Combi buyers are warned to look carefully into the issues of power and water usage, says CEDA, The Catering Equipment Distributors Association, whose members sell more than 60% of equipment in the UK. But comparative information is sadly lacking, unlike other forms of equipment such as dishwashers and refrigeration and manufacturers are criticised for a lack of accurate comparative data and told they need to reveal how much energy and water their machines use.
"Energy usage is now a hot topic and caterers are scratching in the dark," says Neil Humphries, Francis Catering Equipment. "At the point where they want to make the choice, customers should have the information readily available."
"Some manufacturers are very good at hiding the figures," says Iain Munro, Scobie & McIntosh Catering Equipment. "So buyers need to understand what it really is they are considering.
"Very few one-off customers are concerned about economy in use," says Nick Howe, Court Catering Equipment. "They are more interested in the price and only the larger organisations consider the environmental issues."
"Comparison of the various makes is not easy," he adds, "and users must take into account the price they pay for energy and the available energy source. Electric combis are cheaper than gas to buy and maintain. But gas may be the only option and may also require a new ventilation canopy with gas interlocks and associated costs."
"First time or less experienced buyers are confused about what a combi is," says Iain Munro, "what it can do for their business, and, what they have to do to ensure everything runs smoothly when they get one.
"It used to be argued that combis with integral boilers were the best option because they offered the most controllable source of steam, but some models use the alternative of spraying water onto heated elements in the oven, producing an overall water saving.
"Ease of cleaning [self-cleaning ovens] is a strong selling point, but just how much water will this consume in daily use?
"Is the combi the right way to cook," says Neil Humphries, Francis Catering Equipment. "If you want to regenerate frozen meals the customer might be better with microwaves or a regeneration oven."
"Combis can do a lot of the work of conventional oven ranges," says Nick Howe. "For example, we have just finished a school where six oven ranges replaced with just two boiling tops and a bank of combis, saving space and offering more economy in use."
CEDA members are professional catering equipment distributors, with a broad experience across all sectors of the catering industry. Members are located throughout the UK, offering independent advice on individual items such as ovens, serveries or ventilation, or the complete package of equipment and services that is required for a whole new kitchen. To find your nearest CEDA distributor visit www.ceda.co.uk.