With catering equipment supply currently decimated thanks to coronavirus, many manufacturers are turning to the only sectors still functioning: healthcare, public services, takeaways and retail, to provide any revenue to keep businesses ticking over.
This is especially pertinent for light equipment, as plug and play appliances can be quickly utilised to cook delivery orders, with other relevant products used to transport meals. So what do catering equipment dealers need to know about this changed supply landscape?
For instance, Welbilt believes that its high speed Merrychef eikon e2s oven fits the bill. UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil detailed: “The key to perfecting a popular and profitable takeaway offering is to create delicious dishes in minimal time. To be able to achieve this, an operator requires the right equipment within their kitchen, and in many cases this means having a high quality high speed oven, such as a Merrychef.
“Take the Merrychef eikon e2s, for example: our smallest high-speed oven with the biggest performance. This extremely advanced unit features three heat technologies; tuned impingement, microwave and convection – features that allow the eikon e2s to perform up to 20 times faster than a conventional oven with no compromise to the finished product. Not only will this reduce delivery wait times for customers, but it will also help to generate additional revenue where more orders can be taken and completed across the service period.”
Additionally, the unit can be pre-programmed with bespoke takeaway menu options which allow the staff to put a product into the oven, select the correct menu item and go.
Hemsil reported that it is still able to fulfil orders at this time and supply local and international markets accordingly. “Our Sheffield warehouse has a large number of fast-running items in stock which we are able to deliver to UK customers fairly quickly; these include Convotherm and Merrychef models. Items that are usually on a longer lead time from our overseas factories, or are specifically made to order, may in certain circumstances be subject to longer lead times than normal, however, we are working hard to counteract these potential delays.”
At Signature FSE, MD Paula Sherlock feels that sous vide equipment supports restaurants that have decided to turn into a takeaway or delivery service only. She explained: “Sous vide water baths allow restaurants that adapted their service into takeaways or home deliveries to prepare food overnight, using low-cost energy consumption, and only regenerate the food that is ordered; the remainder stays chilled in the fridge until next order, hence reducing waste and saving money.”
Signature supplies sous vide equipment by Clifton Food Range, which is available to order as the factory remains open and is based in the UK, facilitating deliveries anywhere in the country.
Sherlock reported that Clifton is processing and dispatching orders for its sous vide equipment. For a delivery in the UK, the lead time is around 2-3 days for products in stock.
Another light equipment cooking option is a microwave. Panasonic UK reported that its entry level microwaves, such as the NE-1853, have been historically popular in the care sector. This model include 15 power levels for accuracy and flexibility, and 30 programmes, including five-stage heating, for when a recipe calls for steps that include ‘heat then leave to stand’.
There is also a power-saving LED light which can be left off during cooking and set to flash on and off when the program is complete, replacing the ‘beep’ which can be a benefit in a busy, noisy kitchen. It sports a ‘heat boost’ button to give recipes a final boost of 10 or 20 additional seconds with a single press (two for 20 seconds) to bring a dish up to temperature, an LCD display, which can be easier to read in bright conditions, and it comes with 13A power supply for ease of installation, anywhere in the kitchen.
Panasonic UK business development manager Jared Greenhalgh detailed that the firm is still able to provide its microwaves. “Panasonic already holds a large amount of stock in the UK, has more due to arrive during the first quarter from our manufacturing sites and has an extensive network of wholesalers that are supported with an uninterrupted supply chain. We hope that this will see us in good stead as the industry wheels start to turn again and envisage no interruption of supply.”
In terms of lead times, he revealed: “Panasonic is offering a 48-hour delivery service currently, which is obviously subject to change during these uncertain times, and of course the company is adhering to UK government guidelines in terms of delivery as the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, customers and partners is of the utmost importance. It goes without saying that Panasonic UK is continually monitoring the developing situation and would like to thank our customers for their support during these challenging times.”
In the food transportation and hot holding sphere, Jestic Foodservice Solutions is receiving increased demand for Henny Penny holding cabinets, which enable operators to prepare food in advance and then hold it at the precise temperature and humidity conditions until it is ready to go out for delivery.
