< Back to Resources

Convenience Store Equipment: A Guide for Facilities Managers

March 28, 2024

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, convenience stores have stepped up to meet the evolving needs of consumers — in this case, by filling the gap left by fast food establishments transitioning to more “fast casual” restaurants. Now c-stores are finding themselves in a unique position as go-to destinations for quick and convenient meals and even designer coffee options — venturing well beyond the snacks, no-frills coffees, and cold beverages they were known for in previous decades.

Consequently, convenience store operators and facilities managers are faced with the need to effectively maintain and care for a large variety of machines, many of which are relatively new to the c-store space. Here’s a guide to some of the most popular convenience store equipment for today’s ever-changing landscape as well as best practices for ensuring their long life and maximum uptime.

Convenience Store Equipment: Best Practices for Facilities Managers

Cold beverage machines

Cold beverage equipment has long been a staple of convenience stores. Today the following cold beverage machines are popularly found in c-stores:

  • Soda fountain machines
  • Slurpee, Icee, and other frozen drink machines
  • Drink blenders for smoothies and milkshakes
  • Cold brew coffee dispensers
  • Water dispensers
  • Beer dispensers, often found in convenience stores with attached bars or growler filling stations

Designed to dispense a variety of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, soda fountain machines in particular play a central role.

“While we’re seeing a trend toward digital technology everywhere in convenience stores, fountain machines are the great exception,” says Jamey Huser, Vice President of Field Operations at City Facilities Management. “Fountain machines with touch screens were once on the rise, but COVID-19 effectively changed all that. But even with the pandemic behind us, convenience stores that once opted for newer models are replacing them with simpler models. The consensus seems to be, ‘Why change something that works?’”

Soda fountain machines are complex machines comprising many components that require special care, including syrup containers, water lines, a CO2 tank, beverage dispensing nozzles, and an ice dispenser. Regular, proper maintenance is critical for ensuring the cleanliness and quality of the beverages dispensed. Maintenance steps for such machines typically include:

  • Regularly clean and sanitize all the components, including syrup lines, nozzles, dispensing valves, and ice bins, in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Monitor CO2 levels in the tank to ensure property carbonation of beverages and refill or replace as necessary.
  • Maintain the water filtration system to ensure optimal quality of water, replacing filters regularly to prevent buildup that can negatively impact taste and quality.
  • Provide training to all staff on cleaning procedures and troubleshooting common issues.
  • Regularly inspect machines for signs of damage or malfunction, including leaks, clogs, or inconsistent beverage dispensing, in order to address any issues before they lead to downtime.

Refrigeration cases and coolers

With the rise of grab-and-go meals, refrigeration cases are playing an increasingly important function in c-stores. Refrigerated display coolers, which feature transparent glass doors or panels, typically have multiple shelves or compartments for organizing chilled drink options and perishable ready-to-eat foods such as sandwiches and salads. When not properly maintained or monitored, such equipment runs the risk of leakage, leading to slip and fall risks, as well as high energy costs and expected breakdowns.

Here are some tips for keeping refrigeration cases running efficiently:

Proper stocking

“Energy-efficient refrigeration starts with how you stock the units,” Jamey says. “Which types of products you store on which shelf will impact the air curtain and temperatures.” Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for tailored recommendations for each case or cooler model.

Regular cleaning and preventive maintenance

The best way to prevent breakdowns and maximize efficiency is with regular cleaning and preventive maintenance checklists in accordance with manufacturer guidelines. Such steps should include:

  • Schedule regular cleaning of refrigeration coils, condenser coils, and fan blades, clearing them of debris, to ensure optimal performance and energy efficiency.
  • Ensure that condensate drains are clear of obstructions to prevent water buildup inside the units, which can lead to water leaks and water damage.
  • Keep condenser units clean (free of debris) to optimize heat transfer and cooling performance, and regularly inspect them for signs of malfunction or damage.
  • Check door seals on refrigeration units to ensure they’re free of wear or damage to prevent cold air leakage.
  • Ensure regular cleaning of surrounding areas, including the refrigeration unit grills for proper ventilation.

Continuous temperature monitoring

Convenience stores are increasingly relying on energy management systems for complying with food safety regulations, reducing energy consumption, and meeting carbon emissions goals. An EMS should be paired with a data analytics platform, such as City’s Spark+ system, an IoT-powered energy management software tool that consolidates all the data from a convenience store’s EMS systems. Temperatures are continuously monitored, and should any irregularities occur, the system will automatically alert FM teams. The result is less energy waste and product loss.

Hot beverage machines

Coffee machines, particularly high-tech espresso machines, are becoming increasingly common in convenience stores. The growing consumer demand is evident — take Wawa for example, whose coffee has inspired a cult following that has led to more than 195 million cups of coffee sold each year, making it sixth in rank nationally in the brewed coffee market.

“As convenience stores get into the coffee game, they’re going to have to use the same equipment as Starbucks and other specialty coffee companies if they want to offer a competitive product,” Jamey says.

These types of high-end bean-to-cup machines can cost between $20,000 to $30,000, and they’re capable of producing a wide range of specialty coffee beverages, including espresso shots, lattes, cappuccinos, and more. Such machines are typically equipped with advanced features, including multiple brewing heads, programmable settings, and integrated milk frothers. Some models integrate touchscreen displays and automated cleaning systems.

