(June 6) “Would you like a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice?”

Forget about coffee, tea or lemonade. Seeing 10-12 open cases of oranges in the dining room should give you the message. After sitting down at one Chicago-area breakfast stop, just order a glass of the orange stuff.

Strati Panagakos, owner of Butterfield Pancake House, Wheaton, Ill., is counting on it. So much so that guests aren’t even presented with the option of ordering anything else. He goes through 230 cases a month.

By the end of June, he’ll squeeze his millionth orange since opening 3½ years ago.

Panagakos’ system, which is a prelude to one Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc. has begun promoting nationwide, has proved so fruitful he plans to open a new pancake house just a few miles away.

The Sunkist program, named Juiced for You, is being sold to foodservice companies nationally, from local shops and restaurants, like Panagakos’, to chain hotels and casinos. Sunkist sources out juicing machines to be operated right in front of customers, often to order. Typically, valencias and navels are used.

The cooperative is finalizing negotiations with a major hotel chain, said Kellie DuBois, Sunkist foodservice marketing manager.

She said the program will not take away from the fresh market, but in fact was designed as a supplement to it. Especially when valencias are in season and competition is stiff, this program will help move them, she said. Pilot programs have been successful.

An early pioneer of the program and Sunkist’s largest client, Pan Pacific Hotel, in Vancouver, British Columbia, sees volumes of 320 cases of oranges a month in peak season.

Pan Pacific has seen margins increase by 88% in some areas, said Tim Morrison, director of food and beverage operations for the hotel. The hotel is saving 15% by squeezing the oranges itself, instead of shipping the juice in.

“Our customers often tell us it’s the highlight of their meal. It’s a success from every angle,” Morrison said.

DuBois said she is encouraged because the program has succeeded in spite of the stagnant economy and slumping foodservice industry. Companies are willing to sacrifice labor, which is so valuable, to implement the program, she said.

“Even though everyone is trying to cut back on labor all over foodservice, the program still works. Customer demand for premium beverages that are alternatives to soda is high,” DuBois said. “It not only tastes better, but it’s healthy and has higher profit margins.”

Depending on the machine, operators can squeeze anywhere from one glass to two gallons of juice at a time. It’s not just limited to orange juice, however. Any type of citrus, including lemons, grapefruit and specialty items, can be used, said Peter Ohsol, marketing specialist for Sunkist. In fact, he said there will be a good balance between orange juice and more nontraditional juices.

Aside from the machine, companies who partake in the Juiced for You program will receive a sales kit, which includes a profit analysis, menu and recipe suggestions, merchandising ideas and training materials.

The idea of squeezing juice right in front of the customer is one that excites Ohsol. He said companies that use the service will see increased volume.

“It will set the foodservices apart. Customers come in and have a taste of fresh squeezed juice, remember it and keep coming back,” Ohsol said.

The secret, he said, is in the machine. Whole fruit is dropped into it, which is cut in half and then pressed. The waste falls to the side and all that is left is fresh juice, to be poured to the customer, who had a front row seat.