Condiment stations may seem like an afterthought for many, but the fact of the matter is that they can leave a lasting impression on your customers while nicking away at your restaurant’s resources. Whether you choose to offer pre-packaged condiments or pump-style stations, the fact of the matter is that your condiment area is a highly-trafficked, functional area of your dining room! What impression is your condiment station leaving on your customers? Take a look at some of these key features of your condiment station to see if you’re leaving the right impression!
While it may seem that condiment areas are more of a free-for-all feeding frenzy for greedy guests, you may have some control over how much of each condiment is offered. It’s true that you can’t stop someone from gathering a handful of condiments for personal use, but the majority of guests are typically respectful and take only what they plan to immediately use. Condiment stations are ideal for fast food restaurants with a dine-in area as well as takeout areas, buffett lines, and back-of-house prep areas! Here are a few different types of stations:
Portion control packets (known as PC condiments) are designed to provide just the right amount of condiment for a guest. Think: sugar packets, half-and-half cups, and packets of toppings like ketchup and BBQ sauce. These are great to also house behind-the-counter for take-out items as well, as they can simply be added to the bag of any delivery meal! This type of condiment station tends to stay cleaner, as there are no nozzles to wipe off or jugs to refill. You simply need to restock the packets as necessary!
For this type of station, you’ll need a packet rack center to keep items organized. The pouches and packets that you order are tamper-proof, so you can store them in the counter below the rack or behind-the-counter in your storage area. Be careful to train all employees on proper rotations, as packets can fall to the back and expire before being used if not rotated properly. Have a trashcan nearby, as you’ll want your customers to have easy access to disposal of the packet materials.
The only downside to PC condiments is that they can be easily gathered and taken away for personal use. Many restaurants have found ways to combat this costly issue by keeping more expensive condiments such as specialty sauces behind the counter, available upon request to guests. If you choose to do this, train employees to offer these packets with meals that they typically accompany to prevent your customers from having to return to the counter after they’ve received their meals.
Pump stations are designed to reduce waste while offering proper portion sizes. They’re optimal for quick-serve restaurants with dine-in areas and can be restocked with bulk condiments. These stations are offered in a variety of styles, from stainless steel to the casual plastics, and when pumps wear out and need replaced, they’re fairly cheap and easy to replace. The newer models are designed to prevent splatter and give the customer control over the speed and amount of portion dispensed.
These are they ideal condiment dispensers, and PC stations should be used as an alternative if your restaurant doesn’t have the room for pumps or if you have a lot of carry-out traffic.
The Power of the Brand
Don’t forget that what you serve in your condiment station is as important as the station setup itself. Stock your packets and pumps with trusted brands, as studies have shown that customers are more likely to return to an establishment if that establishment serves condiment brand names that they prefer. This is not the area to cut corners in, so spend some quality time planning, organizing, and stocking your condiment station to give your customers a well-rounded satisfied perception of their experience.
Cleanliness is Key
While this may seem routine, it should be emphasized as anything but! The cleanliness of your condiment station can fall to the wayside, but this not only poses an aesthetic problem but also a potential health hazard. Keep your condiment station scrupulously clean, as it reflects upon your establishment as a whole.