A durable cut: slicer quality under the microscope

Cuisinequip visited Bottene’s Italian factory to ensure its pasta makers were well designed and engineered.

As food preparation equipment will be heavily used during the life of a kitchen, quality is paramount to ensuring durability. Therefore, Catering Insight asked prep equipment suppliers and manufacturers about their appliances’ construction standards, and how they educate dealers on what to look out for when specifying.

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For instance, Steve Elliott, sales director for Valentine Equipment and Cuisinequip, detailed: “Cuisinequip works with a number of manufacturers in Europe and we look for food preparation equipment that has a strong pedigree in domestic and international markets. The quality of the equipment has to be there and to have made a lasting impression in foodservice. A good example of this would be our relationship with Bottene which has been manufacturing pasta making equipment as a family business in Italy since 1875.

“We went to Italy and saw how well designed and engineered Bottene pasta makers are and also talked to those using them in the UK. Chef James Martin and Jamie’s Italian were already using the machines because of the consistent quality of fresh pasta that they produce.”

The appliances are said to be designed purely for the rigours of foodservice operations and come with a 2 year parts and labour warranty from Cuisinequip.

Elliott advised dealers: “Consider which operators are using the food preparation equipment already and how they are applying it. Price can often be an indicator of the quality of design and manufacture of the equipment and paying a reasonable price would pay off from the long-term reliability of the unit. Ask for demonstrations to show the quality and consistency of the food that the equipment is involved in preparing.”

In the blender segment, Jestic Foodservice Equipment believes the Vitamix brand it supplies is built to the highest specifications, gained through decades of experience. National sales manager Richard Norman revealed: “Working closely with the Vitamix team, we have been able to gather a great deal of specialist knowledge on the company’s commercial blender portfolio, meaning that Jestic can deliver an expert level of service to dealers and distributors, whilst also offering a range of complete warranty and service packages for end user operators.” All Vitamix equipment is backed by a 3-year parts and 1-year labour ‘return to base’ warranty, including a full service package.

While he posited that it is difficult to say how long a particular unit would last, depending on demand and usage, Norman reported that Jestic regularly sees Vitamix blenders still operating well after 10 years of service. He added: “One of the significant benefits to a Vitamix blender is the ability to replace worn or damaged parts rather than having to order a complete new blender.”

Jestic backs Vitamix equipment with a 3-year parts and 1-year labour ‘return to base’ warranty.

“At Jestic, we are pleased to be able to offer a full service package and ‘return to base’ warranty. This means that if something does happen to a Vitamix blender, we have a team of factory trained engineers at our site in Kent and all the most common spare parts that are required to deliver a rapid fix and quick turnaround for operators.”

Equipment quality is also essential for Sammic, according to the manufacturer’s marketing manager, Amaia Altuna. “Sammic’s vast range of food prep equipment includes a wide variety of products, including cutting, mixing, peeling and processing. In each process, our aim is to offer the equipment that best suits the user’s needs,” she said. “To achieve this goal, we work together with our corporate chef and his team, as well as a group of ambassador chefs spread along different countries. Only working with end users and listening to their needs can we offer the equipment that fulfils their needs.”

For distributors, she underlined: “Each product has different important aspects to look out for, but in general terms the distributors should look for results, sturdy construction, usability and reliability. In term of results, Sammic supports distributors with a YouTube video channel showing the results of different vegetable slicer cuts, and using food processors to prepare different recipes, etc.”

Altuna believes that the brand’s food preparation equipment could last for decades if operators use them for their designed capacities, while Sammic offers ‘Chef’s Services’ from its corporate chef and network of ambassador chefs, who help distributors specify the most suitable kit for each project and advise how to get the best out of each appliance.

Over at Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM), commercial director Mark Hogan believes: “The warranty on kitchen equipment plays a large part in ensuring the consistent quality of food preparation products. It is an important factor in the lifetime costs of a piece of equipment.

“For example, a blender such as the new Hamilton Beach Commercial Eclipse could appear more expensive than others on the market. However, the next generation Endura motor means that it lasts 2.5 times longer and operates 50% more energy-efficiently than other blenders. The motor is also backed with a 7 year warranty, so the total cost of ownership is low.”

