Michelle Deascenti

Since graduating from Penn State University, Michelle has worked in the food service industry with Clark Food Service Equipment for four years and has her ServSafe certification. Michelle works with K-12 schools and colleges all over the state of Pennsylvania both for single piece replacements and full scale projects. Catering to this very specific market allows Michelle to have a unique and highly focused understanding of school food service programs.

Contact Michelle Deascenti

Innovations in Ice Machines

Countless buying guides tell you how to choose your compressor type and ice type, but they don’t tell you the innovations ice machines have seen over the past few years.  From new internal systems to energy improvements, you’d be surprised how much has changed from the machine you purchased years ago!

24/7 Monitoring

If you have an ice machine, you know how critical it is to your operation.  New diagnostic systems constantly monitor and store information about the mechanics of your unit.  When a problem does arise, it can be addressed immediately and effectively by reviewing stored information – reducing your maintenance costs and downtime.

This information can also be used to:

  • Improve energy management by tracking water and energy usage
  • Provide a full service history
  • Set proper ice production levels based on your individual needs and history
  • Monitor your machine remotely

Digital Displays

Easy to read displays take the guessing game out of the status of your machine.  Alerts that are written in plain English simplify the diagnostics procedure.   Are you always forgetting to change your water filter?  No problem!  The display will notify users when filters need changed or the machine needs descaled or sanitized.  Some models can even send you an email or text message.

Energy Efficiency

Ice machine manufacturers are constantly making strides to improve energy efficiency.  There are now products available that recycle the unit’s waste water.  Instead of going down a drain, cold waste water is sent to a holding tank.  Fresh water is funneled through this tank in a fully enclosed channel, cooling incoming water before it even enters the ice machine.  This helps:

  • Produce more ice by shortening the ice-making cycle
  • Save electricity by quickly filling the bin and allowing the ice machine to shut off faster
  • Extend the life of the ice machine by lowering the stress on the compressor


With all the improvements in ice machines it would be worth looking into an upgrade to your machine.  Clark Food Service Equipment can help with energy analysis to give insight to the potential savings you could see with a new model. 


Chip Kent

Today's Author is Chip Kent, MSc, SPHR, CDM, CFPP, FMP. He is the Thought Leader for our Partner Service Initiative. Prior to Clark, Chip spent over 35 years managing & leading organizations within the Hospitality Industry including Restaurants, Business, Health Care and Retirement Communities.

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Strategic Planning Requires 20/20 Vision

One of the first things I learned when studying Business Leadership was the importance of Strategic Planning.  However, there is one thing more important than Strategic Planning; the need for a Strategic Vision prior to developing a Strategic Plan.

So first, let’s understand the definitions…

Strategic means gaining a position of advantage over the best emerging possibilities.  It’s more about choosing from a set of options or choices rather than a fixed idea.

Vision has been described as the art of seeing the invisible.  It’s a dream or a mental picture that a leader has for the future direction of their organization. It requires a set of ideas, imagination and the courage to face the darkness of the unknown; to distinguish the outlines of possibilities – outlines that turn into brilliant pictures of the future as they develop over time.

Planning is a method or system of achieving objectives that is worked out in advance.

Strategic Vision followed by Strategic Planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  These processes afford an opportunity to organize the strengths of the present in order to lessen the impact of weaknesses in the upcoming years.


Simple Step’s for Success in Developing a solid Strategic Vision and subsequent Strategic Plan

1.       Start by asking the Right Questions

Peter Drucker said of outstanding leaders, “They know how to ask questions – the right questions.”  From those questions come ideas that will help you form a vision for the future direction of your organization.

  1. Just a few out of many questions that you can ask that will stimulate thinking that’s necessary for developing a vision:
    • What issues face us today and tomorrow? 
    • What do we do well and not so well? 
    • What do we need to enhance and what should be eliminated? 
    • What are we not doing that we should be doing? 
    • What opportunities are we missing? 
    • What mistakes have been made by those in our same business?
    • What is our existing vision and is it still relevant? 
    • Does mission drive us and are we delivering on it? 
    • What is our competitive end now and can it last?
    • What market trends should we pay attention to? 
    • How can we expand our market? 
    • What are the realities that exist both now and in the future?

2.       Develop the Vision

A great leader creates an effective vision that becomes a living reality which ties into the Corporate Vision and shares that vision clearly with all employees.

  1. Reflect on the answers from your questions and determine a Vision, or picture of what the future needs to look like
  2. Outline your thoughts concerning the big picture that surrounds that Vision to assist in providing clarity to everyone in the organization so everyone sees the same vision/picture


3.       State the Vision

  1. Provide the details that include developing the broad vision into possible examples that will be allowed to develop as the planning starts to take place.
  2. Provide illustrations that show the Broad Points that make up the Vision and what will be required to turn this Vision into a workable plan.  (Could use Fishbone Diagrams, Flow Charts, Category Outlines, etc.)
  3. Present this Vision to all levels of associates telling them an exciting story about where the organization has been, where the organization is today, and where you see the organization going for the future.


