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Aesthetics are becoming as important as function for catering appliances nowadays, thanks to the rise of the theatre kitchen: designed to be on show to the public at all times.

This is something that equipment manufacturers have to take into account when creating new products.

For instance, Manitowoc’s recently launched Merrychef eikon e2s oven was designed with aesthetics in mind. “Our Merrychef range of accelerated cooking technology ovens have built in catalytic convertors which remove excess heat, smoke and smells,” said Steve Hemsil, national sales manager distribution – UK and Ireland.

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“An open kitchen design will influence the atmosphere of the dining area and it is important that the equipment should not affect it negatively but instead add to the theatre of open-plan cooking.

"Excess noise from equipment can be an inconvenience and create an unpleasant experience for the customer so it is important to choose quiet, small footprint yet efficient appliances.”

According to Wayne Cuomo, MD, Charvet Premier Ranges: “New, smaller, high output and highly durable kitchen equipment such as the Charvet Pro700 series suits the open kitchen scenario, particularly in town centre locations, where the footprint of the range is getting constricted because they want to put more seats into the restaurant.”

Charvet is experienced in this regard, as it supplied its 900 series Peninsular suite and 800 series boiling and bratt pans for the ‘on show’ kitchen in The Honours, Glasgow, working with Glasgow-based distributor RH Morton on behalf of Michelin-starred chef, Martin Wishart.

However, Barry Hill, marketing manager at Falcon Foodservice Equipment cautioned: “When designing catering equipment it is important to be aware of the trends, such as the current popularity of open theatre-style kitchens.

"However, the manufacturer has to bear in mind that heavy duty equipment is built to last, so it may still be in use long after the trend has gone.”

He believes that Falcon’s new F900 series is suitable for open kitchens. “There are finishing touches available that may not be necessary in back-of-house equipment, but enhance the cookline perfectly. These include kick strips, end panels, and side infills.” [[page-break]]

Graham Kille, MD of Frima UK, feels that the manufacturer’s VarioCooking Center Multificiency 112T is ideal for front of house installation. “It is easy to clean and makes for great showmanship with tilting pans and automatic lifting, helping the chef get on with the cooking,” he commented.

“Front of house equipment needs to be easy to clean so it looks smart at all times, and has to be plumbed-in so there’s no messy pipe work. It should be multifunctional to extend its usage, reliable and easy to service, ideally with self-diagnostics so there are no hiccups in service. It should also be compact, offer fast cooking and be energy efficient.”

David Watts, brand development manager of RBD/Uropa, the UK wholesaler of Samsung commercial microwave ovens, said: “Commercial microwave ovens could have been designed with open kitchens in mind. They’re fast, reliable, they can cook or reheat lots of different products and they are easy to operate. Most can be plugged into a standard 13A supply and they’re compact.

“They don’t produce large quantities of steam, heat or odours so, in most cases, they don’t require much in the way of extraction or ventilation.” He also believes a major factor in installing microwaves within open kitchens is the position of power outlets.

Over at Williams, Malcolm Harling, sales and marketing director, said: “We have a range of refrigeration ideally suited to open kitchens, including undercounter units and even a compact blast chiller. Williams’ products are designed to look smart and stylish front of house.”

As well as looking good, Harling emphasised that front of house equipment needs to do the job for which it was designed. “It needs to be reliable, easy to clean and easy to maintain. If food is on show, for example in prep counters, it needs to be displayed attractively and be easily accessible. In food display units, LED lighting is ideal, since it enhances the look of the food and produces little waste heat.”

Warewashing manufacturer Winterhalter designs some undercounter machines specifically to be seen front of house. “Glass door models and designer fascia have been included in our range to make the glass or dishwasher a focal point front of house,” said marketing manager Paul Crowley.

“The specifications don’t fundamentally change the design of the door; but it can make all the difference to the appearance of the machine.

“Front of house equipment should be stylish but inconspicuous. Depending on the venue, obviously noise can be an issue. Winterhalter machines have a silent option that minimises the operating noise of the machine.”

BGL Rieber feels its Varithek ACS 600 mobile cooking unit solves any potential front of house issues for distributors. MD Gareth Newton commented: “No overhead extraction is needed, and the unit can be wheeled anywhere it is required for functions.” [[page-break]]

Rieber’s Varithek system was chosen by Caterware for its refurbishment of a Premier League hospitality area. The Club wanted a front of house cooking station for stir-fries and to cater for its conference business.

Caterware MD Mark Drazen explained: “A conventional extract system was a non-starter due to site layout restrictions and potential interference with the existing air conditioning systems. The self-ventilation system on Rieber’s Varithek solved the problem.”

Where ventilation systems are required in open kitchens, manufacturer Mansfield Pollard says the trend has encouraged it to source new materials and technologies. “These enable us to meet our client’s needs for canopies with a real “wow” factor,” remarked Scott Donoghue, manager of the firm’s Cantech division. “We have even recently installed a front of house canopy manufactured from stainless steel which has been coloured.”

Furthermore, he added: “Traditional recessed fluorescent light fittings do not fit with the feel of today’s contemporary kitchens and restaurants. As standard, we now install high efficiency recessed LED downlight fittings in all our kitchen canopies which give a much sleeker, modern appearance whilst using up 80% less energy and reducing operating costs.”

Suppliers, too, are factoring in open kitchen provision. Jestic Foodservice Equipment’s product director Michael Eyre detailed: “We focus much of our time and effort on ensuring that where possible, the commercial kitchen equipment we offer is designed and suited for open plan kitchens.

“Brand such as Wood Stone, Josper and Rotisol are all focused on designing their equipment specifically to maximise the visual appeal of open plan kitchens. It is more than just the design of the appliance itself which is seeing a heavy investment, with Wood Stone for example putting a considerable amount of effort into producing custom facades and oven wrap-arounds.”

Grande Cuisine only supplies equipment from companies that manufacture their own products, such as Adventys, so it is able to be accommodating regarding kitchen design.

According to business development manager, Dan Loria: “In this era of theatre style kitchens, limited floorspace presents designers and consultants with a real conundrum, i.e. how to fit everything a chef requires into a very small space and yet still make it look pleasing to the eye from the customers’ side of the ‘pass’.

“Equipment such as a wood burning oven and the range itself might make for good viewing but no chef in his right mind would design his kitchen so that diners could see the dish/potwash area. Kitchen ‘theatre’ is as much about the way a chef cooks as anything else and so you could argue that this is more important than the features on the equipment.”

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