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Birdwatching: Suppliers debate rotisserie trends

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Once viewed as the domain of takeaway shops and forward-thinking supermarkets, rotisseries are just as likely to be the focal point of kitchens operated by high-end dining venues these days. As the design and technology of rotisserie equipment grows in line with the nation’s appetite for chicken dishes, we question the top suppliers on current market trends.

We spoke to the following rotisserie oven experts:

– Melanie Charlton, Co-owner, Euro Catering Equipment
– Trevor Burke, Managing Director, Exclusive Ranges
– Mark Hogan, Marketing & Sales Manager, FEM
– Steve Morris, Sales Director, Jestic
– Peter Clifford, Sales Director, Roller Grill
– Steve Loughton, Managing Director, Standex

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How strong is the market for rotisseries at the moment compared to the last few years? Are there any particular pockets of growth you have noticed?

MELANIE CHARLTON: The market for rotisseries is very strong at the moment, with an increasing number of supermarkets, delis and trailer operators recognising the profit and demand for this product. Particular pockets of growth are in the mobile trailer sector, and considering the popularity of rotisserie trailers in Europe this shows no sign of abating.

MARK HOGAN: Supermarkets are the largest customer base for our rotisserie products. We see this business expanding. The theatre effect of drawing customers to the rotisserie is a great marketing tool, and the food product from the rotisserie really cannot be duplicated using other cooking technology. We also find our rotisseries going to fine dining restaurants where a variety of foods are being prepared in the rotisserie. Quick service restaurants are also using rotisseries in certain markets.

PETER CLIFFORD: We’ve found the rotisserie market has held strong over the last few years. With both chains and independents looking to innovate, coupled with a move to open theatre cooking, the rotisserie can be part of a healthy, exciting and profitable menu. For example, we have worked with fish and chip shops looking to diversify and offer a non-fried menu while remaining complementary to their core business. Similarly, we’ve worked with steak houses looking to introduce a second meat to their menu. We have a comprehensive range of gas rotisseries which are a big hit with the catering trailer and event catering market.

STEVE LOUGHTON: We have seen growth in the rotisserie market in both the food retailing and foodservice sectors. Sustained public demand for freshly cooked hot food to go, from supermarkets and convenience stores, has encouraged retailers to extend their menu offer. The rotisserie oven is a versatile solution for cooking a variety of food, including whole birds, chicken portions, southern fried-style chicken pieces, sausages, kebabs, pies and even whole joints. Consumer preference for healthy option roast chicken has also led many takeaway operators to embrace rotisserie cooking. We have also experienced interest from restaurants and gastro pubs, who wish to use rotisseries in open kitchens to create cooking theatre.

What are the main factors that distributors need to bear in mind when specifying a rotisserie?

TREVOR BURKE: The rotisserie needs to suit the type of restaurant that it will be in. Size of product, amount of product, holding area capacity, staff numbers, fuel type, numbers of customers, type of restaurant and whether it will situated front or back of house are all important.

STEVE MORRIS: One thing we find with customers is that they always tend to specify the largest unit possible and unfortunately in quieter periods this leads to a half empty rotisserie. Our suggestion is to look at a smaller capacity unit and combine regular cooks with a good quality holding cabinet to serve from. By cooking more regularly the customers see fresh birds on the unit more or less constantly. There is nothing worse than an empty rotisserie during service.

MELANIE CHARLTON: When specifying a rotisserie, the following factors should be considered: gas or electric supply on site, the volume of birds to be cooked, the storage and display of cooked birds, and the impact required — whether it is front of house or a back kitchen workhorse machine. Ease of cleaning and maintenance is also important.

STEVE LOUGHTON: Capacity, functionality and versatility. There is little point in specifying a large, fully-featured oven if the end-user is only going to roast a few chickens per week. By contrast, a large scale operation will need the capacity and functions to ensure efficient day-to-day volume cooking. Distributors may also make operators aware of the profit opportunities created by broader menus, which can be cooked on rotisserie ovens. The other issue relating to capacity concerns the volume of product that will be cooked at the same time — size is important.

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How substantial is your rotisserie portfolio and are you expecting any further developments to this product range in 2013?

MARK HOGAN: Alto-Shaam’s rotisserie product offering, available through FEM, includes gas and electric models. Both models feature large window doors for maximum customer visual impact. An optional ventless hood is available for the electric model, allowing the rotisserie to be situated front of the facility close to the customer. Additional features of the electric model include a cook and hold cycle and a matching companion holding unit for holding cooked food product until it is served to the customer, as well as an optional grease collection system for higher capacity operations, offering easy cleaning of the oven. Alto-Shaam’s rotisserie product offering will be expanded to include smaller capacity models that offer self-cleaning based on our combi oven cleaning technology.

PETER CLIFFORD: The rotisserie has always been a keynote product in the Roller Grill range. In fact, the rotisserie was the original ‘Roller Grill! In 2011 we re-launched our range with six updated models, each with a choice of accessories and we expect the strong sales to continue through 2013. Now featuring eight models, we can meet the needs of a wide market with capacities ranging from six birds to 30 birds — or even up to 60 birds with the RBE25 stacked and fitted with our high capacity spits.