4.       Develop the Strategic Plan based on the Strategic Vision

Move from visionary, concept-based ideas into operational planning. Develop practical, logistically-based details that hold together the support system that makes the dream a reality.

  1. Bring your teams together and organize them in the best way to focus on the routine decisions that they will face day-by-day, by each quarter, and by each year.  Discuss the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and plan around them.
  2. Outline measurable objectives - the actions to be taken in prioritized order that will lead to achieving the stated vision.
  3. To achieve success, operational planning objectives must be easily understood by all employees.   Provide directions that are clear, concise and time-bound.


5.       Implement the Plan and then Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

 Inadequate implementation planning will nullify a good strategic plan. It’s been said that it’s better to adequately implement a fair plan than to inadequately implement a great plan.

  1. Effective leaders repeatedly communicate both the spirit and the letter of the strategic plan, the objectives, and the tactics that will govern individual and institutional behaviors in the years ahead
  2. Communicate the plan in an exciting way and not just what the plan will do for the organization, but what the successfully executed plan can personally do for each and every associate


Vision without Actions is a daydream – Action without Vision is a Nightmare! Japanese Proverb

Jeff Dahl

Today’s author is Jeff Dahl. He has been with Clark for 5 years progressively advancing through the equipment division as an estimator, project manager, an associate designer and equipment specialist, and is now the project development team leader. His primary focus is the senior living market where he has projects in various phases all over the east coast. In addition to his project work, Jeff also meets with clients to discuss capital budget planning for replacement equipment.

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Food Service Return on Investment: Making the Case for those Precious Capital Dollars

No matter what industry you’re in, maximizing your Return on Investment (ROI) is key to staying ahead of your competition. Resources are scarce and proving that you can get the most bang for your operator’s buck is essential. This article will focus on just one type of investment you can make in a food service operation: capital equipment purchases.

When it comes to equipment purchases, every food service operator will need to justify a capital equipment purchase in their career. Equipment replacement can happen for a variety of reasons whether it is decreasing function or failure, pending replacement due to the age of the equipment, or acknowledging that the operational needs require a different function. So how do you determine if the equipment purchase makes financial sense in an economy that encourages purchases only when the equipment is no longer operable? Below are some recommendations I have found to be keys to success in justifying a good business decision when considering equipment purchases.

Operators that have a clear capital plan, or Capital Assessment, for replacement over several years have a greater chance for approval when the equipment is nearing its life expectancy.  This allows the decision makers to plan for the future and hopefully allocate funds for the purchases.  A Capital Assessment can be a detailed list, with pictures explaining the issues and projected costs for replacement five or more years into the future.

So now that you’ve taken the surprise factor out of the capital purchase through a multiyear capital assessment, its time to further justify the purchase through demonstrating a positive ROI. The ROI calculation is based on how long it will take to earn back — in the savings generated — the cost of the investment required to purchase a piece of equipment.  Normally, a payback period of three to five years is considered acceptable and a good investment for food service equipment.

ROI can be found in several areas: 

  • Energy Savings: Energy Star compliant equipment is just the beginning when it comes to finding energy savings in water, gas or electric consumption. Dish machines, exhaust hoods and walk-in’s are all much more efficient than just 5 years ago. And replacing an exhaust hood is a major investment, but did you know that new variable speed fans could reduce the exhaust airflow by 20%, resulting in a payback of less than 5 years?
  • Efficiency: Even though a piece of equipment may not have reached the end of its actual useful life, it may be beneficial to upgrade to a new model that provides additional benefits and is more productive.  A good example is a combi oven that can self-clean and already has pre-programmed menu’s so all you need to do is push a button. 
  • Maintenance Costs: Many pieces of equipment will last much longer than five to eight years, but the older the piece of equipment, the higher the expected maintenance cost to keep it running efficiently.  A capital equipment assessment can include costs from repairs over the past year and paint a clear picture of how much the piece of equipment is really costing you.  It might just be a better option to pay $8,000 for a new dish machine than spend $3,000 every year in repairs on an old unit.
  • Business Strategy: Whether it be a piece of equipment that supports a new service strategy such as cook to order selections, or equipment that achieves better sanitation scores or aesthetic improvements, proper equipment investments are increasingly becoming part of a food service operation’s growth strategy. The ROI for these types of purchases can be substantial, though oftentimes more difficult to prove in absolute terms.

Asking for equipment purchases doesn’t have to be difficult when you’ve done your homework. And working with an experienced partner such as Clark can make generating that homework much easier to accomplish! Although your purchase recommendations are never a guarantee, having a complete Capital Assessment and solid ROI will surely increase your chances for success.

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