For restaurants that take pride in a signature blended beverage, consistency is an all-important goal. It’s what keeps customers coming back. You don’t want anything to stand in the way of happy customers returning to your restaurant.
Occasionally, it does happen, though, that blended beverages are not perfectly consistent, especially when there are labor challenges or turnover, as well as long lines and other pressures. In those cases, we’ve found that there are a limited number of causes, most relating to the setup of the build station.
Of course, one of the best things you can do for your beverage program is to purchase a great piece of blending equipment, like The Quiet One® by Vitamix® Commercial, because it ensures that the final step in your beverage prep will be flawless every time.
The Quiet One is the preferred blender in coffee and smoothie chain restaurants because it yields perfectly consistent results. Whether you’re making a smoothie, cold coffee drink or cold foam topper, the factory-set programs run through a series of speeds that produce a beverage of perfect texture and consistency.
The Quiet One comes with 34 factory-set programs, and you can pull any of these programs to the front six buttons on the machine. So your front-of-house staff members just need to push one button and walk away. The machine does the rest. That eliminates a lot of variability, especially if you have new employees.
While The Quiet One takes care of the final step in the process, we still need to consider all of the things that happen before you set the container on the motor base. Let’s look at the four main causes of beverage inconsistency before blending.
1. Inaccurate Measurements – When employees are moving quickly, they may find it hard to measure ingredients precisely. A few extra strawberries or too much ice – variations like these can significantly affect the beverage outcome.
You can guard against errors like these by equipping your store with measurement devices that are labled by size (small, medium and large) and color-coded. It’s much faster and more accurate to fill a small container to the brim than to fill a larger container up to a certain line. Color-coded containers also make for easy teaching moments during new-employee training.
For ingredients measured in small amounts, measuring scoops, spoons or cups of different sizes work well. Grabbing the red spoon and filling it level with crushed nuts is a quick action. Compare that to weighing out that same quantity of crushed nuts – a much slower process that requires more concentration and attention.
For larger quantities of ingredients, the same principle applies: Use color-coded containers – narrow in shape whenever possible. In general, narrow containers are better than wide because any mounding over the brim is minimized. A wider or shallower container allows for a bigger mound if someone is not being careful.
2. Using Large Forms of Ice – Larger forms of ice, such as full cubes, large spheres, crescents, half dice or full dice, are ideal for cooling soft drinks. But when used in blended drinks, they present a few challenges. For one, they do not pack especially well, so when piled in a container for measuring purposes, there will be gaps of unfilled space. It’s also hard to fill a container level with this type of ice because the large pieces will either be under or over the brim. As a result, employees will sometimes overfill the container.
You can process these larger forms of ice in the blender, but they take longer to blend (and take more energy), so that may affect your speed of service.
A better option for blending is to use smaller forms of ice, such as pearls, nuggets or flaked ice. These pack well in a measuring device, with smaller pockets of unfilled space. Also, because they are smaller, they blend quickly.
3. Holding Temperatures That Are Too Low – The temperatures at which your ingredients are stored right before using them – your holding temperatures – can have very significant effects on beverage thickness or consistency. When holding temperatures rise above the recommended level, you will get thinner smoothies and the flavor may not be as robust. Also, holding temperatures affect hold times – the length of time after serving the beverage that it will hold its thickness or consistency before it melts and becomes thinner.
To keep holding temperatures at the optimal level, make sure you are selecting the right type of equipment. The better type of freezers and refrigerators are dipping cabinets, the ones that open from the top. Those that open from the side are less effective because as your restaurant gets busy, the doors will be open frequently and the cold air will spill out, raising holding temperatures.
If you’re using the Aerating Container with The Quiet One to produce a cold foam, temperature is especially important. You will not be able to produce dense foams with warmer milks. For best results, keep your milks in the mid to upper 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
For ingredients coming from long-term storage, such as frozen fruit, remember to allow for slacking time. This is the period required for the ingredients to reach their holding temperature – the temperature at which they can be used in a blender.
On the side of a food storage box, there is usually a temperature for long-term storage; it may be 20° or 30° below zero, but this is far too cold for blending. Blending temperatures are usually around 0° F. Also, if the pieces of fruits have clumped together, be sure to break them apart before blending to avoid damage to your machine. In general, smaller pieces of fruit blend better than larger ones.
4. Loading Ingredients in the Wrong Order – As you probably know, there is a right and wrong order for loading ingredients in a blending container. If you set up the build station in the right way, you will greatly minimize the chances of an improperly loaded blending container.
You want to lay out the build station so you are starting the process at the farthest point from the blender motor base; then, you will move toward the motor base as you add each ingredient. The right order of ingredients – liquids first, then solids – ensures an efficient and effective blend.
At the first stop in the build station, you should load liquids – water, juice, milk. Second, add any powders, such as protein or matcha, so they can dissolve in the liquid and do not form a plume when you turn on the blender. You don’t want the powder to coat the sides and lid of the container. Third, add leafy greens, soft vegetables and fresh fruit. As heavier ingredients are added later, they will weigh down the greens and direct them into the liquid during blending. Finally, add frozen fruit, dense vegetables and ice (if applicable).
Loaded in this way, the ingredients will be pulled down in the vortex that will form in The Quiet One, so no tamper will be necessary and you will not need to stop the blender and scrape the sides of the container.
As you complete your build of the ingredients, The Quiet One should be situated nearby. Set the container on the motor base and press one button on the front of the machine to activate the right program. The Quiet One is always ready to go and always produces the same awesome results.
The Perfect Formula for Consistency
You can ensure consistency in your beverage program by designing a well-organized, orderly build station with safeguards that will ensure accurate measuring and loading of the container, even when staff are moving quickly or just learning. Pair these practices with The Quiet One and you will always get the results that you and your customers desire.
See what else makes Vitamix Commercial the industry’s most trusted blending partner at vitamix.com/ourdifference.