Never has there been more competition for business in the catering industry than there is today, and operators are striving for excellence and that all-important point of difference to make them stand out from the crowd.
It's imperative they have the right tools for the job and the Caterer and Hotelkeeper Equipment & Supplies Excellence Awards, sponsored by Brakes Catering Equipment, recognise innovation and enterprise in the development of professional catering equipment and supplies, which make such a vital contribution to successful food service operations.
Our panel of judges has carefully assessed the entries for evidence of fresh thinking, significant advances in design, and innovation application of technology to bring you 15 category winners, together with five commendations. Congratulations to them all.
Winner: Aquajet 50 (model AJ-PR-50) - Mechline Developments
The Aquajet 50 is a multifunctional device that was designed to address two key problems encountered with conventional pre-rinse sprays, which are used to rinse dishes before they are placed in the washer.
First, operators tend to overstretch and twist the hoses, causing frequent, costly and inconvenient breakdowns. Second, conventional sprays are normally fitted to the sink deck, which makes it difficult to prevent the build-up of unhygienic grime.
The Aquajet is wall-mounted to keep the work area clear, and uses a durable coiled hose to absorb the stresses of twisting, along with an integral restraining wire that prevents the operator pulling it out too far.
"Necessity is the mother of invention," said one of our judges of this elegant solution. "Most are attached to the sink on a standpipe, which eventually comes away. Being wall-mounted, this is a strong device."
Other hygiene elements are built into the Aquajet design. The WRAS-approved model meets WRc requirements to prevent backflow, because the integral cable prevents users from accidentally pulling the hose into dirty water. The smooth, unwrinkled casing also makes the hose easy to keep clean.
Beverage making and dispense
Winner: Bistro! - WMF UK
Innovation, flexibility, and a multitude of customisable options packed into an easy-to-use unit won WMF's redesigned Bistro! coffee machine our judges' votes.
The single-cup automatic machine for speciality coffee is bursting with new features, including what is claimed to be the world's first Plug and Clean automatic milk frother cleaning system, and an optional integral hot chocolate facility.
The machine - comprising a stainless-steel brewer and hardened steel grinders - offers 16 drink varieties that can be individually programmed in terms of amounts and sequence of ingredients without changing the recipes. Three buttons allow different sizes of cup to be chosen, and the outlet is adjustable to up to 170mm to allow even large coffee pots to be filled.
A standard 6.3kW machine can churn out 300 cups of espresso, 220 cups of cappuccino, 240 café crèmes or 100 cups of hot chocolate per hour. Options including a steam nozzle, a power connection, lockable containers and LED lighting that can be set to any colour (or to change colours).
"A nice piece of kit" that "covers every coffee scenario" was the judges' view. They noted that it "can be set for different moods depending on the time of day".
Its "user-friendly" nature also impressed our judges. "It could be self-service," observed one judge, while another pointed out that: "It can be customer-facing - and that's a real bonus."
Combi-ovens, steamers and microwaves
Winner: Visual Cooking Combi Ovens - Hounö A/S
The Visual Cooking Combi Oven by Scandinavian manufacturer Hounö has a smart design and a range of functions that won over the judges, who agreed it looked "user-friendly and easy to maintain".
Designed by Danish industrial designer Lars Kjærulf, the combi-oven is suited to restaurants with kitchens on view, and has a smooth stainless-steel finish that is easy to clean and an automatic cleaning system for washing the interior.
Our judges praised the oven's curved glass door, which allows chefs to easily see food cooking. The Visual Cooking ovens are equipped with a large handle to open the door in two steps for maximum safety, while the front of the oven is angled toward the user for easy operation.
A TFT display provides a step-by-step guide for easy programming, and the fact that it is a pass-through oven with two doors was felt by the judges to be "a real plus" and makes it ideal for siting at the end of a cooking suite.
Commended: Sanyo EMCD 2900 - Valera
Judges commended the combi microwave oven for its versatility and compact build. With as many as 50 preset programmes, each of up to three stages, it offers three cooking modes: microwave and convection convection or microwave. The easy-to-use microwave is designed to produce speedy and consistent results, and offers a number of energy-saving and safety features including automatic shutdown. "This is the best product on the market with these facilities," was the conclusion of one judge.
Crockery, cutlery and glassware
Winner: Counter-Serve - Churchill China Dining Out
Churchill's Counter-Serve is a flexible, four-strong range of super-vitrified white dishes and casseroles designed to improve the presentation and quality of food stored on hot-deck or cold-counter displays. It certainly pushed the innovation button for our judges, who reckoned that it definitely "filled a need in the market".
