most flavorful on the market today.


Diamond Crystal Brands

Salt for Life Stick and Canister

Using a revolutionary processing technology from NuTek Food Science, Salt for Life combines potassium salt with sodium salt to create a product that contains 50% less sodium than table salt, while still delivering the same taste and performance as full sodium salt(s). Salt for Life greatly improves the nutritional profiles of all foods by replacing this sodium with potassium, an essential and greatly under-consumed nutrient. This clean label, GMO Free and naturally sourced blend is available in canisters for back-of-house usage by chefs, or individual sticks for front-of-house use by health-conscious patrons.


The Eli’s Cheesecake Company

Butter Tart

Handmade in small batches with the finest ingredients, Eli’s Butter Tart offers an upscale dessert experience in a versatile format: bulk for foodservice or individually wrapped for grab-and-go applications. Certified kosher and shipped frozen to cut down on waste, this decadent dessert—a sweet, gooey, chewy filling baked in a crisp all-butter pâte sucrée crust—is delicious served warm or cold.


The Eli’s Cheesecake Company

Salted Caramel Tart

Chef-created in a three-inch serving size, this decadent tart features salted caramel topped with rich milk chocolate ganache sprinkled with sea salt and layered atop a scratch-made all-butter pâte sucrée crust. Certified kosher and available individually wrapped or in bulk packs, Eli’s Salted Caramel Tart ships frozen, providing operators a sophisticated and flexible pre-packaged dessert option.


FGF Brands, Inc.

Stonefire Ancient Grain Mini Naan

Baked on stone in a tandoor oven at high heat to create the signature bubbles and texture found in traditional naan, Stonefire Ancient Grain Mini Naan—made with ancient grains, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, kamut and a touch of honey—taps into consumer desire for high-quality, authentic, healthy and great-tasting artisanal products.


FGF Brands, Inc.

Stonefire Fire Roasted Garlic Naan

Made in small batches with authentic ingredients such as fresh buttermilk, ghee, fire-roasted garlic and cilantro, the naan is then hand-stretched and baked on stone in a tandoor oven at high heat, resulting in large bubbles, smoky flavor and an airy texture. Free from artificial preservatives and flavors, this artisanal bread delivers exceptional taste, texture and appearance.


Franz Bakery

Brazi Bites

A perfect blend of the finest, hand-picked ingredients—like fresh cheese, eggs and milk—Brazi Bites Brazilian Cheese Bread are crispy outside, fluffy inside and simply delightful. And because it uses tapioca flour, it’s naturally gluten-free. Whether served hot from the oven, as an appetizer or side dish, Brazi Bites are designed to go from freezer to oven with no prep to keep versatility high and low labor and waste.


Franz Bakery

Gluten-Free Breads

Designed for consumers looking for gluten-based offerings, these breads, buns and bagels aren’t dense and dry like most gluten-free products. Free of wheat, soy, dairy and nuts, they can be served fresh, as a component in a recipe, or toasted. Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) allows for extended shelf life, cutting down on waste and preserving freezer space.


The J.M. Smucker Company ©/®

Sahale Snacks® Bars

Crafted with thoughtfully sourced ingredients that offer balanced flavors and delightful textures, each snack bar pairs Sahle Snacks signature glazed nuts with fruits and spices blended in crispy puffed ancient grains and layered on creamy cashew nut butter. With 5g of protein per bar and no artificial ingredients, Sahale Snacks Bars are the perfect portable snack to recharge the body and mind.


Kiki’s Gluten-Free Foods, LLC.

Gluten-Free Biscuit Sandwich

The first frozen gluten-free biscuit sandwich now available in foodservice is the perfect breakfast or lunch option for gluten-free consumers on the go. Individually wrapped in plastic to prevent gluten cross-contamination and available in a variety of options, these delicious biscuit sandwiches can be microwaved from frozen or quickly baked and kept under warming lights for over an hour without getting soggy.


Mike’s Hot Honey

Mike’s Hot Honey

Featuring a flavor profile of sweet honey that gives way to a slow, intense heat blooming on the back of the palate, this chili pepper-infused honey makes for an incredibly versatile condiment, pairing deliciously with pizza, chicken, ribs, biscuits, salads, cheese—even ice cream and cocktails. Made with honey sourced from upstate New York and chili peppers from Brazil, Mike’s Hot Honey takes ordinary dishes to the next level.


Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company

Freshly Handcrafted Blood Orange Juice

Handcrafted from the highest quality, fresh Sicilian blood oranges, this juice is minimally processed and clean labeled; free from preservatives, flavor packs, concentrates and artificial ingredients. Natalie’s Blood Orange Juice is produced in small batches to retain quality and nutrition. Prefect as a mixer, a beverage or even an ingredient, Blood Orange Juice provides restaurants and bars with a nutritious and unique option.


PepsiCo Foodservice

Sabra Guac N Go

A delicious, convenient snack divided into two compartments, one containing a serving of SABRA® guacamole made with ripe, fresh Hass avocados, the other crispy TOSTITOS ROLLS™. At 2.8 oz., SABRA GUAC N GO delivers 60% more product with approximately 15% fewer calories than comparable products.


PepsiCo Foodservice


STUBBORN SODA® is a line of premium, boldly flavored sodas made without compromise, delivering unexpected flavor combinations such as Black Cherry with Tarragon and Lemon Berry Acai without using High Fructose Corn Syrup, artificial flavors or sweeteners. It’s available on fountain and now in 12-oz. glass bottles, each containing 90-100 calories.


Pinnacle Foods Group

Duncan Hines® Perfect Size® for 1 Cakes

With many unique varieties available, including Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Chip Muffin, Carrot Cake and Confetti Cake, these conveniently pre-portioned, pre-mixed cake mixes come in a pouch. Just add water and bake in any microwave safe cup, bowl, mug or dish for a delicious cake in about a minute.


Pinnacle Foods Group

Gardein™ Meatless Italian Pizza Crumbles

Seasoned with garlic, spices and red bell pepper, this versatile, completely vegan meatless pork crumble simulates the texture and flavor of real pork meat. Perfect as a pizza topping, in a sauce, or part of a stuffing, it couldn’t be easier to use—just bake, grille or sauté right out of the package.


Powell & Mahoney, Ltd.

Blood Orange Ginger Beer

Naturally flavored with ginger, cane sugar and blood orange extract, Blood Orange Ginger Beer puts an innovative twist on traditional Ginger Beer, its’ combination of tang, sweetness and spice allowing for a complex cocktail. Packaged in single-serve cans for ease of use and waste reduction, the beverage makes a perfect base for cocktails such as the Moscow Mule and Dark & Stormy, and can also be offered as a unique mocktail.


Red Gold

Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce Ketchup

Combining intensely flavorful sun-ripened chili peppers, garlic and premium tomato ketchup made with real sugar (not high fructose corn syrup), Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce Ketchup delivers the delicious taste that consumers demand in hotter and spicier foods. Whether served from 8gr packets, 20oz squeeze bottles or 1.5gal dispenser pouches, it is the perfect addition of sweet heat in your condiment lineup that is sure to drive sales growth of your signature sandwiches, side dishes and appetizers.


Rishi Tea

Rishi Craft Brew

Sure to disrupt the rapidly expanding draft beverage market, this innovative draft tea beverage—produced by the artful combination of old school micro-brew methods and new school cold-brew techniques—offers the hydrating effect of coconut water, the buzz of cold-brew coffee and the healthful appeal of kombucha. Each keg is brewed from premium organic tea leaves and botanicals and, unlike tap kombucha, the beverage contains no added sugar and is virtually calorie-free.


Sabatino Tartufi

Truffle Zest

A revolutionary powdered form of truffles, Truffle Zest is the perfect seasoning for pastas, pizzas, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, rice, meats and more! Offered in a range of sizes, easily sprinkle it onto any dish, fold into butter or mix into sauces! It’s the low-calorie, low-sodium way to get truffle flavor into a dish—at a fraction of the price.


Sevillo Fine Foods

Harissa Sauce

Often referred to by chefs as the next Sriracha, Harissa packs a spicy punch with its aromatic blend of red chili peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar and spices. Sevillo Harissa Sauce is all-natural, preservative-free and made with the highest-quality ingredients. Delivered frozen, Harissa is ready to thaw and serve, saving chefs hours of prep and cook time. This flavorful, versatile sauce has a five-week refrigerated shelf life.


Sevillo Fine Foods

Slow Roasted Tomato Sofrito

This healthy and delicious blend of diced slow-roasted tomatoes, lightly sautéed onions, the finest oil, herbs and spices can be used as a sauce, spread or base for a variety of dishes, including salsas, stews, rice and meats. All-natural, preservative-free and made with artisan-quality ingredients, Sevillo Slow Roasted Sofrito saves chefs hours of prep and cook time. Delivered frozen, Sofrito is ready to thaw and serve, with a five-week refrigerated shelf life.


