The Equipment Factor in Menu Expansion

Collectively, hundreds of new menu items and limited-time offers (LTOs) hit quick service and fast casual restaurant menus each month.

As popular as LTOs are, we can be sure that every time a chain restaurant is adding a new menu item, they aren’t also adding a new piece of equipment to their back-of-house operation.

In a typical scenario, the restaurant chain’s culinary team identifies a new menu item — based on the restaurant’s brand, consumer preferences and trending flavors and ingredients. From there, the operations team is tasked with finding the right equipment to make the conception a reality.

As the equipment packages for the franchisees get bigger (and more expensive), operations are also more sensitive to purchasing a single purpose piece of equipment. Instead, they typically start by seeing what they can do to use existing equipment in an innovative way. If a new piece of equipment does need to be purchased, operations are looking for versatility that can potentially handle other menu items in the future.

With this in mind, many new menu items — whether added permanently or for a limited time — are based on the ingredients the restaurant already has on hand, fixed in a new, different way.

For example, Chick-fil-A’s new Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich features a few new components, such as bacon coated in a brown sugar pepper blend and a Hawaiian style bun, but doesn’t require an equipment overhaul.

Manufacturers can help operations develop the right equipment to handle the new culinary item and educate them on the flexibility of the unit for them to communicate back to the culinary team.

Within Antunes’ portfolio of equipment, there are several products that can help address menu expansions.

In one case, Antunes helped a quick-service chicken restaurant chain by developing two custom toasters that provide a better quality toast and can toast additional items for a planned menu expansion, while fitting into the existing footprint of the previous toaster.

Egg Stations are being used by chains to cook eggs to order for expanded breakfast menus. With egg rack options in different shapes and sizes, chains can achieve their desired egg style —whether for muffin sandwiches, artisan-style sandwiches or omelets.

Additionally, steamers are a versatile product category with options for preparing several types of foods using a single piece of equipment.

A collaborative partnership between a restaurant’s culinary and operational teams — as well as the equipment manufacturer — helps ensure kitchens stay efficient and can execute the creative, delicious LTOs consumers are looking for.

See how Antunes has worked with chains to develop custom equipment to meet their needs in these case studies.