FS/Tec, NAFEM highlight future trends
Click here to view a slideshow of the 2007 FS/Tec and NAFEM show.
 
Video-game and online-ordering capabilities are two technology trends pizzeria operators can count on to boost future sales.
 
During the 2007 co-located International Foodservice Technology Exposition and North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers show, held last week in Atlanta, pizzeria and foodservice representatives were given a futuristic look at the technology and equipment set to change the restaurant-industry landscape.
 
In the Microsoft suite, designed to look more like a living room than the hub of technology innovation, the company unveiled its plan to offer ordering capabilities via video games.
 
Through its 2006 acquisition of in-game marketing firm Massive Inc., Microsoft is looking at the evolution of consumers' interaction with advertisements, said Tom Litchford, industry director of retail and hospitality for Microsoft Corp.  
 
Microsoft is working with Massive to develop a solution that would enable video-game players to temporarily stop their game and order and pay for delivery items from within the game. The pizza chain, such as Papa John's as an example, would be depicted as an advertising partner. (Massive's in-game advertising solution depicts brands in various forms within the game — on soft-drink cans and pizza boxes, in images on TV screens — where gamers would expect to see them in real life.)
 
The target audience is 18-35 year olds.
Serving bowls such as these melamine plastic ones were a few of the dishes on display at the 2007 NAFAM show in Atlanta.
POS solutions
 
Point-of-sale integration also was an industry hot topic during FS/Tec, in it's 12th year of iteration.
 
Restaurant operators need to look for reliability and brand recognition when it comes to finding the right POS solution, said Steve Schoenecker, product and engineering manager, information systems, for Panasonic System Solutions Company.
 
Panasonic unveiled its Stingray hardware platform, designed for operator ease-of-use, during the show.  
   
"I just see integration coming into more parts and pieces, such as fryers and dryers, as a way to share information from one system to another," said Dan Linker, director of support services for Louisville, Ky.-based QSR Automations.
 
At the show, QSR Automations launched its ConnectSmart GuestView and Alerts solutions, along with new enhancements to its kitchen automation software and hardware technologies.
 
While some operators may be quick to jump on the technology bandwagon, Linker said restaurateurs should look for flexibility and stability when reviewing technology solutions for their restaurants.
 
"Every chain is different, and some piece of an application may pertain to one but not to all," he said.
 
Serviceability also was an industry focus during the show, with companies such as Par Technology Corp., MICROS Systems Inc., NCR Corp. and Panasonic unveiling hardware and software solutions designed to fit the "one throat to choke" method of service — that is, to give customers one company to call no matter what goes wrong with the system.
 
Micros unveiled its Simphony enterprise POS solution, which can be either self- or company-hosted in one of Micros' datacenters. If the solution is cut from a wireless area network, an operator still can ring transactions at the local level, said Louise Casamento, Micros vice president of marketing and customer relations.
 
The solution utilizes a service-oriented architecture — an architectural style whose goal is to achieve loose coupling among interacting software agents — and was shown running on one of the company's workstations.
 
The workstations have become the best-selling terminals in company history; they do not have a hard drive, which is a major preventive against viruses and hackers, Casamento said.
 
Across the room
 
A few quick steps across the aisle led show attendees to the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers show floor where a variety of dough sheeter and divider, refrigeration, water purification and dishwashing systems were on display.
 
Doyon Inc. showcased its newest pizza sheeter, designed to roll 300 pizzas per hour, and the Speed Cook oven. The convection oven is able to save operators up to 50 percent in energy costs, said Karl Doyon, company vice president.
 
In keeping with the recent greening of America, energy efficiency seemed to be the big idea behind a majority of the products.
 
"People can save money not only by cutting costs, but by conserving energy," said Angelo Grillas, product manager for Electrolux Professional North America.
 
Electrolux showcased a wide variety of its refrigeration and dishwashing systems, and unveiled a new ChillBlaster.
 
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Grillas said the proliferation of refrigeration systems on the NAFEM show floor was driven by the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star rating and rebate program.
 
"Refrigerators with the Energy Star rating are the first area where people can save (money)," he said. "Dishwashers will be next."
 
Refrigeration systems also have evolved. Probes can detect the temperature cycle of the box in addition to any temperature variations that may impact Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards. Preset settings that categorize foods such as meats, cheese and vegetables offer additional protection.
 
Water filtration systems also were in abundance on the show floor.
 
Water filtration systems can provide better-tasting water for coffee, tea and other beverages, and reduce the amount of lime scale, said Mickey Hess, regional sales manager for 3M Water Filtration.
 
Among the exhibits of heavy equipment, attendees could view aesthetic accoutrements such as silverware, salt and pepper shakers, and plates.
 
Overall, about 600 exhibitors were in attendance at NAFEM, scheduled to occur as a co-located event again Feb. 7-9, 2009, in Orlando, Fla. Meanwhile, FS/Tec organizers have announced the 2008 exposition will occur in Grapevine, Texas, April 16-19.

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