Order Up — The Growth of Individual Food Preparation

On-campus dining at a university Banquet catering at a country club All-day menu offerings at a bakery-café Drive-thru service at a fast food restaurant

Although all of these foodservice operations value quality, consistency and customer satisfaction, the ways each addresses food preparation varies.

The approach to meal preparation is largely dictated by an operation’s approach to their customers and takes into account a number of considerations, including:

  • Number of customers
  • Speed of delivery
  • Prioritization of the “fresh” proposition
  • Ingredients
  • Available labor
  • Space or footprint for preparing food
  • Daypart(s)

There are situations where the batch preparation of foods makes sense in order to serve a large number of patrons at one time. Foods like rice, vegetables, chili and soups are more heavily used in batch preparation and holding — creating efficiencies and saving labor.

For a majority of QSRs and fast casual restaurants, however, the batch preparation method is not used often; they have evolved to preparing individual, made-to-order meals.

The “fresh to order” trend is being largely driven by younger generations; Gen Z and Millennials not only want higher-quality ingredients, such as organic products and those supported by “farm-to-table” messaging, but they also want everything prepared on site. This perception of freshness is a key advantage for individual meal preparation.

When creating individual servings, equipment plays a pivotal role. Understanding the growing importance of this approach to food preparation, Antunes offers two key pieces of equipment to meet operational needs: the Egg Station and the Jet Steamer.

Some national QSR chains have gone to serving breakfast menu items all day with freshly cracked eggs for individual preparation, while other national chains prepare eggs in batches and rethermalize them on premise, which impacts the perception of freshness and quality.

Antunes Egg Stations with Dual Zone (ESDZ) offer a convenient way to serve freshly cooked eggs on demand, avoiding the food degradation that can occur when an item is pre-cooked and held too long.

Additionally, the recently introduced Antunes Jet Steamer uses bursts of steam to quickly and efficiently prepare small portions of a wide range of foods, including eggs, oatmeal, rice, pasta vegetables, seafood and soups.

The unique shape of the unit’s steaming cup combined with the velocity and temperature of the steam mixes and heats foods significantly faster than traditional methods — from scrambled eggs in 12 seconds to tortellini in 45 seconds.

As chains expand their menus, they are taking into account the growing importance of fresh, made-to-order meals as the target audience shifts to younger generations. The right equipment can turn individual food preparation from an operational challenge to an exciting opportunity.

For further insight into how QSRs can address both quality and speed, check out this article.