Turn on the juice: squeeze profits from fruits and vegetables with the right juicer for the job.
Carrots, beets, celery, cucumbers, apples, oranges and pineapples. That menu may suggest a salad bar but customers at Bananarama Juice Bar in Amherst, Mass., use straws rather than forks to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, pulverized and strained in a commercial juicer. Smoothies–some enhanced with nutritional supplements–and frozen yogurt round out the offerings.
Fresh-juice beverages make a profitable pour. A 12-ounce serving sells for $2.25, with a food cost of 30% to 35% depending on the season, says Greg Wickles, owner of the three-unit Bananarama concept.
One customer, a foodservice employee at nearby University of Massachusetts, brings his own asparagus to be juiced with carrot and a hint of beet. “It’s his signature drink,” Wickles says.
Operators who want to add fresh juice drinks should “start with a menu and work backward” to determine the juicing equipment needed, says Chris Cuvelier, president of a San Francisco-based consulting firm that works with juice- and smoothie-bar operators. “Once the menu is set, anticipated sales volume and unit space allowances dictate the equipment an operator should use.”
The three main juicer categories are presses, designed primarily for citrus fruits, centrifugal juicers for fruits and root vegetables, and masticators, best for greens such as wheat grass. Bananarama units, which sell from 20 to 100 servings of fresh fruit and vegetable juice blends daily, use all three equipment types.
For popular orange or grapefruit drinks, Wickles cuts the fruits in half and presses them onto a spinning reamer to extract juice. High-volume models that automate the pressing can reduce labor while retaining showmanship. Chains such as San Francisco-based Jamba Juice employ automated countertop juicers with capacity for nearly a carton of oranges.
Even though manual extraction is not as quick as using automated machines, Wickles prefers hand-press juicers for his shops. ‘They let me watch food costs and conserve counter space,” he says.
Centrifugal juicers, the most widely used according to equipment manufacturers, “provide high yield, good nutrition quality and a clearer juice with less pulp,” Cuvelier says. They work by grinding fruits and vegetables then filtering the pulp through a strainer spinning at a high speed to extract liquids. Water-dense fruits such as apples, root vegetables such as carrots and beets, and some greens work well with this kind of juicer.
Masticators operate at slower speeds than other juicers and create a pulpier, more nutrient-rich product by “chewing” fibers before straining pulp. The more intense processing produces richer juice colors and flavors. These machines are highly versatile, handling most fruits, vegetables as well as wheat grass and greens.
Powerful, low-speed wheat-grass masticating juicers keep foam to a minimum without heating the juice. In addition to chlorophyll-rich grass, other healthful candidates for masticators include arrowroot, herbs (from the familiar such as parsley to the more exotic such as mugwort), asparagus, cabbage and sprouts.
Vegetable-medley juices make refreshing–and healthy–combinations. “Try tomato, carrot, celery and cucumber with a hint of garlic, or parsley and spinach with a splash of hot-pepper sauce for some heat,” Cuvelier recommends. Mixtures of orange, apple and carrot juices are perennial top sellers. Some operators add ginger for zing, celery for coolness or red beet for the vivid color it imparts.