With space at a premium, caterers want energy-efficient, multifunctional kitchen appliances that anybody can operate. Keith Warren from CESA takes a look at the kitchen of the future
The connected kitchen
The latest buzzword is connectivity: it'll reduce your costs, make your business more efficient, reduce downtime and maximise equipment lifespan. Connected appliances can be monitored and programmed from a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Connectivity will be especially useful for operators running multiple kitchens. Comparative data will show them, for example, if one site is using more warewash chemicals than another; it'll warn if components are about to fail and, because the engineer will know what tools or spares to bring to fix the issue, it'll help deliver a 100% first-time fix rate.
A less sexy but no less important technology trend is waste management. When giant fatbergs make headlines and the blame is put largely on foodservice operations, it's well past time to act. CESA's fats, oil and grease (FOG) group is working on a guide that will evaluate the performance of various FOG management products and technologies. Meanwhile, expect to see new developments in technologies dealing with waste, especially those focused on turning it into a profitable resource.
It used to be common practice for chefs to leave burners on all day, but modern energy-efficient cooking equipment heats up fast, so there's no need to leave it turned on. There's also pan-sensitive equipment, including (but not exclusive to) induction, which only turns on when it senses a pan in the heat-zone.
One area that's seen a lot of development is refrigeration, following the advent of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives in July 2016. Manufacturers have invested in new technologies, including better insulation, new coolants and clever design upgrades. This has resulted in a significant shift, with more models achieving a higher energy efficiency rating. It's meant that the market's average energy index (EEI) dropped from 63% to 59% over the 12 months to September 2017 (the smaller the figure, the more energy efficient the 'average' model is).
Ease of use
Finding trained kitchen staff is difficult, but equipment manufacturers have countered this by developing appliances that are easier to operate. Take combi steamers: back in the 1970s, the first models were complicated, but today even unskilled staff can use one to cook a signature dish, to perfection, at the touch of a screen. From warewashers to microwaves to blast chillers, nearly every appliance can be operated from a very simple control panel.
Frustratingly, staff error is still the number one cause of equipment failure, but equipment suppliers are increasingly offering ongoing training to try to minimise the risk of staff misusing their equipment. They're investing in online resources, such as 'how to' videos, which kitchen staff can access easily - even from a smartphone, standing in front of the appliance they're about to use.
Several training initiatives are raising the level of professionalism. CESA's Certified Food Service Professional (CFSP) accreditation gives students a holistic understanding of how kitchens operate, and PFS (Principals of Foodservice) offers newcomers the basic knowledge they need to work safely and effectively in the kitchen.
Smaller kitchens, increased functionality
Once upon a time chefs ruled over huge kitchens manned by large brigades. Now operators want to maximise customer numbers and, as dining areas get bigger, kitchens get smaller. How do you increase output from less space? Operators are solving the conundrum by talking to equipment suppliers, which has led to two key equipment design trends: slimline versions of manufacturers' standard products and multifunctional appliances.
Dishwashers, fridges, cookers - there are many compact versions designed to fit into small kitchens. Meanwhile a single multifunctional appliance saves space by replacing several pieces of kit. For example, high-tech bratt pans can replace griddles, kettles, standard bratt pans, large pots and fryers. Multifunctional doesn't have to be high-tech - the oven range is the original multifunctional appliance.
Small kitchen solutions can involve thinking outside the box. Take refrigeration: if there's no floor space, how about putting your fridge on the wall? Or take it outside by putting up an exterior coldroom.
Maintain kit with a contract
As catering equipment has become more sophisticated, servicing has become a job for the experts. So it's a major worry when untrained staff try to 'fix' or 'improve' commercial catering equipment by tinkering with components, systems or mechanisms. It's a growing trend and it spells danger to staff, service engineers and to customers, plus, it's likely to lead to an expensive repair call-out.
The best way to keep equipment in good condition is a planned preventative maintenance contract (PPM). It will prevent breakdown, keep appliances working safely and efficiently, maximise service life and it helps operators budget, because they can predict their costs.
So why doesn't everyone have one? Interestingly, the trend right now is for more operators to have PPMs. It seems that when the market gets tough, demand for PPMs rises. Presumably that's because operators feel vulnerable and, with a PPM, they are protecting themselves from unforeseen and expensive crises.
From our sponsor
The bespoke view, by Steve Elliott, sales director for Valentine Equipment and Cuisinequip
"We at Valentine Equipment and sister company Cuisinequip see a growth in chefs looking for compact and ergonomic cooking suites that are designed to provide flexibility and energy efficiency. They want to work with us on the design and specification of these cooking suites and many are looking to integrate the controllability and lack of residual heat from induction hobs with equipment like fryers and pasta cookers.
"Cuisinequip's induction has been snapped up in bespoke cooking suites by top chefs including the Galvin Brothers, Adam Handling, Nigel Mendham at the Dukes hotel and Sydney Aldridge at 45 Jermyn Street."
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