Friendly's Ice Cream said a move to printers that produce sticky labels for food orders has improved both operational efficiency and service at its fast-casual express concept.
Friendly's Express is a smaller footprint spinoff of the 75-year-old full-service chain offering a limited menu and counter service. Wilbraham, Mass.-based Friendly's, which has around 500 traditional restaurants, debuted the express concept in 2009 and has since expanded it to five units.
Richard Delvalle, Friendly’s director of restaurant systems, said the company installed two Epson TM-T88 ReStick thermal printers at each Friendly's Express, one in the area where fountain items are produced and another near the grill.
“The speed [improvement] factor has been tremendous from a production, order fulfillment, and table delivery perspective,” he said, noting that the use of the labels, which are liner-free, biodegradable and recyclable, means “all employees know by looking, which sundae is which, where it goes and even the guest's name to personalize service.”
Delvalle explained that for the Friendly’s Express concept, all ice cream is served in takeout containers that “provide for a superior product” and but are not transparent. “Once whipped topping and a cherry are in place, it is difficult to tell which sundae is which,” he said.
Delvalle said the chain added the sticky label printers so it can label each sundae and “increase the speed and efficiency of the entire fountain operation and delivery system.”
Systems that improve efficiency and speed of service, are highly desirable to the team refining the Friendly’s Express concept, as it targets guests who are more interested in a 25-minute visit than the 45-minute average stay at a conventional Friendly’s restaurant, management has said.
Friendly's Express guests typically receive their food within six to eight minutes of ordering, said executives of Friendly Ice Cream Corp., the parent to Friendly’s and a holding of Sun Capital Partners.
In addition to all ice cream orders, grill orders for takeout that are fully wrapped to travel, such as some sandwiches, get sticky labels as well so that employees can better identify products and reduce expediting errors, Delvalle said.
Delvalle said the restaurants use kitchen display systems for order management — as opposed to kitchen paper-ticket printers — so the Epson TM-T88 ReStick printers are used only for labels.
He noted that the label printers come with higher price tags than the dot-matrix-style remote-ticket printers often used in foodservice and that thermal paper labels with sticky properties cost more than tickets printed on plain paper.
“However, the improvements in order accuracy and guest service make these units an irreplaceable piece of our service system,” he said.
Delvalle compared sticky-label printer technology with kitchen display systems that replaced paper-ticket printers with display screens, in that both prove challenging when it comes to calculating a return on investment. But like kitchen display system technology, using sticky labels “is simply the most efficient way to run your production facility with [the] unique challenges of the Express concept,” he said.
Friendly’s Express officials have been too busy tweaking operations and the use of the sticky-label printers to market the “green” aspects of the labels used, Delvalle said, but “it is something we need to think about in the future.”
He said his company is excited by the label printers and intends to explore the “opportunity to try them out in a standard Friendly's” in the coming year.
Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].