Foodservice Operators Share 2024 Outlooks

FER checks in with several operators on their plans and outlooks for the year ahead.

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Panera Bread was among the brands that shared 2024 plans with FER.

Tune in as operators share 2024 perspectives as part of FER’s annual state of the industry coverage.

Prakash BalanceGrille


CEO and Co-Founder/Balance Pan-Asian Grille, Toledo, Ohio

“This year, we’ve improved in-store technologies, including customer-facing kiosks and employee-facing KDS screens. New operations technology will assist with inventory, accounting and predictive ordering. Design-wise, we will be moving our sauce station to the opposite side of the expediter counter to correspond with the KDS system upgrade, which will allow for station-based and modifier-based displays and, we hope, improved accuracy and service speeds. Lower ingredient costs plus better inventory and ordering practices should allow us to hold current menu pricing and gain market share.”

Dan Jones Chief Operating Officer FirstWatch


Chief Operations Officer/First Watch, Bradenton, Fla.

“We have more demand than we are currently able to serve across our more than 500 restaurants. As we scale our brand and open new locations, we are strategically and intentionally increasing our restaurant footprint and adding dedicated areas for things like off-premises sales as well as larger, grander indoor-outdoor bars, all to provide an even greater experience for more customers. There continues to be significant opportunity for First Watch [thanks to] our innovative menu and warm hospitality. We continue to see a long runway ahead for our brand.”



Director of Engineering and Innovation/Panera Bread, St. Louis

“Our state-of-the-art kitchen equipment has always been a source of pride. In 2024, we aim to maximize existing equipment efficiencies along with smart scheduling and maintenance practices to ensure seamless operations and top-notch food quality. [For kitchen flexibility, we are] reimagining workstations to accommodate fluctuating order volume and introducing modular elements that can be adjusted as needed. [And in] our commitment to sustainability, we’re exploring [everything from] composting initiatives to energy-efficient practices, as we believe small changes can make a big difference in reducing our environmental footprint.”

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Executive Director of Campus Dining/ UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, Calif.

“For the year ahead, we are exploring ways to efficiently and effectively service areas on campus that don’t have the traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts. Mobile carts/trucks, container stores, robotic delivery and expanding our food locker program are a few of the areas we’re looking into. A critical piece of our success is the partnership across the foodservice ecosystem—the manufacturers (equipment and food), tech companies, consultants and foodservice experts. My plan is to continue to learn from the best, ask questions, try new things and leverage existing relationships.”



Director of Campus Dining and Concessions/Auburn University, Auburn, Ala.

“Auburn has had incredible participation with our meal plans [thanks to] recently updated venues and a solid partnership with our foodservice vendor. In 2024, we will launch fresh food vending and robotics (pizza and fry bots) in two campus locations. We are also repurposing a legacy dining hall into an updated catering space along with a commissary, bakery and a ghost kitchen concept called Foy on the Fly. The move will provide a central space from which we will be able to distribute food across campus.”

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Senior Vice President of Culinary and Beverage/ Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, Baton Rouge, La.

“In 2024, Walk-On’s will implement strategies to enhance kitchen flexibility. This includes adopting modular kitchen configurations that allow for quick adjustments based on demand fluctuations. Being a scratch kitchen, we use several cooking surfaces to execute our current menu however we’re looking at modifying our design to assist in an increase in to-go and catering sales. As for off -premise operations, we have invested in technology, packaging, training and third-party vendors to off er the same culinary experience at home as for [in-store] guests. Our new kitchen prototype will feature an updated to-go space for our guests as we continue to grow this segment.”


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Malachy Parts & Service Teams With Manufacturer

MPS will serve as the master parts distributor and service partner for the maker in the Northeast region.


Marcone Expands Footprint in Western Canada

The North American parts distributor has opened a 48,000-square-foot distribution center in Calgary.

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