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city-wide cateringTo Be Prepared: Catering and Labeling

Producer of prepared foods attains full packaging line control and flexibility, while reducing waste, with advanced label applicator and a unique service arrangement.

Because of today's hectic lifestyle for large segments of the population— from workers employed in industrial complexes outside of major populated centers to hurried on-the-go students with no time to prepare home-made meals— prepared foods are an indispensible part of modern living.

But whether they come from a mobile catering truck, a vending machine or a cafeteria, these convenient, prepared meals are often stigmatized by general perception of sub-par quality and taste.

However, the folks at Mississauga, Ontario, Canada-based City-Wide Catering do their bit each and every day to change that perception — namely by continuously striving for utmost product quality and flavor, while catering to the demands of today’s hectic lifestyles. And they’ve been doing this since 1972.

The company owner Nick Basile, along with his sons Frank and Vince, employ about 30 people at the facility to cook, prepare and package a wide variety of nutritious and health-conscious, yet affordable meals, of both hot and cold.

The company’s extensive product line is distributed under the readily recognized Papa Nick’s brand name through a network of more than 450 outlets, including mobile catering trucks, vending machines, schools, cafeterias, and at special events such as office functions and parties.

With more than 250 stock-keeping units (SKUs) to its roster, City-Wide produces 30,000 meals on an average day—ranging from subs, croissants and hot or cold sandwiches to cabbage rolls, lasagna, shepherd’s pie and much more.

Because all the products made there are packaged and labeled right on-site, it is paramountly important for the operation to have flexible and efficient labeling machinery at its disposal in order to accommodate the diverse range of package shapes and sizes, while keeping the products affordable.

According to the company, it has solved that need with the help of Weber Marking Systems—a longtime developer and manufacturer of high-performance labeling and coding products for the industrial marketplace, with its Canadian operations also based in Mississauga.

The folks at Weber knew they could help City-Wide automate its labeling process, and save money at the same time, through the Weber-developed, value-added Systems Plus program. Under this program, City-Wide would be able to automate its labeling systems by incorporating new hardware costs into the price of consumables—such as labels and ribbons— amortized over a mutually agreed-to time-line, based on volume of usage. According to Weber, this approach enables the customer to benefit by making major improvements to save labeling costs and improve efficiencies, while greatly reducing the capital equipment purchase burden.

Long before hooking up with Weber, City-Wide used blank labels and ink-stamp technology to imprint the product name on its various prepared foods, after which the labels would be manually applied to each different item.Some years later, the company moved to partially automate the process—using a fixed-mount, tabletop printer and preprinted labels that had to be manually changed each time a new product or SKU came down the packaging line.The broad range of the SKUs, and relatively low quantities of each SKU produced on a given day, still meant significant manual labor, with limited flexibility. Moreover, the printer’s fixed position meant it could not accommodate products whose dimensions fell outside a strict area of conformance.

city-wide catering labeling systemUpon meeting with City-Wide,Weber conducted a full site survey and examined the two packaging lines to determine how the company could eliminate existing manual operations, while achieving faster, more precise labeling.

It was determined that the right solution for City-Wide would be Weber’s Model 5100 label printerapplicator and customized software.The Model 5100 system combines a high-performance thermal/thermal- transfer label printer with a specially configured applicator to print and apply pressure-sensitive labels to the tops, bottoms or sides of products right along the conveyor line.The system is ruggedly constructed to tolerate harsh industrial environments, with vital components housed inside a corrosion-resistant, stainless steel cabinet.

Weber then also designed and produced colorful, attractive labels preprinted with the Papa Nick’s logo and icon—leaving sufficient blank space for City- Wide to print all the necessary variable data, such as product name, ingredients, and a best-before date.

The result was a huge leap forward from plain white labels with black, imprinted text that the company had used until then, according to Frank Basile.

“The labels Weber produced for us added a new dimension to our products’ presentation,” Frank recalls. “The attractive use of color and graphics is eye-catching, and it provides differentiation from other products—allowing our customers to instantly recognize Papa Nick’s as consistently high-quality and great-tasting foods they can count on.”

At City-Wide, an operator uses Weber’s customized software on a computer linked to the Model 5100 to select the food SKU about to be labeled.With the touch of a button, the operator can switch to a new label on an as production requirements change, even on-the-fly, for optimum convenience and flexibility. This, in turn, has enabled City-Wide to fully automate the process by eliminating the manual changeout of labels, allowing the company to reduce its inventory of preprinted labels by about 80 per cent. Moreover, this set-up also provides City-Wide with complete control over its database, so that it can add or remove products as it sees fit.

Weber also provided a customized stand for the Model 5100 that could be adjusted either upward or downward to accommodate the diverse products for a smooth flow through the packaging process.The stand was also customized by Weber to fit physically around the shrinkwrap machinery in both conveyor lines.The Model 5100 label printer-applicator system can accommodate label sizes ranging from 2x1 to 6x4 inches, as well as variable text, barcodes, and graphic images at speeds of up to 12 inches per second.

“The Systems Plus program that Weber offers is unique in the marketplace, and it is a very viable option for companies with a limited capital budget,” comments Alex Best, national sales manager for Weber Marking Systems.“Our labeling specialists can meet with companies and conduct labeling systems surveys to determine the most cost-effective solution to meet their needs.

“This is one reason our Systems Plus program has proven to be a huge success for many of our clients.” For his part, Frank Basile happily notes that the Weber system will help accommodate City-Wide’s growth and expansion well into the future.

“With the labeling technology we have today, our market share and production capacity could increase by another third without us having to change or add new equipment,” he says.“We are extremely pleased with the Weber labeling solution—it has saved us both time and money.”

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