As part of its mission to celebrate organizations that push the foodservice equipment and supplies industry forward, the FEDA First Thing newsletter is publishing a series of Q&As with member companies. This week features Krowne, a third-generation family-owned manufacturer of custom underbar equipment, refrigeration, and high-quality faucets and pre-rinses.
Who is your customer base?
Kyle Forman, president: Our customers come from all over the world and use our products in a wide variety of commercial and residential applications. Our products are found in stadiums, casinos, restaurants, bars, hotels, hospitals, and more and are trusted by award-winning bartenders, Michelin star chefs, and industry icons like Jon Taffer. Look for our products behind the bar, back in the kitchen, or pretty much anywhere with running water or beer on tap.
How has Krowne set itself apart in the foodservice equipment manufacturing market?
Technology, collaboration, and customization. We have led the charge to leverage and create new technology that allows for an entirely different design experience. Over the past two years, we have released fully immersive virtual reality and augmented reality design capabilities, an intuitive 3-D bar configuration app, a faucet configurator, and more. These new services have all grown rapidly in usage which tells us the demand was there, but no one was providing any solutions.
Collaboration is key to our success and innovation. To push this priority to the top, we created a World-Class Bartender Ambassador program. To do this, we hand-picked a group of five award-winning bartenders from across the country who are now fully integrated into our bar design and R&D teams to provide us with feedback and insight straight from the source.
As we continue to expand as an organization, our customization requests have multiplied. To proactively address this, we invested over $5 million over the past three years in new fiber optic lasers, robotic brake presses, and robotic polishers, and we have another $6 million in planned expenditures over the next two years.
How has the company innovated in recent years?
We have added over 900 new products in the last three years alone. Almost every single one of them was designed entirely in-house. To do this, our 3-D printers have been running nearly 24/7 to keep up with the new designs from our growing engineering team. To help stimulate amazing ideas, we allow our design team complete freedom to experiment and this has enabled us to introduce new non-traditional products to market that solve real issues for our customers.
How are operator expectations changing and how have you met that challenge?
Customers can’t wait two or three days for products to ship. To address this, we created one of the largest quick ship offerings in our industry. We guarantee next day shipping on over 3,000 products in our new quick ship program. Impressively, our team has been overperforming and we are shipping approximately 90 percent of quick ship orders out the same day. This includes underbar equipment, refrigeration, plumbing products, gas connectors, and casters.
How is your company making the best use of new technology?
Our bar configuration app, BarFlex3D, has been a massive success. We receive hundreds of new designs per week at all hours from restaurant owners, bartenders, hotels, dealers, and consultants. BarFlex3D allows users to configure their bar in real-time 3-D from over 25,000 different configurations and options. Version 2 of BarFlex launches Feb. 1 with a refreshed look, new features, and the ability to add angles to your bar layout. We even added an integration that rebuilds your design and emails you the exact configuration in Revit and AutoCAD directly to your inbox after submittal.
Virtual reality and augmented reality allow for an entirely new design experience. Not only are these tools great for design and layout approval in the field, but we have implemented new bartender training programs and footstep analysis tools into these technologies that allow our customers to completely train their staff behind their new bar prior to a single piece of equipment arriving on site.
How is the company growing?
Over the past five years, we have doubled in terms of revenue and added over 50 full-time employees to our team. Despite the pandemic, we have seen significant growth in our stadium and healthcare divisions which have allowed us to continue our expansion plans. We are currently hiring for over 15 different roles and are in negotiations to acquire another 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space which would bring us to a total of 300,000 square feet in the United States.
What challenges are your customers facing, and how have you helped them create solutions?
The biggest challenge many of our customers are facing right now is profitability. We provide zero-step bar design solutions that improve bartender efficiency and profits. Despite a large majority of bars being closed or operating at limited capacity, the demand for bottled or to-go cocktails has soared, and we worked closely with our ambassador team in the beginning of the pandemic to create unique solutions to address this. We also offer C02 blast frosters that instantly sanitize glasses before serving cocktails to keep patrons safe.
What excites you about the future of our industry?
Advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence can be incorporated into our products and services to allow for an even better customer experience. Augmented reality use in remote assistance for service techs working on equipment will completely shift the way our industry approaches service calls while significantly reducing down-time. Augmented reality training events will change the way we interact with clients and the ongoing pandemic will make this a reality much sooner than people think.