Counter-Serve is said to save space, energy and costs in its solution for optimising the use of counter surface and to relegate poor and uninspiring food presentation to history.
The square and rectangular components (ranging from a 5in rectangular baking dish to a two-litre rectangular casserole) are designed to slot together in countless flexible layouts to cover some 99.6% of the deck and so avoid heat loss. As one judge remarked: "It fills the unit completely and utilises all the heat."
The dishwasher-safe dishes - which are resistant to chips and breakage - all have large, flat bases to ensure maximum coverage and conduction of the heat. As a result, they keep hot food hotter for longer and make it easier to keep food within the specified temperature range.
Winner: Bio-Coated Cups - Huhtamaki UK
Huhtamaki's bio-coated range of single-use hot, cold and vending paper cups has hit the target in terms of their green credentials. Operators using them can not only bask in the reflection of their ecologically green glow but can use the cups' customisable design option to promote their own brand as well.
"There's more demand for environmentally friendly products," commented our judges, who felt that "using such products makes a good statement".
The cups are made from cartonboard sourced from sustainably managed forests, and carry the Forest Stewardship Council's chain-of-custody certificate.
The bio-coating makes the cups fully compostable to the European EN13432 standard, and they will compost to soil in industrial composting facilities in about 45-60 days.
The cups are available in a variety of sizes - 4oz, 9oz, 12oz, 16oz and 22oz - to suit all occasions and needs, especially outdoor and banqueting-style catering.
Food Display and Bar Installations
Winner: Scotsman ACL 206 - Hubbard Ice Systems
Judges were impressed by the "ingenious" Scotsman AC 206 self-contained Supercuber, which produces up to 56 pure-ice shot glasses per 20-minute cycle. The stylishly shaped ice glasses are created by spraying water up into an inverted mould so any impurities in the water fall back down. The shot glass has 2.5mm-thick side walls and is formed from slow-melting ice. Judges felt the "novel" Supercuber was "excellent for bars" and they liked the fact that it could also be used as a regular ice-maker. It also had the added benefit of "reducing breakages and washing up".
Food preparation, cookware and kitchen gadgets
Winner: Heat Max Heated Wells - Hatco Corporation
The Heat Max is an all-in-one solution, as it cooks, steams and holds food. It provides temperatures from 50°C to 100°C for warming, steaming and boiling, with no need to cook the food first and transfer it.
There's a choice of single or dual round 10-litre units, which are available freestanding or built-in, and all units have a remote temperature thermostat with separate light power switch to retain heat throughout service.
"A unique piece of kit" was how one judge described it, and our panel complimented its versatility, compact size, range of safety features and energy-saving attributes. "You can cook soups or even hold delicate sauces in this all-in-one unit," was another observation. "It has multiple uses, which reduces washing up, too."
Winner: Food Waste Recycling System - IMC (Imperial Machine Co)
"A fantastic piece of green kit" that "recycles waste effectively" was the ringing verdict of our judges on IMC's food waste recycling system.
Not only does this "very green" solution help caterers to comply with legislation that came into force last October requiring food waste to be pre-treated before landfill disposal, but it saves them money and reduces their impact on the environment.
Food waste has traditionally been difficult to deal with. Flushing it down the drain can cause expensive drainage problems, while the costs of third-party collection and removal are rising dramatically.
The IMC Food Waste Disposer works in tandem with the IMC WastePro Dewaterer to reduce the volume of wet waste by 80%, making it easier to handle and cheaper to dispose of.
Waste, including meat, is ground into standard particle sizes and passed through the dewaterer to squeeze out excess water, which is discharged to the drain. The dry waste is then stored in small lidded waste-collection bins.
The waste disposer and dewaterer can be supplied separately or as part of a stainless-steel bench unit.
The benefits don't stop here, however. The dry waste can be mixed with a small quantity of compressed wood pellets and left in a Big Hanna In-Vessel Composter for six weeks to produce high-quality compost that surpasses British Standards.
So, not only does it divert catering food waste from overburdened landfill sites, it is - as one judge pointed out - "great for those with a kitchen garden". And IMC says the savings it generates will offset the cost of the equipment in little more than two years.