SIPP eco beverage co., Inc.

Sipp Sparkling Organics™

USDA-certified organic and free from preservatives, artificial flavors or coloring, Sipp fills the niche between traditional soda and sparkling water. Lightly sweetened with agave and featuring multiple layers of unique flavors, this craft soda is packaged in 10.5-ounce slim cans to deliver less sugar and calories than traditional 12-ounce sizes, while also keeping the beverage colder longer and the carbonation just right.


Sir Kensington’s


This vegan mayonnaise utilizes aquafaba, a natural byproduct of the chickpea cooking process, as the egg replacement, creating a more natural-tasting mayo product. With no soy, egg, pea, or otherwise modified protein powder, the texture and taste are second-to-none. Fabanaise is the first commercial product to use aquafaba, making it appealing to those drawn to egg-free innovation.


Sweet Street

Individually Wrapped Manifesto™ Cookies and Bars

Made with high-quality ingredients such as sustainable Peruvian chocolate and hormone-free dairy, these convenient grab-and-go snacks—free of high fructose corn syrup, GMOs and artificial colors and flavorings—come in five decadent flavors, including chocolate-chip cookies and brownies.


Sweet Street

Manifesto™ Bake-off Cookies

Featuring eight decadently wholesome flavors, every batch of these handcrafted cookies starts with all-butter dough mixed with sustainable chocolates and cage-free eggs. Free of High Fructose Corn Syrup, artificial colors or flavorings and GMOs, Manifesto Bake-off Cookies aren’t just delicious, they’re in line with trending consumer demands and purchase habits.


Venice Bakery

Gluten-Free Dough Ball

Formulated with a consistency that’s easy to work with, the Gluten-Free Dough Ball bakes like traditional pizza dough, with beautiful golden brown air bubbles and a light, perfectly chewy bite. Conveniently shipped in individual bags to reduce the risk of cross contamination, the dough is ready to slack-out and proof, reducing labor and space required to make dough from scratch.


Vidalia Brands®

Vidalia® Dressings

Based on Southern family recipes, these decadent dressings come in six new varieties, each showcasing the unmistakably sweet flavor of Vidalia onions. Made from all-natural ingredients to satisfy health-conscious consumers, each dressing is gluten-free and contains no preservatives, MSG, artificial colors or flavors, trans fats or high fructose corn syrup.


Wild Flour Bakery, LLC.

Gluten Free Dough; Pizza & Hoagie Rolls Ready to Bake

Artisan, small-batch and 100% yeast-raised, Wild Flour Bakery has created the only gluten-free pizza dough in the industry able to take the 900+ °F temps of wood, coal, gas or infrared ovens without parbaking or burned edges. Press out or shape to create derivative products, including calzones, Stromboli, bread sticks, even sweet rolls—it’s all the flexibility offered by wheat dough but without gluten, eggs, corn or soy. Also available as fresh, soft Hoagie Rolls.


About The FABI Awards:

The FABI Award recipients are chosen by an independent panel of expert judges. They come from across foodservice, and represent some of the industry’s most well-known brands and organizations. The 2017 FABI judges include:

  • Timothy J. Dietzler, director of dining services, Villanova University
  • Lori Estrada, senior vice president of R&D, Wendy’s
  • Christopher Koetke, CEC CCE HAAC, vice president, The School of Culinary Arts, Kendall College
  • John Li, senior vice president of RD, Bloomin’ Brands
  • Robin Rosenberg, vice president, chef de cuisine, Levy Restaurants
  • Lee Ann Shaw, global procurement director hot beverages and snacks, Aramark
  • Bret Thorn, Senior Food Editor, Nation’s Restaurant News

Each recipient and their product will be showcased at NRA Show 2017. As the global restaurant and hospitality industry’s premier trade show, NRA Show brings together more restaurant and hospitality buyers and equipment manufacturers than any other industry event. To register, please visit For more information about the FABI program and this year’s award recipients, visit



Cini-Little International’s Ted Farrand FCSI examines how self checkout has become mainstream in corporate dining

Self-checkout has become a popular method of paying at grocery stores and big box retail giants. Retailers love it because it reduces the number of cashiers they must hire. Shoppers love it because it’s fast, especially if you just have one or two items. Now, many corporations have embraced the self-checkout concept for their on-site foodservice venues. Originally just for convenience outlet applications, self-checkout has become a valued method of payment in full-size cafeterias as well.

