This post is written for foodservice business managers and prospective business founders interested in making their acai bowl service more efficient.
By far the number one dissatisfaction we’ve heard from acai bowl business owners and operators is that “it takes too long to blend an acai bowl!”. This is a daily dilemma for foodservice businesses that must keep expenses in check, maintain product quality, and serve to their customer’s expectations.
Some operators ask us about acai soft serve, while others explore what it would take to serve acai sorbet. Those may be good options for your business, but after weighing the pros and cons of each, most settle on using the proven 100 gram acai puree pack. The small batch, hand made experience of using puree packs cannot be beat in terms of quality, creativity, and customer experience.
What makes a high quality acai bowl?
We believe that using a Grade A Especial 14.5% acai puree in your base is the first step to achieving that dark purple color, thick non-icy texture, and rich acai flavor that we all love. Second, how you present your bowl with photogenic and tasty toppings cannot be overlooked. First impressions matter! Finally, how quickly you serve that bowl can be the difference that turns a one time visitor into a repeat customer. That last point also impacts your employee’s stress levels and job satisfaction. Efficiency matters- which is what the rest of this post will be about.
The realities of using acai sorbet or acai soft serve
Acai sorbet is a good option for some acai bowl businesses. Our acai sorbet is very dark purple and has an ingredient list that is as clean and transparent as our favorite surf break. As great as that sounds, we’ve found it’s not the best option for everyone. Those who want more creative control over the flavor and sugar level of their acai bowl won’t find the sorbet as appealing.
Here are some things to keep in mind about our 3 gallon foodservice acai sorbet.
– It must to be stored at 15F to achieve an ideal texture for scooping and eating. At 0 F, acai sorbet is hard and just won’t scoop. This means acquiring a freezer that can be set to the desired temperature of 15 F. A gelato dipping cabinet, which has wide temperature ranges, is a good, though, expensive option. Alternatively, outfitting your own freezer with an external thermostat is a good option, discussed more below.
– You must consider how sweet you and your customers want your acai bowl to be. Like all acai sorbets on the market, ours has 16 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving. This sweetness level, or brix level as it’s known in the industry, generates the smooth texture that sorbets are known for. For some businesses a sweet acai isn’t a problem at all. However, it’s been our experience that most prefer less sweet acai bowls.
– Lastly, sorbet cannot be shipped as easily as our puree packs, which we can supply to the entire US mainland with a minimum order of only 3 cases. The MOQ (minimum order quantity) for acai sorbet is higher IF you’re not operating in an city where one of our distributors is stocking it. Pallet quantities work great for some businesses and not so great for others. Contact us if you have questions about whether acai sorbet is right for you.
While sorbet can be a great solution in some instances, it won’t work well for everyone. Which brings us to another option….soft serve acai. Only a very small percentage of our customers offer soft serve acai. It requires blending our 5 gallon bulk acai puree with other fruit, fine-tuning the recipe to reach a sugar content that keeps the mix from freezing, all the while managing the potentially temperamental soft serve machine.
Considering the size and cost of the machine, the size of the batches, and the R&D involved, it’s not a realistic option for most businesses. For those that are committed to a vision of soft serve acai, our Grade A 14.% solids acai puree in 5 gallon buckets is the best option on the market. For the rest of us, there is another solution that many of our customers are employing successfully…
That other solution for efficient acai bowl production is called pre-blending, also known as bulk blending. This is using your blender to make multiple bowl’s worth of base at once, and then storing that base in the freezer for eventual portioning for individual orders. So instead of blending each bowl to order, you blend more than you’d need in advance. Then when a customer orders you open the freezer and portion that pre-made blend into your bowl, then topping it as usual. Your blending person will be able to 5x their output by no longer blending one bowl at a time. Yay!
How to pre-blend acai bowls
We’ve seen pre-blending work well for many businesses, particularly those that can reliably anticipate high demand periods of business. So if you have a consistently busy lunch service, pre-blending in the AM will allow you to work through that line faster than otherwise. If you’re a food truck and you know the lines will be long at the weekend event, pre-blending is without question the most efficient way to work.