STEVE LOUGHTON: Our range of BKI rotisseries includes models with up to 16 spits and capacities of between nine and 80 birds. This allows us to offer a unit suitable for almost any size of outlet. For example, our countertop BKI NMK rotisserie requires only a 13 amp power supply and is popular with butchers, convenience stores and quick service restaurants, whilst our VG16 oven is more suitable for superstore retailers. Additionally, all our ovens can cook in baskets, still allowing the visual attraction but enabling the operator to cook portioned items including pies, ham hocks and other foods. Our sister company, BKI, is currently developing a new range of rotisserie ovens. Available in a range of sizes, these models will feature a user-friendly, icon-driven touch screen controller for ease of use.

MELANIE CHARLTON: Euro Catering imports a large range of rotisseries from Inotech in France and CB in Italy, featuring a six bird electric model up to a 48 bird ‘wall of flames’ rotisserie in both gas and electric versions. CB of Italy is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It is still family run and offers a large range of stylish rotisseries, from vertical static machines which take up a small footprint, involve minimum investment and offer quick payback to high output innovative planetary models, which although more costly can achieve perfect results thanks to the firebricks placed above the burner which release even heat and guarantee the most succulent chicken with a crispier skin. Inotech of France also offers electric and gas models, and their highly decorative ‘wall of flames’ rotisseries are perfect for front-of-house cooking where high impact is required.

TREVOR BURKE: The Inotech range includes electric, gas wall and radiant gas rotisseries. There are currently more than 20 models available across these three ranges, so something for every need. However, if by chance one of these units is not exactly what is required then Inotech are able to manufacture bespoke units too.

STEVE MORRIS: We represent three manufacturers: Henny Penny, Rotisol and Wood Stone. The units from Henny Penny are glass passthrough units, which are ideal for high volume sites. We supply two different sizes — a 6 spit and an 8 spit model — both of which can be double stacked for increased capacity. Rotisol units are of a more traditional design and perfect for restaurants and high-end operations. These units cook in the traditional manner with the only heat source being at the rear, meaning that the bird is only in direct heat for half the time and therefore has a chance to ‘rest’ which gives the most succulent chickens. The Wood Stone rotisseries are perfect for someone looking for maximum visual impact. Take the the Wood Stone ‘Whatcom’ for example which features a central flame tower and Churrasco-style spit orientation — a showstopper in any kitchen.

How much innovation is taking place in the rotisserie sector? And what features determine the price of the equipment?

STEVE MORRIS: With cabinet-style rotisseries there is still some development from the manufacturers. For instance, Henny Penny SCR units use a patented process called Therma-vec which combines radiant and convected heat for a faster more even cook. They also have the option of Teflon-coated interior parts for easy cleaning. With the traditional-style rotisserie, there isn’t much innovation. The theory of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ applies here. Build quality is a major factor with the price of rotisseries along with the size and capacity of the unit.

PETER CLIFFORD: Having recently updated most of our long-standing models, we have a stable range to present to the market in 2013. Building on 60 years of experience by simply making small design improvements, such as fully ventilated motor assemblies and a new design of spit without the need for securing forks, we have the range to cope with today’s demanding market. We concentrate on two areas: powerful, efficient heat source and a comprehensive customer support service. For our electric rotisseries, we use infrared technology, creating rapid clean heat that provides energy efficient power. Our gas machines are likewise equipped with powerful ceramic burners, all with low heat settings.

TREVOR BURKE: The basic principle of rotisserie cooking hasn’t changed — it is still a spit over a flame, but many restaurants have introduced an element of theatre by putting the rotisserie in view of the consumer and so it has become a big part of restaurant design. With this in mind you will see more and more varying concepts and designs coming out in the next couple of years.

MARK HOGAN: Innovation with rotisseries at this time includes energy efficiency and ease of cleaning. Programmable operating controls offer the operator ‘one-touch’ operation, ensuring a consistent food quality regardless of who is operating the oven.

What trends or challenges do you expect to shape the rotisserie market in the UK this year?

PETER CLIFFORD: There is a trend towards healthy, visible cooking. The challenge would be from those customers for whom speed is everything. You cannot rush a rotisserie, so utilise the time well and you will enjoy the results.

STEVE LOUGHTON: Inevitably, supermarket retailers will evolve their hot food offers and we will continue to work with them closely to meet their needs. The larger retailers are already developing takeaway areas closer to the front of the stores to entice the more casual lunchtime snack shopper — obviously this product will be cooked in the main hot deli area. Similarly, the proliferation of takeaway food outlets will help rotisserie sales. Themed restaurants and pub chains represent areas for additional business and it will be interesting to see how quickly these operators adopt the principles of rotisserie cooking.

MARK HOGAN: Rotisseries were traditionally used with chicken. However, trends now include using rotisseries with other meat products, including belly of pork and prime beef.

MELANIE CHARLTON: The factors that will affect the market are an increasing desire for low-fat, healthy cuisine and a trend towards simple but wholesome foods. Busy executives or active families can buy a freshly cooked chicken on the way home from work or on a Sunday morning, allowing them to spend more time at leisure without compromising their family nutrition. Retailers will realise that a rotisserie occupies a relatively small footprint and can entice customers as well as generate healthy profits. Trailers specialising in rotisserie food will be more common in market places and outdoor shopping malls, as seen in Europe.

Tags : brandscatering equipmentChickenkitchensManufacturersProductsrotisserie oven
Andrew Seymour

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