Commended: Copeland Digital Scroll - Emerson Climate Technologies
This near-winner is a system for refrigerating multiple loads in a way that can increase energy efficiency by up to 30%, hold a precise temperature to plus or minus half-a-degree, and maintain constant suction power.
A single condensing unit (there are four models of up to 20kW) will adjust the capacity of several refrigerator compressors from 10% to 100% to precisely match the refrigeration load. This eliminates the need for multiple temperature-control components.
Commended: Gram Plus K600G - Gram UK
The Plus K600G single-door, 600-litre fridge is just one of 33 Gram refrigeration products to appear on the Energy Technology List, which gives detailed results on energy-efficiency such as consumption of kilowatt-hours per year. This makes Gram the most frequently featured refrigeration maker on the list.
The fridge uses 586kWh of energy per year, just 38% of the 1,332kWh clocked up by its nearest rival of similar volume. This means the Gram unit can slash £81.70 off operators' annual electricity bills (based on a rate of 10p per kWh). And its presence on the Energy Technology List qualifies customers for 100% first-year Enhanced Capital Allowances, that will shave £30 off every £100 spent.
Grills, Griddles, Barbeques and Toasters
Winner: Varithek Servocuccina - BGL Rieber
The Varithek Servocuccina mobile cooking station enables chefs to serve hot and cold food and drinks from any location. "You can take the kitchen anywhere with this equipment," commented one judge. The lightweight units can quickly be configured to accommodate a range of cooking stations, such as woks, griddles, induction hobs and refrigeration options.
Judges were impressed by the station's "aircleansystem", which provides integrated ventilation and eliminates the need for permanent overhead extraction. Another noteworthy component is its thermoplate chafing dish for presenting and holding hot food via an electric heating system, to spread heat evenly and prevent food burning.
One judge remarked that "you can switch from cooking to serving very easily" and it was agreed that the Servocuccina "has a huge potential for the leisure market".
Commended: Electric Toasty Oven - Toasty Products
Judges described the Toasty Oven as "one of the most exciting new products" on the market. The freestanding unit can produce 100 sealed toasted sandwiches per hour, and shows innovative use of induction technology to produce localised heating at high speed - typically, 40-45 seconds.
It works by clamping a sandwich between a pair of heated plates and sliding them into the heating section of the oven. A feature which drew particular praise from the judges was the option to brand the plates so that the operator's logo is toasted into the surface of the sandwich.
Hygiene and Waste Management
Winner: Microvac Automated Food Waste Removal System - Meiko UK
The Microvac was praised by judges for providing a "complete waste solution". The system is designed to handle, transport and store food waste for a range of catering situations - from hotels and restaurants to hospitals and schools.
The system is made up of a food waste inlet, interconnecting pipe system, and food collection and storage vessel, plus a vacuum source with integral control unit.
It works by grinding food with water to create a liquid mass which is transported by vacuum through a plastic pipe to a liquid separator in the storage tank.
The water is extracted via a filtering screen and disposed of in the waste water system, while the food waste is discharged into a sealed tank which is taken away in a waste collection vehicle.
Our judges described the system as "an eco-friendly solution without the commitment" and were pleased to note that the waste tanks also come in different sizes to suit different-sized businesses.
Ranges, Fryers and Ovens
Winner: Menu System Slide Control - Euro Property Services
Our judges remarked that the Slide Control "takes induction to another level". The range has 12 hobs, and the cooking power is controlled by moving the pan across the surface, eliminating the need for operational controls. The closer the pan is to the centre of the hob, the greater the heat, and a digital display shows the power consumption.
Each hob has stand-alone technology and, in addition to being able to recognise whether a pan is on the hob, it can also identify the kind of pot set on the hob to maximise its efficiency.
"Induction is the best energy-saving technology, and this latest product looks at induction from another angle to make it work like a solid-top," commented one judge.
Another said: "The Slide Control will push other manufacturers to look into the technology and encourage operators to buy into induction. It offers versatility for operators and will sell very well for front-of-house operations."
Winner: Copeland Digital Scroll - Emerson Climate Technologies
The Copeland Digital Scroll is designed to maximise the performance of heavy-duty refrigeration units. It modulates the capacity of a compressor from 10% to 100% to match the refrigeration load and increases energy efficiency by holding its temperature and maintaining a constant suction pressure.
The Scroll is generally used for units where suction pressure fluctuates widely, and is available in four condensing unit models with power ratings up to 20kW.
