HostMilano Showcases Innovations for C-Stores

HostMilano Showcases Innovations for C-Stores

By Gretchen Matthews

For five days in mid-October, the population of Italy’s fashion and financial capital swelled by 300,000 to welcome HostMilano 2023, the biennial international hospitality expo featuring more than 2,100 exhibitors from 50 nations showcasing products across the professional catering, vending, and restaurant technology sectors. Walking the show’s 14 exhibition halls of the FieraMilano Rho convention center was like strolling through the most cosmopolitan of marketplaces. The air thrummed with convivial energy as two dozen or more languages tickled your ears. Everywhere you looked, there were delectable tastes to try and new delights for your eyes.

Searching for a new refrigeration system? New packaging? Modular kitchen components with plug-and-play capability? This was the place to find it. Ask any of the 180,000 attendees from 166 countries and they would tell you the same: HostMilano 2023 was a magnificent assembly of the world’s finest foodservice innovations and a perfect reflection of the industry’s most exciting trends.

Since the last Host in 2021, the demand for high-quality fast food and the return to out-of-home work has stimulated innovation in three key areas affecting c-stores: individual choice artisanal coffee machines, high-speed ovens, and next-level hot-holding units. It has also opened the doors to entirely new products such as fresh food vending machines and unique packaging options. Let’s look at these categories one by one.

Artisanal Coffee

Today’s consumers expect personalized beverages everywhere they go. The newest automatic coffee systems by Middleby, Franke, Schaerer, Melitta, and Rancilio Group won’t disappoint. They come ready for cashless self-payment systems, make between 180 and 360 cups per day, and boast up to four grinders, individualized brew-by-bean temperature systems, hundreds of mix-and-match drink options including powder flavor additions, customizable touch screens ready for branding and promotional materials, and multiple milk, foam, froth, steam, and cooling options too. The Franke and Schaerer machines, as well as the Egro machines from the Rancilio Group, also have internal telemetry to be used with paid subscription plans so that real-time data and other advanced metrics can be exported to an API. Specific technical requirements and capabilities of the machines differ slightly.

If you’re wondering how to make the right choice in a world of coffee machine options, the experts at Host advise that you consider the needs and tastes of your customers. A long, slow grind, for example, would yield a smoother coffee taste. But also consider – in a fast-paced environment – is the tradeoff worth it? The choice is yours, and personal choice is the name of the game.

At Host, Schaerer showed it can offer customers plenty of choices and solve the counter space dilemma with one machine – the Soul C – a compact, robust, modular unit that produces delicious coconut lattes. Just 13 inches wide with three bean reservoirs, the Soul C is fully self-cleaning for 300 days, requires no tools for installation, and is picture- and video-capable, ready for brand content. Every machine contains a 4g modem, so Schearer can run diagnostics remotely to ensure smooth functioning. Operators wishing to change recipes or display new art across fleets can upload materials to Schaerer to be pushed out immediately.

Also in this category, Franke brought a wide range of “front of the house” systems to HostMilano 2023, including its most popular self-serve machine, the A800. The A800 brews a tasty cappuccino with freshly roasted beans and cools it from 89 F to 32 F in just seconds for the customer who prefers the iced version. Franke’s shiny new Mytico line, developed to help short-staffed businesses deliver high-quality coffee without spending hours to train baristas, takes things up a notch and was one of 15 products awarded a SMART Label by the HostMilano jury for performance. Mytico Vario can produce up to four cappuccinos at one time and could be used in a high-traffic c-store. Mytico Uno, ready for distribution in August 2024, will feature a fully automatic cleaning program. Franke machines have cameras to assess each cup’s capacity before dispensing a beverage, thereby reducing waste. Uwe Busse, business development director EMEA says, “Franke has one of the most comprehensive and complete ranges of coffee machines. This enables Franke to be the right choice for all sorts of different applications and situations in the c-store environment. Because of this, Franke has already been established as the number one choice by many c-store companies around the globe.”

Host Milano

High-Speed Ovens

If you’re preparing hot food, you’re in the market for high-speed ovens. While companies such as UNOX are using convection to produce high-speed baking ovens such as the Speed.Pro Countertop in a small footprint, in ovens, the real innovation at HostMilano was the Vector multi-cook with structured air technology from Alto-Shaam. The most popular model, the VMC-H4H, made mouth-watering pork schnitzel, bacon, and peas simultaneously in seconds on the show floor. With four independent cooking chambers, each with its own catalytic converter, the Vector can produce up to four dishes at the same time, at differing temperatures, without flavor transfer. There is no air flow between its inner stacked shelf sections. C-stores can easily cook the eggs, sausages, croissants, and muffins needed to assemble breakfast sandwiches on a busy morning without sacrificing space or drying out the bread. An easy-to-read picture-filled touchscreen helps multilingual staff make quick choices and short order of long lines. Rachel Brueser, product marketing manager says, “Our multi-cook ovens are perfect for introducing a foodservice program that offers customers a high-volume and variety of food without sacrificing quality. Not only are the ovens intuitive and very simple to use for staff, they’re ventless and waterless, which allows them to be placed and operated anywhere.”

Hot-Holding and the Future of Fast Food

For hot food o go, Flexeserve brought excitement to HostMilano with its air holding displays. While most hot-holding units keep food warm by keeping stagnant air a consistent temperature, Flexeserve has broken the mold and designed units which hold multiple food products at differing temperatures. Within each cabinet, recirculated air moving front to back and side to side in preprogramed Flexeserve Zones creates microclimates on the shelves to protect food texture, humidity, and taste. Cloud-based control ensures that temperature changes can be made at any time. In the Flexeserve case at Host, French toast sticks stayed crisp and fluffy for hours. LED lighting illuminates items on each shelf, and double-glazed end panels increase efficiency by preventing heat from escaping. At the show, each Flexeserve cabinet was cool to the touch.

Pizza lovers take note: you can now order a pie from a vending machine. Just select one from the touch screen on a Pizza Ammor machine and your scrumptious pre-loaded pizza will be baked on the spot and delivered to you in 90 seconds. Pizza Ammor makes its machines in Naples and sends them worldwide. Similarly, Jordao has a created a smart Click & Collect Automated Locker to keep freshly prepared food hot until pickup. Expect to see more of these trends.

Good, Green, and Growing

HostMilano is a menagerie of delights and a foretaste of things to come in all realms of hospitality. Bicom is an Italian food technology company selling instant soluble powdered teas and coffees to restaurants and hotels. The compact, individualized packaging can be branded to any business and Bicom’s wide variety of flavors will please any palate. Ecobean from Poland is partnering with companies to turn spent coffee grounds into new products such as compostable straws, BBQ briquettes, and flower pots. And Too Good to Go works to eliminate food waste. Businesses can register with Too Good to Go to be placed on its app and turn surplus food into extra income. Consumers use the app to find unsold food at the end of every day and purchase it for 1/3 off the original price.

Excitement Continues

HostMilano’s reach will last. When people stop for gas, they expect gourmet coffee and a sandwich that’s fresh and hot, even if the kitchen is closed. Thanks to the innovations shown in Italy at this tremendous event where the hospitality industry’s best and brightest came to mingle and share their work, consumers need not fear they’ll be let down. The future is gleaming and bright.

Gretchen Matthews founded Chesapeake Quill to help businesspeople become better writers. She is a regular presenter at the biannual Women in Carwash conference and the copy editor for its newsletter, L.E.A.R.N. Contact her at



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