Find Out What Innovative Equipment Is Brewing in the Beverage Dispensing Category


Volume 48, Number 4

Written By: Denise Deveau

There’s always something brewing in the world of beverage dispensing systems. Whether it’s supercharged, state-of-the-art automated espresso machines or beverage offerings, which require unique dispensing solutions, manufacturers and foodservice operators have been branching into new territory, creating innovations.

For some sub-segments, old trends are being made new again. According to Daren Schwengler, president, SBS Food Service Equipment & Specialty Beverage Solutions, a Calgary-based beverage-dispensing system distributor, that trend is evident in specialty coffee systems. “Years ago there was a big shift to automation. Then there was a massive shift towards more traditional espresso machines.”

Now, with major chains and mainstream operations cashing in on the booming specialty coffee market, the industry is seeing a shift back to automatic espresso machines.

“There are much better quality machines now that can do things traditional machines can’t,” Schwengler says. “[They have] web-enabled remote access, self-cleaning features and digital touchscreens that can even run instructional videos for staff.” However, automated machines do not come cheap; they typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000, the SBS president says.

One of the principal drivers behind the return to automation is the fact that trained baristas are in short supply, and production demand is growing, especially in quick-service operations. “We’re seeing places that need to deliver quality product fast,” Schwengler explains. “In the U.S., McDonald’s is launching the new Switzerland-produced Melitta Cafina CT8 that is so revolutionary it can measure the size of the coffee in the chamber, monitor water quality to alert operators when filters need changing and adjust the grinder to make sure it is always producing the perfect cup.”

For Gene Durand, owner of Laggan’s Mountain Bakery & Delicatessen in Lake Louise, Alta., his latest machines are two Coffee Art Plus units (approximately $15,000 each) from Zuchwil, Switzerland-based Schaerer. Having worked with traditional and automated machines during the past 15 years, Durand has found the new automated systems deliver consistent results and are so simple to use that he doesn’t have to constantly scramble with staff training due to high employee turnover. “We’re very busy in the summer months, which is a real problem, because we hire a lot of university students who work part-time,” Durand explains. “With these machines, the ease of use is significant. You just press a button to make whatever coffee has been ordered, and it takes out all or most of the human error associated [with it] and makes a good cup of espresso, cappuccino or latte.”
The coffee machines are also workhorses. “In the two-and-a-half years since I bought the first Schaerer, it had gone through 70,000 shots without [needing any new parts],” he says.

Conventional brewers have heralded innovations as well. Schwengler reports that in-demand items on the tea front include hot-water dispensing towers, which can regulate temperatures based on the type of tea being brewed. FETCO, based in Lake Zurich, Ill., has a new touch-screen system, which costs approximately $3,500.

Even plain old coffee-dispensing urns have been upscaled. At TD Place in Ottawa, the premium restaurant division just invested in six state-of-the-art, vacuum-sealed, gravity-feed dispensing urns from Woodbury, Minn.-based Service Ideas (model URN30VBS, $1,000 for each machine). Liz Graham, GM of Premium Services, Levy Restaurants at Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which operates TD Place, says the stainless steel, brushed finish resists scratches and is easier than regular polished stainless steel to maintain. “They’re very high-end and look more professional.” The larger three-gallon size makes them heavy (34 lbs.), but Graham says they require less replenishing and are easy to set up.

Of course, beverage dispensing is not all about heating things up. In fact, there are systems on the market that are breaking new ground in the world of cold beverages.
One of the fastest-growing areas is in-house filtered still and carbonated water dispensing systems, says Patrick Watt, principal with Day in Life foodservice consultancy in Saint John, N.B. “They’re especially popular with millennials who want good water but want to get rid of plastic. (Markham, Ont.-based) Q water has a fantastic system.”

Peter Stoddart, owner of Saint John Ale House in Saint John, N.B., opted for a Q water system when he renovated the pub in May 2014. “We had been researching a way to provide a purified sparkling or still water option for our guests with a reduced carbon footprint. Q water is the least impactful on the environment, delivering this product to the market in a simple and renewable way.” There are no bottles to store and recycle or deliveries required. The system, which takes up less than 20 sq. ft. of space, costs from $160 a month, including equipment, installation and decanters.

Innovation is also front and centre at Gusto 101 restaurant in Toronto. “We were the first in Toronto to have wine on tap,” says Juanita Dickson, president at Gusto 54, the global restaurant group.

The wine is produced at the on-site micro-winery housed in the basement. The dispensing system, which was designed and supplied by Vintage One (V1) in Toronto, took six months to complete and includes four 500-litre stainless-steel tanks and two additional 300-litre stainless-steel tanks in the private dining area on the main floor. The two wines (a red and a white option) are pumped to wooden barrel facades and dispensed from taps. Jorge Yarce, bar manager at Gusto 101, estimates wine represents 60 per cent of alcohol sales — of that, 45 per cent is wine on tap.

“In putting the wine cellar downstairs, naturally there were complications relating to gravity and the additional labour required to transport product back and forth to fill the barrels, but we worked through the challenges,” Dickson says.
With new restaurant Gusto 501 on the horizon, the management team plans to take wine on tap to the next level by offering more wine choices, including Prosecco on tap.

“Carbonation will be a huge challenge to manage,” Yarce admits. “It wasn’t doable in 101, but we’re pretty sure we can make it happen for 501.”

Not only does there tend to be higher margins for wine on tap, it’s also a more eco-friendly option. “That’s something we’re very cognizant of, and the best part is it also offers great value for customers,” Dickson sums up.

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