More and more catering equipment suppliers are stepping into the portable high speed ovens market, giving a useful alternative to microwaves and other quick cookers. So who are the first adopters of this technology and what are the essentials that distributors should know? Catering Insight asked a selection of firms for pointers.
At RH Hall, it supplies both the Electrolux Speedelight High Speed Panini Grill and the Maestrowave Combi Chef 7, the latter exclusively.
According to sales director Kris Brearley: “High speed combination microwaves offer a great deal more versatility than standard microwaves, combining conventional cooking methods such as convection and grill, with microwave speed.
“This enables operators to cook a greater variety of menu items, including those not usually associated with microwave cooking – such as pastry items, pies, pizza and paninis. In addition, they have a compact footprint, making them ideal for premises that are short on space, ‘grab & go’ and on demand establishments, such as coffee shops.”
For dealers looking to specify these swift appliances, he advised: “Look at the menu items being prepared and consider the key cooking methods required to achieve optimum results. Many high speed ovens use microwave and convection heat only, so consider if grill functionality is required.
“Combination microwaves also require a higher investment than a standard microwave, so additional time should be taken to ensure that the right unit is supplied. Look for a supplier who can provide demonstrations and training, and perhaps food trials and pre-programming for larger chain operators.”
When it comes to portability versus power, he commented: “In order to operate from a ‘plug & play’ 13A power supply, the balance of microwave and convection cooking is paramount. Often, when operating in combination mode, the advertised microwave or oven wattage will be reduced to allow for 13A operation.”
Regarding the future of the accelerated cooking equipment market, he predicted: “As technology moves forward, more suppliers will be looking to offer their high speed ovens with a 13A option – offering more versatility and market opportunities for this equipment.
“One example of this is the Electrolux SpeeDelight High Speed Panini Grill, with a 13A version of this already popular solution being launched in 2018. RH Hall will continue to offer an exclusive package for this item – including demonstrations, food testing, onsite training and installation.
“Another subject of current discussion is the use of RF Solid State cooking technology, which provides far better and more consistent power control, along with many other benefits. The cost of this technology is currently very high, but we will see it introduced to the market in time. The use of barcodes with microwave cooking continues to be exclusively marketed and developed by iWave. The company is currently planning an addition to the range which will be designed to appeal to the wider catering market.”
Panasonic has seen success in this arena with the SCV-2 speed convection oven it launched last year. Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager, Panasonic UK, detailed: “In a nutshell, accelerated cooking equipment offers high speed food with a crisped and browned finish; something that microwave energy alone cannot achieve. When space is limited, and even when there is no extraction, compact, super-fast speed convection ovens like the Panasonic SCV-2 are a great option.”
Nevertheless, he cautioned: “To ensure that the oven under consideration has enough power, make sure you have a demonstration session, cooking food from the site’s menu. As for reliability, operators should resist the chance to save a few pounds by buying cheap – buy a quality product from a quality brand. End users need to make sure they employ regular cleaning and maintenance regimes too.”
He further encouraged dealers: “Specify a high quality piece of kit that comes with the assurances of a known brand and after sales support, as well as a comprehensive warranty; Panasonic offers a 3 year, onsite, electrical and mechanical parts and labour warranty on all of its microwave ovens.
“There are many different sectors within the market that all have different needs and some operators will opt to buy a budget model, but the real life cost and value for money that you get from buying a quality piece of equipment should always be taken into consideration.”
Analysing the market, he commented: “The consumer is demanding better quality food and the foodservice industry is happy to provide it, but there is a cost. The consumer seems happy to pay an enhanced price, but they want it ‘properly’ hot, not just warm; they want it fast – we’ve been tasked by some operators to target 60 seconds for heated food as this is the time it takes the barista to make a coffee, and of course it has to be tasty so the equipment cannot ‘spoil’ the food. Foodservice retailers need kit that is easy to use and will consistently achieve all of this.”
Likewise the Merrychef e2s from Welbilt has made waves in the market since it was launched in 2015. UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil outlined: “As cooking technology continues to evolve and improve, technological advancements within the high speed ovens market can provide a number of benefits to a whole host of different establishments.
“As the name suggests, high speed ovens such as our Merrychef e2s provide fast cook times by using three heat technologies – a combination of microwave, tuned impingement and convection. In fact, the operator is able to produce food up to 20 times faster than conventional cooking methods minimising customer wait times significantly, with no compromise to the quality of the food.”
Balancing this technology against other options, he said: “In comparison to combi steamers, which often require more frequent services and have a much larger footprint, the compact high speed ovens are the solution for operators looking to produce multiple menu items from one piece of kit.
“Compact, able to be placed on a countertop or even front of house for those with little to no kitchen facilities, and requiring no additional ventilation thanks to its in-built ventilation systems, the Merrychef e2s has offered operators with a complete cooking solution, especially for those wanting to offer an extensive grab and go menu where time is indeed money.”
Welbilt has carried out specific research and development at its UK head office and its UK factory, involving its engineers and culinary team to ensure that its high speed ovens can work off 13A supplies. “During the R&D phase, all of our units receive additional input from our culinary team so that we can guarantee that any compromise over power does not affect the quality of the finished food product once cooked in the oven, as well as to ensure that the oven can withstand the demands of any busy catering operation,” revealed Hemsil.
He pointed out to dealers: “Often equipment decisions are made on price or what electrical supply would be the easiest to install, and this can leave the customer disappointed when the unit does not cope with the capacity required or gives them the speed that the customer is after.
