The perfect solution for the post-pandemic kitchen

An evolving world of foodservice requires an evolving kitchen. For many chefs, cooks, and restaurateurs, conventional appliances and equipment no longer cut the mustard. In an industry constantly facing new challenges, time and money are resources nobody can afford to waste.

The wide range of commercial foodservice facilities may have different customers and different menus, but they all involve the same challenges: trained staff shortages, standardization, flexible mealtimes, special diets, budgetary pressures. At the same time, meals always need to be creative, fresh, balanced, and innovative. Kitchen equipment must be flexible and durable enough to keep up and produce food intelligently.

While many of those challenges have been evergreen, the context of nearly two years of pandemic has only intensified the effects, seen perhaps most keenly in the labour struggles that so many commercial restaurants have faced. With the workforce shrinking amid the economic and psychological impacts of COVID-19, restaurant operators have seen their staff stretched thin and have often even had to redefine the very roles they utilize in order to cope with fewer employees.

One thing this has served to demonstrate is that efficiency and technology are key to maximizing a restaurant’s potential.

That’s one key area where products like those of RATIONAL come in, none more so than the dynamic duo of the iCombi Pro and the iVario Pro. These are the new gold standard and the new performance class in kitchen equipment, offering the kind of flexibility, customizability, and efficiency that every restaurant operator and chef needs in today’s fast-paced world.

A more automated kitchen

One of the key advantages of products like the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro is the level of automation they facilitate in the back of house. Providing a fully programmable experience means that less hands-on attention is needed during cooking processes, thus freeing up those vital members of staff to turn their eyes and hands elsewhere.

The iCombi Pro, for instance, is an ultra-efficient solution that can handle preparing multiple meals for a variety of service methods and styles all within less than 1 m2 of space. Its unrivalled cooking intelligence uses innovative technology including sensors that detect the amount and the condition of the food. During the cook, the system regularly automatically adjusts key parameters like the temperature, humidity, air speed, and cooking time, to make sure operators get the results they are looking for.

While RATIONAL is known for its combi technology, they recently introduced their second product line to North America: the iVario Pro.

The iVario Pro has a similar level of flexibility, productivity, and simplicity. Much like RATIONAl’s combi technology, the iVario Pro is multi-functional and even features a similar intelligent interface.  It adjusts the cooking path to fit the food, giving the operator perfect results every time, only calling a human cook when there is action needed. Its iZoneControl lets you create four zones of the size, shape, and position of choice, thus letting chefs cook different dishes in one pan simultaneously and without the need for constant hands-on application.

That automated customizability has transformed the operations of many restaurants across Canada, not least Benny’s Breakfast Bar, a unique ‘50s-style diner in Calgary, Alberta. Benny’s was one of the first kitchens in Canada to install both the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro in January 2021, and owner Kevin Young explains that move has helped to bring speed and efficiency to Benny’s kitchen line as well as reduce the pressure on staff.

“Out of my kitchen, probably 90 to 95 per cent of the food comes out of a RATIONAL product,” says Young. “Everything we have is all programmed into the ovens, you just drag and drop from the menu. It’s saved a lot that way, plus the quality is always there… They allow you to keep expanding without always having to expand your equipment.”

Savings are key

As Young alludes to, all these factors result in a huge time and money savings for restaurants like Benny’s, not least on the staffing side. The appliances are easily trainable for staff and the technology is centered around providing outstanding food quality without checking or supervision.

They save in more ways than just easing the burden on stretched staff, too. The iCombi Pro offers around 50 per cent greater productivity and saves up to to 70 per cent more energy, up to 50 per cent more time, over 30 per cent more space, up to 20 per cent more raw ingredients, and as much as 95 per cent more fat and oil. When it comes to cleaning the iCombi Pro, its full cleaning function can be tailored to how dirty the oven is, saving down-time, water, and labour.

Meanwhile, the iVario Pro is up to four times faster than conventional appliances yet uses up to 40 per cent less energy and saves a great deal of space. The integrated energy management system consumes far less electricity than ordinary cooking appliances, while still maintaining plenty of reserve energy. The pan’s interior locking mechanism creates a safe and reliable seal, cutting cooking time by up to 35 per cent on stews, braised dishes, stocks, soups, and casseroles, all without compromising on quality.

In the restaurant climate of 2022, where efficient operation is more important than ever, these kinds of results are invaluable and make RATIONAL’s products the perfect solution.

Young, describing RATIONAL’s products as “the gold standard of ovens”, illustrates the kind of results that restaurateurs can expect from turning to this sort of automated solution by suggesting that if Benny’s went back to conventional ovens, the restaurant would cut its business in half.

“There is no humanly possible way we could ever keep up,” he adds. “We’d be back to when we first opened, about those sales levels, instead of where we are five years later. It’s just made everything we do that much better.”

Those kinds of results are not only quantifiable but invaluable in today’s foodservice climate. With more capacity, shorter cooking times, greater productivity, improved efficiency, and savings across the board, investments in the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro pay off any way you slice it.