Nowhere in a restaurant operation is the full effect of technology and innovation more acutely experienced than in the kitchen. From fryers, steamers and grills to the latest in warewashing equipment, manufacturers are employing advances in technology to make a chef’s job easier and more efficient. We recently talked to several leading equipment manufacturers about some of the most recent developments in innovative back-of-house equipment. Read on to hear what they had to say.
Louis-Philippe Audette, President, RATIONAL Canada
Phil Beauvais, Market Manager, Warewash Food Machines, Bakery and Cooking, Hobart Canada and Meghan Hurst, Marketing Manager, Fryers/Griddles/Broilers, Vulcan
Claude Millette, National Sales Manager, Moyer Diebell
Kathy Veder, CFSP, VP Strategic National Accounts, Duke Manufacturing
What are some of the most recent developments when it comes to new and innovative equipment for restaurants in Canada?
Louis-Philippe Audette: The continued search for versatile and flexible cooking equipment and energy savings will continue to drive trends in kitchen design. Especially in the big cities like Vancouver and Toronto, where the cost of space is rising at an alarming rate, the design of foodservice operations must maximize the revenue generation potential by adding more seats. By doing so, this squeezes the kitchen space availability even more, and only versatile and flexible cooking equipment will resolve this challenge. The RATIONAL combi-steamer can bake, roast, grill, steam, poach and sear, all on a one-square-metre footprint. It can replace multiple pieces of traditional equipment, thereby saving on energy costs. Another important space-saving request is to have smaller and smaller Combi Steamers, and this is why we are also launching our new line of RATIONAL XS units. It is the only true countertop Extra Small RATIONAL unit. It is built with a steam generator and offers maximum use for the tightest of kitchens. In addition, one of the biggest challenges now and for the foreseeable future for restaurant operators remains the lack of available or qualified staff in the kitchens. This is why we have “taught” our equipment how to cook and have the only built-in “self-cooking” capability. Much like using a GPS navigation system, you just set your desired end result. Choose how you want your product done in the end, and the SelfCookingCenter® will automatically detect the amount of food, set the right temperatures, humidity, airspeed, etc. It will give you the perfect cooking results every time, and with any level of cook using it.
Phil Beauvais and Meghan Hurst: Vulcan has designed energy saving equipment without sacrificing productivity in fryers, steamers and griddles. The have also engineered more flexibility into the fryer and griddle categories to help chain store operators meet their unique needs. Powerfry fryers, using a patented heat exchanger design, put the heat into the oil and, in turn, the fried products use far less gas than a traditional fryer and increase productivity. The LWE (Low Water Energy) steamer uses 90 per cent less water and 50 per cent less energy than a traditional steamer while maintaining the production capabilities of an a la carte steamer. It does this by monitoring the temperature inside the steam chamber and, when needed, adds steam to the chamber. By monitoring the temperature of the chamber the steamer keeps waste down to a minimum and reduces water consumption and, in turn, the energy required to heat the water drops.
Claude Millette: Ventless dishwashing is certainly the most exciting trend in commercial warewashing. It first appeared on the Canadian market a number of years ago. As the name suggests, it allows for door or hood type machines to be installed without any type of capture canopy above them to collect and exhaust the steam normally produced by the machine. The first obvious benefit is a decrease in installation cost resulting from the absence of ductwork, steam extraction fan, etc. Also, the steam and heat produced by the machine are drawn by a fan, across a coil containing cold water, heating this water in the process. The output hot water from the coil is then fed to the machine’s booster, eliminating the need for a hot water supply to the machine. Utility cost reductions for the heating of water represent yet another rather significant benefit.
Kathy Veder: It’s all about space and efficiency in the kitchen, making the most out of a small footprint. Many of our customers are reconfiguring their kitchen to work for them, utilize modular pieces that maximize their production throughput. Our new Modular Production Center combines holding and storage with advanced ergonomics in a compact footprint, allowing for the most optimal modular production cente on the market. Even the smallest of spaces can see improved speed, increased efficiency in labor, reduced waste and ensure food temperatures in hot kitchen environments within one self-contained design. We’ve developed a proprietary process, FlowMetrix that helps customers identify and unblock workflow bottlenecks in the kitchen by mapping the current state of their kitchen and reconfiguring workstation to increase throughput, the speed of service, food quality and consistency. These developments are leading to increased profits and customer satisfaction, both of which benefit chefs and operators.
In what ways are the above developments reflective of current consumer behaviors and preferences?
LPA: Chefs in the kitchen understand the challenges of getting many things done at once, in a short amount of time, but with no compromise of quality. We have had to also adopt this thinking in developing our products. One of our biggest customer solutions came out in 2011, with the invention of Intelligent Level Control. This enables chefs to multitask with our equipment. For example, at the same time you can be searing shrimp on one level, grilling steaks on the next, and baking a hearthstone pizza on the level under that one! And again, the SelfCookingCenter® oversees each level and will even add time to the cooking if it is needed. Our unique and patented accessories enable even more versatility of the RATIONAL.
KV: Consumers demand high-quality taste, individualized according to their preferences, and quick service. The demands of chefs, owners and operators increases as food safety and healthy eating concerns grow within the marketplace. A kitchen or workspace that flows seamlessly, decreasing waste and effort is making a huge difference in the way we are able to serve customers while remaining nimble and adaptable in the market.
What are the major factors for restaurant operators to keep in mind when selecting equipment?
PB & MH: What’s on my menu today and how might it change in the future? Will potential additions to the menu resonate with my patrons? Are the menu additions appropriate for my concept? How many meals will I need to deliver and how will this vary by day of the week and time of day?
CM: We recommend you do your research. For instance, undercounters and door type machines using cold water have only been available for a relatively short time. Many installers don’t even think such as thing exists. Ask questions. Understand the benefits. Manufacturers or manufacturers’ representatives are more than happy to assist in providing the information.
KV: Quality, durability, and flexibility for the future are all just as important as increasing profit and customer satisfaction. Make sure your equipment works for you.
What are some creative ways chefs and operators can use this new equipment?
PB & MH: One piece of equipment many operators have recently considered adding to their operation is dual-sided grills. For example, the Vulcan Manual Clamshell (VMCS) enables kitchen staff to prepare large batches of product easily and efficiently and thus is ideal for quick serve, fast casual and sport/recreation operations. In these settings, consumers are particularly looking for speed of service and the ability to customize their order to their tastes. In terms of developing new recipe options, Vulcan’s countertop smoker base accessory is designed to complement Vulcan’s VACB or VCCB charbroilers and allows operators to infuse fish, meat, chicken, and more with a rich, smoky flavor.
LPA: The biggest trend in the last five years is without a doubt Sous Vide cooking, which demands precision in maintaining low and precise steam temperatures. This enables chefs to get perfect tenderness of product (like braised meats), with very little shrinkage. Also, the overnight roasting capability gives tremendous savings on food costs due to better yields of roasts, and also means your RATIONAL can work 24 hours a day for you. Another way that has helped chefs develop menu new recipes is to look on-line and download them for free, onto your RATIONAL device. RATIONAL has a free after sales service called Club RATIONAL. Here the Chefs can get thousands of local Canadian recipes, as well as international recipes and cooking procedures for their devices. They can also upload and share any of their favorites as well, or ask for tips and tricks, through this interactive and community chef platform.
CM: Simply purchasing a hood type ventless heat recovery machine or a rack conveyor machine with a heat recovery system will improve operational efficiency significantly. The booster on a dishwasher is the machine’s highest consumer of hot water. Feeding it with cold instead of hot water will dramatically reduce electrical costs and allow you to allocate hot water for use in other areas.