Where pre-blending doesn’t work well is if you sell just a few acai bowls per day, in which case blending to order will give you the highest quality product with the least waste.
Below are some things to understand about bulk blending. We’ll first cover the equipment needed then move on to considerations for recipe and production process.
Equipment for bulk blending acai bowls
– You’ll need a high powered blender with tamper to blend that much frozen product. When making 1/2 or 3/4 of a blender bucket worth of acai bowl base, your blender will work especially hard. Commercial blenders with tampers are essential. This is the most popular one in use today. We know of a few operations burning through multiple blenders a\per year. As one operator said, “we just look at it as a cost of doing business”.
– To scoop the acai out of the blender, you’ll want to use a soft rubber spatula so you don’t dull your blender’s blades on contact.
– You’ll need a container to store the acai base in. A food grade plastic or stainless steel holding pan will work well for holding it. I’d recommend a deeper pan over a wider, shallow one. The problem with a wider and shallower dish is that it gives your acai base a larger surface area, which puts it in contact with the cold air. This will cause it to freeze faster. Another way to manage cold air exposure is using a lid, which prevents the freezing air from blowing directly on to your base.
– Lastly, you’ll of course need a freezer. This can be the everyday freezer in your cafe, or even a refrigerator if you are making frequent, smaller batches and serving them quickly. The point is storing it somewhere that is cold! In a perfect world, your appliance would be set to 15 F- a magical number that prolongs the life of your base.
– So your current freezer can’t be set to 15 F? It’s not required, but if you want a dedicated freezer then a Gelato dipping cabinet is a good but expensive option. They have a built in thermostat that ranges between -5 and 20 F.
– Alternatively, you can adapt a new or existing freezer (of any size) with an inexpensive little hack used by home brewers for decades. An external thermostat is used to control the temperature of a freezer or refrigerator. These handy little devices safely override your appliance’s built in thermostat, allowing you to set the temperature exactly where you want it. DYOR before purchasing to make sure it’ll work with your freezer.
In summary, bulk blending can be done with accessible equipment, and in many cases it can be done without additional purchases.
Process considerations for pre-blending acai bowls
Here are a few considerations when blending in bulk:
– How full you fill your blender is something to think about. In most cases, blending 1/2 or 3/4 of a blender worth of fruit will be enough to reach production efficiency without over heating your blender.
– The temperature of your ingredients will impact how much your blender (and you arm) works. The warmer your frozen ingredients, the easier they’ll blend. The colder they are, the harder on your machine it’ll be. To illustrate, bananas at room temperature will be much easier on your machine than bananas frozen at -10 degrees. Further, all frozen fruit, including acai, will blend easier at 5 degrees than -5 degrees. If you’re having a hard time blending you could adjust your freezer’s thermostat to see if it makes a difference.
– The individual ingredients of your acai bowl base, especially the sugar level of each, will impact how long your blend maintains that desirable semi-frozen texture. Like you read in an earlier section, sugar is excellent at keeping frozen treats perfectly scoopable. An ingredient list that includes sweeter foods and liquids will slow down the freezing process. However, if you’re like us and prefer your acai bowls to be just sweet enough, you may try experimenting with the other factors covered in this article (especially temperature).
– The number of unique acai bowl bases on your menu will dictate how feasible this option is for your operation. If you offer just one acai bowl base, then this method will be simple to implement. Just blend, store, and serve. However, if you have 3 or more different acai bowl bases, it might be challenging to match supply with demand for each particular bowl. Something to think about when making or re-setting a menu.
– Do pre-blended bases ever freeze? If you’re matching supply with demand, it’s unlikely your base will freeze entirely. What will sometimes freeze is the edge of your base just where it touches the walls of your holding pan. Those frozen pieces won’t be wasted if you add them to your next batch. To maintain consistency, make sure the frozen pieces constitute less than 25% of total ingredients in the new blend.
We were compelled to write this post because it answers the number one question we get: how to make acai bowl production more efficient. We hope it answered some of your questions and perhaps leads to an improvement in your product quality, employee satisfaction, and business profit. Get in touch if you have any other questions or for pricing and samples of our Grade A, wild harvested, organic acai products.