Cautioning that dealers should specify equipment designed for commercial use, he added: “Quality machines will offer guides on capacity per hour. This is useful for making comparisons across models, as is the power/motor.”

“Look for brands that back their equipment with long warranties, this is often a good indicator of the quality.”

Hogan further outlined: “To ensure that caterers get the right equipment, it is important for distributors to establish what type of kitchen it will be used in and what type of menu is produced. Also they need to ask caterers when and for how long each piece of food preparation equipment might be used. It is important also to consider the skill levels of the staff.”

Elsewhere, Metcalfe Catering Equipment’s MD, Neil Richards, cautioned: “There have been a lot of cheap, inferior products flooding the market over the last 5 or 6 years and we simply can’t compete on price. However, what customers are realising is that British and European designed and manufactured machines are made to very high standards, and to last, in the tough foodservice environments in which they are expected to work 24/7.

“Customers are starting to discover that cheaper alternatives only last so long and that there is no service or backup available when the machines break down. We pride ourselves on being able to manufacture machines that will last decades, meaning that the lifetime cost of our equipment is well below that of inferior prep machines. We are still able to supply spare parts and offer complete service and maintenance support, no matter how old the machine.”

He encouraged distributors to: “Look for build quality and the use of high quality components such as heat treated gears and premium quality stainless steel blades. As a UK manufacturer we have complete control of design, development, manufacturing process and product quality.”

Richards further revealed that Metcalfe’s sales executives act as a surrogate salesperson for the distributor. “Our sales team will frequently visit the end user/operator and engage them in setting specification, building credibility and trust, before introducing the customer back to the distributor,” he added.

Hendi UK’s national sales manager Kenan Koymen agrees that there is still an “influx of inferior food preparation equipment being manufactured abroad and sold here in the UK,” adding: “Often unreliable, supplying this equipment will do nothing to enhance a dealer’s reputation, the very opposite in fact, and could potentially leave them open to serious repercussions if the equipment were to cause an accident. All the products supplied by Hendi UK carry the CE mark and are fit for purpose in a commercial kitchen environment.”

When it comes to how an appliance is used, he believes: “Proper training by the dealer should ensure that the equipment is not abused or used incorrectly, whilst a regular service or maintenance plan will help to keep a unit in good order and may also identify any potential issues before they become a major problem. All Hendi food preparation equipment has a high grade aluminium housing, along with easily removable parts to allow for fast and effective cleaning.”

With Hendi offering a variety of food preparation equipment types and sizes, Koymen recommended that: “Distributors need to understand the needs and requirements of the customer in order to specify the correct item and ensure that quality expectations are met. Good quality food prep equipment will have strong components, powerful motors, high quality blades and built in safety features.”

For Electrolux Professional, its food preparation equipment is designed with volume catering in mind. For example, its Multigreen veg slicer utilises a 370W motor which can process up to 250kg of vegetables an hour.

Dynamic preparation manager Bradley Creese commented: “Repeatability and reliability are key to determining the quality of food preparation equipment. I would urge distributors to pay close attention to the size of the motor, to ensure it can keep pace with commercial catering demands without wearing out; as well as the body material of the product.

“Removable parts such as bowls and blades should be made from stainless steel where possible, and I’d also encourage distributors to prioritise those products with dishwasher-safe parts, such as the Electrolux Professional Multigreen slicer, as this can speed-up the cleaning process in between jobs.”

In terms of specification, he added: “Each kitchen will have its own unique menu demands, and food preparation forms an integral part of menu planning and execution. With that in mind, we welcome distributors to invite their customers to our Center of Excellence in Luton, where we can collaboratively run through our portfolio of food preparation – which is all housed on-site in our test kitchen – to establish the most effective product for them. For those pressed on time, we’re also able to travel to site to provide demonstration and training sessions too.”

Testo believes its thermometers have been proven to last up to 5-6 times longer than lower-quality alternatives.