Judges were impressed that the Copeland Digital Scroll enables refrigerators to work to the optimum even when they are full or the door is opened frequently. They praised the energy-saving benefits and concluded that it would "effectively elongate the life of the compressor and save on maintenance".
Winner: GS500 Energy+ - Winterhalter UK
The judging panel was impressed by the energy-saving credentials of the Winterhalter Energy+ dishwasher. This latest dishwasher is part of Winterhalter's Intelligence Resource Technology initiative, which aims to dramatically slash energy costs while maintaining quality wash results.
Energy+ works by reclaiming the heat that would otherwise be lost at the end of a wash and using it to heat incoming water. This also lowers the amount of heat and humidity released into the kitchen, which improves the working environment and means that the kitchen ventilation system doesn't have to work so hard.
"This is a unique machine," observed our judges, "and the only hood machine on the market that doesn't need a canopy."
Commended: Hobart FXP - Hobart UK
The Hobart FXP was deemed "one of the best under-counter dishwashers on the market" by our judges. The Smartonic single-button control is colour-coded for each stage of the wash cycle, so the operator can chart the progress of the wash.
The machine features an Ecotherm heating system which maintains a temperature of over 63°C throughout the wash cycle.
Uniquely, there is a three-minute drying cycle at the end of the rinse, and our judges liked the fact that this eliminates steam escaping and means that operators are able to use crockery and cutlery straight away.
- Martin Bates, CEO, Craft Guild of Chefs
- Henry Brosi, executive chef, The Dorchester
- Stuart Ferguson, chef and writer
- Tony Galvin, chairman, FCSI
- Peter Kitchin, chairman, CEDA
- Andrew Powis, managing director, Sterling Foodservice Design
Nick Vadis, UK executive chef, Compass Group UK & Ireland
Case study winners
Best Installation Case Study
For the Emirates Stadium - CCS Refrigeration & Air Conditioning
Our winner impressed our judges by carrying out a "project of great complexity" and described the result as "the complete refrigeration solution".
CCS Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, based in Cumbria, was awarded the refrigeration installation project at Arsenal FC's Emirates Stadium in north London. It was no small job, with about £700,000 spent on the refrigeration.
The project involved the supply of equipment to refrigerate 54 coldrooms, plus drinks stores and beer cellars.
Significant savings in installation cost, ongoing costs and the space taken up by both equipment and service runs have been achieved by grouping certain rooms together. The segmented approach, plus the use of the Copeland Digital Scroll compressor packs, minimised the charge of HFCs used and yielded a significant reduction in the amount of energy consumed.
The installation will save an estimated 70,000kWh of power, which equates to about 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. It has received recognition from the refrigeration and air-conditioning industry.
Best Maintenance Case Study
For the Prison Catering Service - Serviceline
A "massive contract" was the description our judges gave to our winning maintenance case study, which involved the company "working in the most difficult environment".
Possibly the largest and most ambitious catering equipment maintenance project in UK history was created when Alan Tuckwood, head of catering for HM Prisons, set up a five-year deal with Serviceline, covering more than 1,000 pieces of equipment installed in 113 kitchens. The contract covers servicing, warranty, maintenance programme and breakdown service.
Every engineer's visit requires organisation and pre-registering of his identity, vehicle registration, tools, laptop and even memory sticks for the combis, and a prison escort officer has to be booked.
Judges were impressed by the client's feedback, indicating that downtime is now virtually nil and servicing of equipment needing water treatment has extended its projected life by up to 50%.
Another requirement that had been met was that all engineers carry the spares required to provide the fix, and this has achieved a record of 94% resolution.
As proud sponsor of the Caterer and Hotelkeeper Equipment & Supplies Excellence Awards 2008, Brakes Catering Equipment understands a thing or two about the value of great suppliers and innovative products.
From Michelin-starred restaurants to contract catering operations, reliable, professional equipment is the one thing they rely on, day in, day out.
No matter how good the chef, or how great the ingredients, without the right equipment there would be no service.
Martin Hall, general manager, Brakes Catering Equipment, says: "I am delighted to congratulate all of the winners on behalf of Brakes Catering Equipment. Working closely with many of these suppliers, we are well aware of the challenges they face, and the huge lengths they go to in continually providing caterers with innovative, reliable and effective equipment.
"One of the most encouraging things to see has been the quantity as well as the quality of entrants - to have such innovation on such a large scale can only mean great things for the future of this sector.
"I would like to thank each entrant for their contribution, and wish you all the best of luck for the coming year."