“This is why we welcome all prospective customers to one of our masterclasses so they can see our range of accelerated cooking equipment and discuss their requirements with our development chefs. This helps them to make the correct decision on the model which suits their current and future requirements.”
Welbilt’s Merrychef brand is also exploring the possibility of reducing the footprint of models whilst maintaining a large enough cooking cavity. Plus the manufacturer is also looking at ways that the equipment can provide more solutions to customers and therefore protect them from changes in future food trends. This includes developing the aesthetics of products as more and more of them find their way front of house.
Over at Uropa Distribution, its portable high speed offering is the Menumaster Jetwave 514U. According to head of brands Richard Ebbs: “The latest high speed ovens have numerous advantages over combi ovens and microwaves. Not only do they have all the speed of a microwave, but are also able to brown and crisp in the same way as a combi oven. This means that the food has the same look and taste of an oven-cooked product, but is ready up to 15 times quicker than if prepared in a combi.
“And, because many of them are now plug and play, they can be installed in minutes. Providing the perfect cook to order solution, they are extremely flexible, and in many cases can be the only piece of kit an outlet will require to provide a heated food offering. With all of this contained in a footprint of just 489mm wide and 676mm deep you have the perfect companion in the kitchen.”
The Menumaster Jetwave 514U high speed combi microwave is said to be compact and operates vent-free, said to negate the need for expensive installations. The unit has a temperature range from 65°C to 250°C, using 2.9kW of power (2,700W convection/1,400W microwave), and can be plugged straight into a 13A socket.
Ebbs believes that 13A operation should be a main consideration for dealers. “In addition, thought should be given to the operational speed of the oven, the size of the cavity and the full temperature range in which the oven operates,” he said.
“With space often at a premium within most kitchens, high speed, multi-purpose pieces of equipment such as the Menumaster Jetspeed 514U, allow operators to roast, bake, steam, grill and poach all within just one piece of equipment. Due to their flexibility, accelerated cooking equipment is increasing in popularity as they are recognised as a great investment for operators. Because of this, accelerated cooking is widely seen to be the future for many outlets.”
Elsewhere, Middleby UK claims that its TurboChef high speed units cook up to 15 times faster than other ovens. “They require no expensive ventilation as all have catalysts fitted; they require no drainage and are extremely energy efficient,” commented UK MD Kenny Smith.
As against competitor technologies, he detailed: “TurboChef ventless ovens offer significant cost savings because the ovens do not require a Type 1 or Type 2 hood. This allows you to install the oven virtually anywhere, thus reducing capital costs and operating expenses relating to a hood’s energy, HVAC, inspection, and cleaning.
“Plus there are no requirements for expensive water lines and drains to support the machines that you have with a combi oven. And it enables any operators to serve a full hot food menu in spaces that were never intended or designed for foodservice.”
The supplier has recently introduced a 13A version of its Sota range, said to be lighter weight and only requiring a standard plug socket. This should allow the ovens to be used in most locations, even those which are power limited.
Smith feels that dealers should consider how quickly food needs to be served at a site during peak trading times, and the skills of the end user. “Touchscreen controls make training simple and reduce skill levels required to operate the unit,” he said. “On average, high speed ovens use a third of the energy of a traditional convection oven, which therefore reduces overall cost of ownership too. Plus the units have minimal footprint requirements.”
He forecasted: “As the need for increasing product offering in the same retail space grows, rapid cook ovens have to provide the operator a flexible rapid cook system that will replace multiple traditional cooking appliances.
“In addition to this, connectivity is a key component. A TurboChef has the ability to not only send information to the oven such as menu and software updates, but to retrieve vital information back from the unit to understand how the oven is performing.
“One facet of this is that the TurboChef ovens have the ability to communicate directly to a service provider and alert them of a fault in the machine prior to the operating having visibility. This leads to increased uptime of the unit and therefore serving more customers, equalling greater profitability.”
As the UK supplier of Atollspeed high speed ovens, Metcalfe Catering Equipment knows all about the technology’s multifunctional capabilities, reducing the need for several appliances. MD Neil Richards added: “The Atollspeed ovens combine impingement and microwave technology in order to heat and crisp menu items up to 10 times faster than conventional cooking methods.
“The user also has the ability to accurately reduce or increase either the impinged hot air or the microwave function as well as storing hundreds of recipe programmes, all of which give the operator the precise control needed to perfectly cook, crisp and serve a wide variety of menu items in record time.”
Richards believes that the brand’s ovens feature a lot of technology packed into a small box. “New technology is continually being developed and high-quality components are used by Atollspeed in order to continually improve the performance, efficiency and size of its high-speed ovens.
“A good example is the use of patented, unshielded microwave technology which makes the ovens very efficient yet still enables them to heat up food very quickly whilst actually consuming less energy than standard microwave technology.”
Atollspeed models are said to be easy to use, with a colour settings screed designed to be intuitive. A USB port also allows the user to upload recipe programmes to other Atollspeed ovens which means that the operator can offer the customer consistent menu items using multiple units or in multiple sites.
Richards said: “There is a significant difference in energy consumption between the various high speed ovens on the market. Use of energy efficient technology such as the Atollspeed patented unshielded microwave, gives unrivalled performance whilst maintaining high quality and fast cooking results. Choosing the wrong oven could cost the user a fortune in electricity.”
He also suggested dealers should take account of the cleanability of accelerated cookers, the quality of food on offer and the space available, when specifying these appliances.
Three size options are already available, but Atollspeed will be launching what are designed to be more compact, more powerful H-series high speed ovens on the Metcalfe stand at the Hotelympia trade show in March.