Now that self-checkout has crossed over into the full-service categories, one provider told me he had over 70 devices installed around the country. As operators begin to embrace this technology, they’re finding that they can save dramatically on labor without huge upfront costs.

In a full-service cafeteria setting, the program works similar to the self-checkout stations in grocery stores, which use scales and pre-programmed item numbers to read and price out purchases. At the made-to-order stations, foodservice employees prepare and serve foods that are portioned onto plates that are weighed out and priced without the need to scan bar codes. This works for salad bar items as well.

Other systems allow employees to scan their ID badge on a Pad device to place their orders, and then they can pay using touch screen technology. Some systems use a printed card for each food item served. The employee takes a reusable card and uses it to check out, leaving the card behind for reuse by others. Still other applications include a partial order/delivery system for orders that will need to be prepared. The orders go to remote printers and order queue management screens at the appropriate station. The customer then selects a table in the dining area, and the system, using an RFID tracker, locates the customer and the foodservice employee will then deliver the order to the table.

The systems using 100 percent self-checkout cashiering tend to work best in small to medium sized employee populations (up to 1,000). Larger cafeterias might run more smoothly with a “hybrid” system, incorporating both self-checkout stations and staffed cashier stations. Although employees can complete their purchase transactions quickly, heavy demand periods typically require this combination as the staffed cashier stations can process the customers even faster, helping to reduce wait times at checkout.

Labor savings

Self-checkout systems can also be converted almost instantly to full-service if needed, and vice versa during slow periods, which can then operate as 100 percent self-checkout. This allows operators to dramatically cut back on labor during slower periods of the week.

In speaking with operators who have used these self-checkout systems, training tends to run smoothly. At the same time, customers report ease of use with these systems thanks to their intuitive nature. Still, some cafeterias staff one or more foodservice employees near the self-checkout station areas to assist with any problems. This is another way operators can cut back on labor, reassigning employees who would normally fully staff the cashier stations to not only help enhance the guest experience, but also tend to other needs and tasks during busy times.

Another benefit of self-checkout systems is that they allow operators to open up their recruiting efforts to a wider range of employees. Because these systems are so self-run and intuitive and they cut back on the need for extra customer interfacing, operators can employ people of different skill sets.

Self-checkout systems also enhance customer customization, i.e., allowing them to order exactly what they want, which is a huge demand among consumers – especially younger ones – right now, who want more control over their ordering and payment methods.

Self-checkout systems, like digital ordering, also improve order accuracy. Instead of customers yelling their orders to staffers behind a counter, they can simply plug in what they want – no matter how complex – at the station, at a kiosk, or online, and know they’re going to get what they ordered. As long as the employees are well-trained on the system, customers can also rest assured they will receive that order in a timely fashion.

This “real time” recording of purchases also helps management monitor inventory and menu development, increasing or decreasing production of certain items depending on sales. They can also use this information to forecast food preparation needs, thereby reducing waste.

For cafeterias using self-checkout systems and online ordering, many have opted to segregate orders in a different refrigerator or holding system or use special labels to indicate these items have already been purchased. Separate counters can also be used.

Reward programs

Operators can also use self-checkout systems as a tie-in to their client’s corporate wellness programs that reward employees for choosing healthy items since there is a full record of what each employee purchased. Other systems are linked with personal fitness apps that record foods chosen at home, restaurants, and the corporate cafeteria for total monitoring of consumption. A survey feature can be included, asking for comments from the customers, which again, is instantly transmitted to management for acceptance levels and also to correct any problems quickly.

Though there are many pros with self-checkout systems, there are some cons to consider. The costs of these systems are slightly higher than conventional POS systems, but with the permanent labor savings, the payback time can be very short. The costs for both the conventional POS and self-checkout systems include the hardware, the license fee for the software, and annual upgrades.

Introducing the system to a workforce in an industry segment that may hesitate to embrace it can also pose challenges. However, using focus groups and floating foodservice staff for customer assistance helps introduce these systems to the employees.

Another drawback may occur when adding this system to a full-size cafeteria with staffed cashier stations that are on a completely different accounting system than the self-checkout system, requiring reports to be combined to get complete results.

For many operators, however, the labor savings, minimal training requirements and improvements in order accuracy, speed of service and customization greatly outweigh the pros. As such, self-checkout systems continue to become widely popular in the foodservice community with advantages that can benefit all parties.

Ted Farrand FCSI is director of management advisory services (MAS) at Cini-Little International, Inc., Washington, D.C.,