Durable. Powerful. Strong. Robust. All terms that the leading suppliers of modular cooking ranges would comfortably pin to their products as fierce market competition drives them to come up with bigger and better ranges.
Given that the cooking suite — whether a full island arrangement or a grouping of appliances — still remains the place where most chefs work their true culinary magic, the main priority for the majority of buyers is making sure the equipment is capable of doing a consistent job over and over again.
Consequently, all manufacturers are focused on developing the most efficient and aesthetically appealing design and, what’s more, attempting to fit it into a smaller footprint to help operators optimise space.
One of the issues when examining heavy duty equipment is its very definition. “Trying to actually define ‘heavy duty’ is problematic,” notes Neil Roseweir, development chef at Falcon Foodservice Equipment. “We want to ensure that each and every client is supplied with the perfect product for their business. That’s one of the reasons we produced our ‘How to Choose’ series. The blurring of the line between ‘heavy duty’ and ‘medium duty’ is getting greater.”
Roseweir points out that Falcon’s popular Dominator Plus series is regarded by many as heavy duty, whereas it is the company’s Chieftain range that fits more aptly into that bracket. He says that Chieftain open top hob burners are rated at a powerful 8.25kW to provide fast heat up and include a turn down position to help reduce energy use, while its twin bullseye solid top can reach a temperature of 530°C.
“Three independently controlled cast iron hotplates ensure similar performance for customers preferring electric, with marine specification also available for use in off-shore applications,” he adds. “All ranges feature 2/1 GN compatible ovens with a reinforced, single drop down door and removable enamelled drip trays to make cleaning quick and easy.”
Angelo Po continues to enhance its product range, with a particular focus on key points like energy transfer optimisation and tank insulation. Research and development chef, Nick Bates, says its Alpha900 range is based on the principles of strength, efficiency and modularity, while the combination of mechanical as well as digital controls provides the flexibility users want these days.
“Particular features that make Alpha900 unique are the ionisation flame control for all gas devices and, for the electric grill, the patent ‘contact’ that foresees heating the element adherent to the cast iron grids on which food is positioned, assuring perfect heat transfer,” says Bates.
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The very crux of a heavy duty range is that it is highly durable, perhaps more so than any other piece of kitchen hardware. One manufacturer that prides itself on the resilience of its machines is Charvet. Its ranges, which are built at a specialist manufacturing plant in France, are used by some of the world’s top chefs.
Wayne Cuomo, managing director of Charvet Premier Ranges, says the reliability of its modular hardware makes it a good bet for dealers looking to specify equipment that will go the distance. “The build quality of the chassis means customers can expect Charvet ranges to last for 10 years at least,” insists Cuomo. “High power — but high efficiency — burners and electric elements are standard.”
That issue of durability is something that most modular cooking suite manufacturers are tuned into. Hobart, for instance, launched its Bonnet Advancia 900 and Plus series to satisfy the needs of restaurants under pressure seven days a week.
“Our sales have been good and compare well with previous years, which is encouraging,” says Paul Godfrey, product manager for Hobart Cooking Solutions. “Government projects from the dealer network have been good, as well as business and industry. We see it as a growing market as people are looking at their investments to last longer and want their equipment to last 12 to 15 years. This is why we launched the Advancia Plus, which is an additional heavy duty range with some extra benefits.”
As well as the two Bonnet Advancia ranges, Hobart produces the 700 Optimum top line units, which can be freestanding, mounted on mobile frames or suited together in an island.
Godfrey says it is important to understand what a customer wants before deciding which range is the most suitable. “Induction is becoming far more popular and careful consideration needs to be given to the quality of the pans the client purchases as this has a big impact on the use and speed of cooking,” he says. “Slow cooking overnight of meat is becoming ever more popular in oven ranges. Some clients like to have accumulative and direct heat in the same appliance so we offer a module: that is an oven, two burners and one solid top all in an 800mm body.”
Flexibility is a theme highlighted by Imperial Catering Equipment, which markets the Montague heavy duty range in the UK. Sales director, Andy Piggin, says the range incorporates everything from burners that reach 400°C to complete tasks more quickly to doors which are guaranteed for life — not an insignificant statement given they will be opened hundreds of times a day in busy kitchens.
“We are finding that many chefs want more flexibility in the kitchen than a traditional range with burners on top and an oven beneath offers,” notes Piggin. “Island suites make use of convection ovens, broilers, countertop equipment, refrigerated doors and heated cabinets and put them all together in one seamless unit.”
While heavy duty ranges are renowned as the workhorses of the kitchen, efforts are being made to make them as energy efficient as possible. It is a trend that Charvet says is shaping the design of new machines. “There has been a huge shift to energy saving — induction has really taken off,” says Cuomo. “Charvet is the only manufacturer that is able to offer induction mounted directly above the oven. Charvet induction is also high power — 5kW is the standard but we also offer 3kW — and it is designed with a minimum 10-year life. But gas appliances can also be considered energy saving, especially when used just for service, for example.”
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Induction is a key feature of manufacturer Garland’s heavy duty ranges too. Simon Frost, regional sales director at the brand’s parent company Manitowoc, says its induction equipment can achieve energy savings of up to 80% versus traditional models. “Reaching the required temperature in record-breaking time and with safety features such as overheating sensors as standard, the temperature can be controlled in 1°C increments and held at any desired setting,” notes Frost.
“These features, along with the reduced service time and reduction in energy usage, have proven to be of great use within a busy kitchen environment. As with all the brands supplied under the Manitowoc banner, the Garland range is manufactured to the highest quality, while being designed to speed up service times,” he says.
Over at Dawson, the emphasis is firmly on consistent cooking, and its Rosinox range of 800 and 900 footprint models are designed to do just that.
“The Rosinox Royal Chef modular range is built on a 3mm self-supporting box framed structure with a heavy duty and durable 3mm top, offering the client security that the equipment will stand up to high volume cooking under demanding working environments,” says marketing manager Glen Crossland.
“Sales have continued to grow this year with the increasing awareness and acceptance from consultants and kitchen houses alike. Our hotel, restaurant group and institutional kitchens have been particularly successful markets for us.”
Angelo Po also insists that business is brisk, with new additions to its range, such as boiling pans and bratt pans registering “positive” sales, particularly in kitchens where high-productivity is required, such as hospitals, schools and cooking centres. “We are currently working on several projects that foresee a renewal of all modular cooking ranges and completion of the heavy duty offer — the first projects will be a reality at the end of 2012,” says Bates.
The company is unlikely to be the only manufacturer with something innovative up its sleeve. After all, if there is one thing that drives the development of heavy duty modular suites, it is the need to know exactly what customers want before they realise it themselves.