To keep these expensive machines in tip-top shape delivering safe and delicious coffee beverages to customers, proper care and maintenance are essential. “A lot of today’s espresso machines are designed with self-cleaning functions,” says Jamey, “but clerks and facilities team members need to ensure the machines are cleaned inside and out every day and that regular PM checklists are being performed.”

When you’re investing potentially tens of thousands of dollars on a machine, Jamey points out, it’s important to make sure you have the labor to maintain the equipment to keep it running and producing revenue. “It takes a lot of cleaning and maintenance to ensure espresso machines are matching your operational expectations.”

Proper care can be accomplished with the following steps:

  • Daily cleaning (if not cleaning multiple times a day): Develop a routine cleaning schedule for staff, and ensure the machine is cleaned thoroughly at the end of each day. Wipe down surfaces, flush the brewing heads, and remove any coffee residue or grounds.
  • Regular descaling: Over time, minerals from water can build up in espresso machines, compromising performance. Use a descaling solution recommended by the manufacturer to remove mineral deposits on a regular basis.
  • Milk system maintenance: Milk frothing system components should be cleaned and sanitized regularly for food safety and to prevent milk residue from affecting performance.
  • Water filter replacement: To ensure high quality and taste and prevent mineral buildup in the machine’s components, replace water filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Professional servicing: Schedule periodic service visits from certified maintenance vendors to inspect and maintain all internal components, calibrate brewing parameters, and replace any parts if needed.

Quick food equipment

Convenience stores aren’t just stepping into the coffee market — they’re also evolving into fast-food destinations, offering breakfast sandwiches, pizzas, burritos, paninis, and other quick hot meal options. This means microwave ovens are no longer sufficient — many convenience stores are investing in quick cook ovens, which are specialized ovens that combine microwave and convection technologies to accelerate the cooking process to a fraction of the time compared to traditional ovens.

“As with coffee machines, food equipment is getting more complex in order to facilitate quicker toasting or cooking of pre-prepared items in shorter time durations,” Jamey explains. With this increased complexity comes more maintenance and care, especially given the revenue these ovens generate and the critical role they play in daily operations.

Here are some maintenance tips to keep them in optimal condition to minimize downtime:

  • Regular cleaning: Quick cook ovens can rapidly accumulate food residue, grease, and other debris, impacting taste quality, food safety, and energy efficiency. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the oven’s cleaning procedures and frequency using the appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Routine PM checklists: Conduct routine maintenance checklists as part of a preventive maintenance program. Check for signs of wear and tear and malfunction and handle any issues promptly.
  • Calibration: Periodically calibrate ovens to ensure they’re operating at the correct temperature and cooking settings for consistent cooking results and food safety.
  • Training: Provide training to staff members responsible for operating the ovens on proper care, cleaning, and safety protocols to ensure optimal performance and minimize issues.
  • Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation around the ovens to improve air circulation and prevent overheating, installing exhaust hoods or fans if necessary.
  • Documentation: Keep detailed records of issues, maintenance activities, and repairs for asset management purposes.

Grease traps

Grease traps are critical for managing wastewater in convenience stores, especially those that offer fast food restaurants. Designed to capture fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from kitchen wastewater before they enter the sewage system, these devices prevent FOG from clogging pipes and causing costly plumbing issues and environmental contamination.

Here are some maintenance tips for facilities management team to ensure the effectiveness of grease traps:

  • Regular cleaning: Grease traps should be cleaned regularly to remove accumulated FOG and solids. “The frequency of cleaning will depend on the size of the grease trap and the volume of wastewater generated,” Jamey says. Typically, grease traps should be cleaned every 1-3 months, but high-volume establishments may require a higher frequency.
  • Regular preventive maintenance: Perform regular inspections as part of a PM program, checking for signs of damage, leaks, and excessive buildup.
  • Staff training: Kitchen staff should be trained on proper practices for minimizing FOG discharge, such as scraping plates before washing, utilizing sink strainers, and avoiding pouring grease down the drains. Facilities management teams should ensure the FOG is disposed of properly according to local regulations.
  • Professional servicing: Periodically, hire certified technicians to service grease traps in order to ensure proper functioning and removal of FOG and solids.

“When adding new food service equipment during remodeling, convenience stores don’t always have the ability to add a grease trap, so they’re having to undercounter models,” Jamey says. “It’s important to routinely pump those and clean the lines to keep them operating and decrease downtime.”

A Proactive Approach to Convenience Store Facilities Management

Regular cleaning and preventive maintenance are paramount to extending the lifespan of equipment and avoiding costly breakdowns. In this way, maintaining convenience store equipment goes beyond mere functionality — it’s about ensuring smooth operations, a positive customer experience, and safeguarding revenues.

At City, we offer a unique delivery system for convenient store facilities management founded on preventive maintenance that significantly delivers exceptional service and sustained cost savings. Learn more about our integrated facilities management services.

Category: Blog

Stay Connected

For more updates on the latest cost-saving, service-boosting facilities management and retail industry trends, subscribe to our blog.