foodservice

Coffee gets its legs

Adding disposable beverage transports to the lineup can give a jolt to the industry's leading gross profit margin category—hot dispensed beverages— while reinforcing a retailer's brand image. Such bulk transports, pioneered by vendors like LBP Manufacturing (www.lbpmfg.com), enable customers to take multiple cups of coffee—10 to 12 per fill-up—on the move, adding an extra layer of convenience for construction crews, tailgaters, office workers or anyone else in need of large quantities of joe.

Convenience retailers including Royal Farms and Cumberland Farms have already rolled out their own "branded" carafes through vendor International Dispensing Corp. (www.idcdispensing.com). The internal bladders of these durable carafes can hold more than 100 oz. of coffee, and have the ability to keep product hot for up to three hours. At a cost of $3 to $5 per unit for IDC's carafe, the full transport carries an SRP of $9.99 to $12.99. The carafe may also be used to boost sales of hot soup or cold dispensed beverages. BD


Tough glove

As more sophisticated foodservice operations become prevalent in the convenience store industry, so do the possibilities of foodservice-related injuries and illnesses. Retailers must strive to keep employees safe while maintaining quality and efficiency. But they have plenty of options to help take some of the human error out of the food prep process:

  • Cut-resistant gloves. Puncture wounds represent one-tenth of the injuries in the workplace. At costs ranging from $9 to $21, purchasing appropriate gloves can serve as inexpensive insurance for keeping employees' hands puncture-free. Both Daydots (www.daydots.com) and Double D Knitting and Gloves Inc. (www.ddgloves.com) have created lines of gloves made from Spectra Guard material, which offer the highest level of protection for a "wire free" glove available on the market today. The gloves range in size from extra-extrasmall to extra-extra-large, so employees are guaranteed a proper fit. Gloves fit comfortably on the hand without impeding the dexterity of the wearer and are resistant to even the sharpest blades. The gloves are also coated with an antimicrobial protectant, which prevents, reduces and inhibits the growth of bacteria on the glove's surface.
  • Disposable utility knives. Sunoco Inc. (Philadelphia, PA) has begun using a new type of disposable utility knife— known as the X-traSafe line, from vendor Spellbound (www.spellboundinc.com)—to aid in the reduction of employee injuries. The X-traSafe knife, which wholesales for $1.29, has a retractable blade guard and trigger that help reduce lacerations caused by blades slipping off cutting surfaces. One squeeze of the trigger allows for just one cut; as soon as the user completes the intended cut, the guard covers and locks over the blade.
  • Semi-disposable bag openers. Wawa Inc. (Wawa, PA) has invested in another Spellbound invention for its foodservice operations. The Viper (pictured), a semi-disposable bag opener that's much safer than using scissors or knives, wholesales for $1.09. The user simply squeezes the Viper's "jaws" together and pulls it across the top of the bag. This prevents employees from being nicked by a blade, reduces the threat of cross-contamination and keeps broken blades out of the food prep process.
  • Disposable cutting sheets. Daydots also offers disposable cutting and prep sheets, which are durable enough to endure repeated knife cuts during cutting and chopping tasks. They also save time by eliminating the cleaning, sanitizing and drying process for each board, making cleanup more convenient. They are designed with a food preparation ruler to aid employees in making the correct size of slice or dice. Sheets are available in 12" by 18" and 18" by 24" sizes.
  • Self-cleaning counters. Researchers at Penn State University and PPG Industries (www.ppg.com) are trying to develop self-cleaning countertops that kill bacteria on contact. The counters would work much like a self-cleaning glass PPG manufactures that's coated with a thin layer of titanium dioxide. When titanium dioxide is activated by ultraviolet light, it destroys any organic molecules it touches, including dirt. Counters coated with a thin layer of the compound would produce electrically charged particles that rip apart the chemical bonds of bacteria. The slightly charged coating would also be chemically slippery, preventing bacteria from sticking to the surface. KB

'The new sandwich'

America has adopted Mexican food as its own. And 7-Eleven Inc. (Dallas, TX) hopes one day it can say the same of sushi. While sushi is already a staple among the college set, yuppies and consumers living healthier lifestyles on the coasts, 7-Eleven President Jim Keyes hopes to make "onigiri"—also known to the Japanese as rice balls—part of America's collective diet. Rice balls are about as popular in Japan as the sandwich is in the States.

"The movement toward the onigiri, or rice ball product, is certainly in development," Keyes tells Reuters. "But we are probably two or three years away from being able to have the right quality and taste combinations."

Keyes is a realist. He's not considering puffer fish fillets and seaweed rice balls for 7-Eleven's U.S. stores. Rather, he intends to create versions that would appeal to the minds, eyes and stomachs of American customers. Rice balls stuffed with barbecued pulled pork or Cajun beans, for example, might make their way onto the menu. This wouldn't be the chain's first foray into sushi; 7-Eleven has tested sushi in some New York and California stores.

But 7-Eleven isn't the only convenience retailer looking to take a chance with sushi. Bill Knight, an Exxon distributor in South Florida, is building a NexStore Marketplace convenience store with ready-to-go cuisine such as pizza, Cornish game hens and sushi. The store's menu items will be designed by a "recipe engineer" and crafted by on-site chefs. BD


Add a little magic

Retailers looking to lift sagging fountain sales can inject some life into the lineup with customized straws that seem to defy science. The Magic Straw from Whirley Industries/DrinkWorks (www.whirley.com) uses a patented splitstraw design that's so "sleight of hand," it's easy to see how a magician played a part in its creation.

Both a traffic driver and a profit center, the Magic Straw attracts interest because customers of all ages wonder how liquid sipped up the bottom half of the straw can flow into the top half, since the two
straw segments are separated by several inches on either side. Joining the straws in the middle is an action figuretype character that can be customized to the needs of the retailer that sells it.

The use of themed characters as the focal point of the severed straw offers a branding platform to promote cartoon characters, sports and entertainment icons or personalities of any kind. The product incorporates either a stationary molded character or a "bobblehead," enabling retailers to capitalize on public interest in magic and media-driven collectibles. Wholesale pricing is based on minimum orders, but is less than $1 per straw. BD

7ads6x98ycss.php