Teri Kidwell, owner/principal, ATK Design Studios, LLC, Sewickley, Pa., answers a few questions about how to specify carbonated-beverage dispensers.
FE&S: What do operators need to consider when purchasing this equipment?
TK: Operators should consider the look and feel of the space, client needs and cost of equipment/supplies. Would this facility warrant a sleek-looking system because of the unique design of the cafe, or is cost a driving factor where a vendor-provided machine might be a consideration? Will the equipment be leased or purchased? How are supplies ordered? Does the machine send data and order supplies automatically? Would a touch-screen, customizable dispenser be appropriate to the consumer? Is a carbonated-beverage dispenser necessary, or would bottled beverages be sufficient?
FE&S: What new innovations should operators be aware of with this equipment?
TK: Sparkling-water taps and cold brew with nitro are newer innovations that are becoming increasingly popular, especially in operations that have a client who likes to stay on trend.
FE&S: What are the most common applications?
TK: Most common applications are installed by the soda vendor with an internal ice maker purchased by the owner. Alternately, drop-in units purchased by the client are common in cafes, where a more minimized look is desired.
FE&S: What are the installation considerations with these units?
TK: Identify soda system rack space in the kitchen to house the pump, syrup, CO2 and water booster. Pay attention to the route the soda conduit will run from the rack in the kitchen to the dispenser in the cafe. If located overhead, there may be fire codes that require the soda line to have a fire wrap, or if in the slab, the lines may need to be pulled through a type of conduit.
FE&S: What options are most popular, and why should operators consider them?
TK: Touch-screen, customizable options are becoming more and more popular. Operators should consider these as consumers want more choices. When vendor-provided, there is an ease of ordering supplies and the footprint of the machine is more compact.
FE&S: What type of operations utilize this equipment most often?
TK: Most commonly, carbonated-beverage dispensers are utilized in restaurants and cafes, convenience stores and college/university settings. Sparkling-water dispensers are popping up in client kitchenettes. With the introduction of nitro, coffee bars are accommodating keg type cold-brew options.
FE&S: Is there anything else restaurant operators should be aware of when purchasing this equipment?
TK: Fast-casual service lends itself to the new touch-screen model to satisfy a variety of customer tastes. In a sit-down-style restaurant, the old-school dispensers are appropriate as they are usually back of house and offer limited options.