It seems that Catering Insight has disturbed a hornet’s nest when mentioning the use of domestic catering equipment within a commercial environment.
While the issue is not new, it is surprising how prevalent it still is in smaller cafes and start-ups. In recent weeks some of these small venue owners have blithely spoken about using domestic equipment in their kitchens, with one saying that the second-hand appliances they sourced from Amazon and Ebay are so cheap that if they fail, it’s economical to just replace like for like again.
While on a human level it’s understandable that a struggling independent cafe would want to minimise outlay, the operators naively don’t realise the danger they could put themselves and their customers in. Domestic equipment is not designed for the heavy duty usage of a busy kitchen, and, for example, food would spoil in a domestic fridge if the correct temperature is not maintained.
Distributors are not usually involved in these kinds of installations, with the end-users themselves adopting a make-do-and-mend approach to kitchen design and outfit. This makes it difficult for the problem to be identified and for dealers and manufacturers to step in and steer the operators towards more suitable equipment choices.
Furthermore, maintenance companies and distributors will not have anything to do with domestic equipment if they are asked to install or service any appliance. Indeed, a commercial equipment engineer is not likely to even be qualified to work on domestic appliances, let alone the myriad of reasons these machines are unfit for purpose.
However, on the light equipment side of things, it is common for domestic product lines to be requested for commercial usage. This may not be a big problem for things like cutlery or salt and pepper mills, but for more mechanical equipment, suppliers should think twice about agreeing to those requests, lest the appliances in question face the same inadequacy issues as heavy equipment.
At a recent industry event one supplier even described how a kettle the firm had recently introduced for domestic usage could be utilised in the commercial arena. The fact that the kettle did not come with a commercial warranty was only mentioned as an afterthought!
If the lines between domestic and commercial equipment become blurred then it will only store up problems for the future. The sector will have to deal with more appliance breakdowns, and even possibly an increase in serious illnesses suffered by patrons of catering venues. That is something for the industry to carefully consider.