Temperature monitoring and oil testing are also both essential parts of food preparation. Therefore, Testo believes it has the quality equipment for the job. Food and pharmaceuticals product manager Ashton Baylis said: “Our thermometers, temperature monitoring equipment and cooking oil testers are widely regarded as the best on the market when it comes to both build-quality and usability. As with anything ‘you get what you pay for’, and with something as important as food safety, restaurants and caterers need to be confident in the equipment they are using to measure this. All Testo instruments for food safety are HACCP certified, which acts as reassurance of their quality.”

Testo instruments all have a 2-year warranty, and much of it is waterproof, with an IP rating of up to IP67. Baylis said: “Our thermometers for instance, have been proven to last up to 5-6 times longer than lower-quality alternatives.”

Urging dealers to consider longevity, reliability, usability and efficiency aspects when specifying appliances, he outlined: “Testo offers a range of material and training for instruments across our range. This helps our distributors specify the right equipment for the customer’s requirement. We also have a knowledgeable team on hand, should a distributor require answers to technical questions or support for a joint visit for example.”

At Uckfield-based Mitchell & Cooper, MD Guy Cooper feels that quality manufacturing has been a key focus since the firm began specialising in light equipment over 80 years ago. “We understand that the equipment we sell needs to exceed expectations and provide operators with peace of mind. As part of this commitment we aim to continuously innovate wherever we can; from new product development, improved manufacturing processes and reliable after-sales service; our aim is to provide cost effective equipment without sacrificing on quality.”

The firm is well known for its Bonzer can openers, which are backed by a 5-year warranty when registered online, covering both labour and parts from its UK stocked spares. The openers are designed with a quick release blade for easy replacement, which could increase the equipment’s longevity.

A recent addition to its portfolio is the Nemox gelato machines, which are covered by a 12-month on site warranty to ensure that if repairs are needed, they are carried out at the operator’s convenience.

Mitchell & Cooper’s Bonzer can openers have a 5-year warranty when registered online.

Cooper added: “When looking to invest in equipment, the quality of the appliance itself as well as the reputation and history of the manufacturer are equally important. Buying from a reputable manufacturer provides peace of mind for distributors, both in terms of the equipment being bought, but also in the continued support offered after purchase.”

Over at supplier Signature FSE, MD Paula Sherlock believes: “The quality of food preparation equipment depends on the material used and the manufacturing process. This type of equipment usually undergoes heavy duty use, therefore it is important that the manufacturer’s R&D department develops products following technical research and product testing.

“Our brand de Buyer has an efficient R&D department that has developed a full range of mandolines and slicers based on analysis and testing to meet different professional requirements and slicing method desired. It has acquired a 3D printer that also helps assessing the potential of a new product before it is manufactured. As part of their product development, they ensured that most of their mandolines suit right-handed as well as left-handed chefs so that anyone in the kitchen can use the same mandoline and the ergonomic pusher and slicer has been designed to be easily handled with maximum safety.”

Signature FSE says de Buyer’s R&D department has developed a full range of mandolines and slicers based on analysis and testing.

She added: “It is important that distributors understand from their customers how the equipment will be used in the kitchen i.e. how many hours in a day, what results they want to achieve with this piece of equipment, seniority of the staff using it, etc. These questions will help narrow down the product solutions for their specific kitchen.”

In the cost conscious end of the market, Pantheon’s sales director David Barton emphasises that the firm doesn’t compromise on quality for its food preparation equipment. “The low price point is achieved by utilising simple, manual operation across our preparation equipment wherever possible. Pantheon avoids complex, digital controls and multi-programmable functions and supplies reliable, frill-free equipment that delivers what it promises.”

Pantheon feels it achieves the best value by outsourcing its manufacturing, with Barton detailing: “Each new item of kit is subjected to a lengthy and rigorous design process, following which extensive trials are conducted before commissioning. We also have on-site representatives who regularly inspect the overseas factories and carry out detailed quality control checks.”

As an example of durability, he cited Pantheon spiral mixers which are used in all 18 Gusto restaurants. They were supplied in 2005 are still being used several times every day, reportedly without problems.

With all Pantheon sales being via dealers, Barton added: “We try to support them to the best of our ability as it’s vital that they are familiar and happy with our products. We provide them with all the sales support they need, answer queries rapidly and ensure we always hold a good stock of equipment and spare parts.”

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