Then for takeaway service, a recent addition to the supplier’s portfolio of brands, Carlisle Foodservice Products, includes a diverse range of smallwares and accessories to help takeaway operations run smoothly. Sales director Steve Morris recounted: “This includes the durable range of insulated Cateraide food pan carriers which feature commercial foam insulation to keep food at the optimal temperature for up to 6 hours, so it is hot and ready to enjoy when the delivery arrives at the customer’s home. Cateraide food pan carriers also incorporate ergonomic handles, swing hinges and snap-lock clasps making them easy to load, move and carry as part of a takeaway delivery service.”
On the subject of supply capabilities, he added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted businesses around the world and our manufacturing partners in the United States and Europe are no exceptions. Whilst production has understandably been affected we are in the fortunate position of holding good stock levels in the UK for the majority of our lines, so we are well positioned to supply all customers.”
“We are still able to offer customers swift delivery via courier services for the majority of our products in accordance with the government’s advice with regards to hygiene and social distancing. There are however restrictions with delivering some of the larger items including certain pizza ovens and bakery equipment which require specialist transportations delivery and installation solutions. We would encourage customers with any questions regarding lead times to contact us and we can advise.”
The heated food delivery bag is another product coming into its own. Foodservice Equipment Marketing is one company seeing increased demand for this, especially for the CambroGoBag range it supplies. This is constructed from expanded polypropylene, which is designed to allow for easy manoeuvrability while remaining sturdy and insulated.
The exterior of GoBags is made of a nylon fabric that’s machine washable and stain-resistant. The breathable material should protect food quality, and the range is available in a variety of sizes and styles to fit all food types. The smallest in the range the16.9-litre top-loading GoBox which is designed to hold 1/2 sized GN pans.
New to FEM’s range are the Vollrath 3-Series Premium Food Delivery Bags that are designed to maintain temperature for longer and maximise the quality of the food delivered. Their base is said to ensure stability for loading and transportation, and the durable construction should protect the contents of each bag. The range includes medium and large catering bags, insulated backpack with an integrated frame, and pizza delivery bags.
Mark Hogan, commercial director of FEM, explained: “We can easily source our insulated transportation product range from our manufacturing partners. All manufacturing partners are operating on reduced workforces, therefore still available to supply goods to the UK market.
“We have a large variety of products available in the insulated transportation range in stock in our East Kilbride Warehouse. These are available for immediate next day delivery. Any products that are out of stock can have a lead time of 10-14 days to up to 8-10 weeks depending on the country of origin.”
Another heated food bag on the market is Cater-Bake’s Cater-Bags, which the supplier has obtained more stock of, in order to help restaurants fulfil their takeaway orders.
The thermal food delivery system is designed to keep food piping hot from the restaurant’s oven to the customers’ doors. The bags should maintain temperatures of 85°C, on the move, with the use of ISO Thermo technology. Included in Cater-Bake’s sales is a compatible adapter, allowing drivers to charge the containers from within their own car.
Head of sales Steven Lilley commented: “Most eateries have now transitioned their services from eat-in, to take out which is why we are receiving an influx in interest for our thermal delivery bags.
“The bags are easy to clean and can be charged both in shop or on the move. The containers are available in four sizes, ideal for various order sizes and each bag comes with a heated pad and car adapter free of charge.”
On lead times he added: “At present there are no delays reported for our delivery times. We are taking extra precautions with deliveries, but we are offering 1-3 days delivery from order placement and next day delivery if ordered before 1pm.
Over at Metcalfe Catering Equipment, MD Neil Richards noted: “Our dealer network is reporting a significant drop off in sales to independent pubs, hotels and restaurants, but there has been a small increase in demand for food preparation equipment, such as mixers, slicers and veg prep units, within the public sector – specifically care homes, hospitals and the MOD.
“We suspect this is down to two factors. Firstly, many kitchens are operating with reduced staffing levels and therefore don’t have the manpower to carry out some of the tasks that would normally be carried out manually, such as slicing, dicing and peeling. And secondly, because the current situation is making it difficult for them to get hold of pre-prepared product from their usual suppliers. This is particularly true of smaller care homes that may be reliant upon their local cash and carry and, in some cases, their regular supermarket home delivery service.
“We have also seen a small, but noticeable uptake in demand for chippers, peelers and contact grills which we believe is probably due to those businesses who are adapting their current offer to encompass a takeaway service.”
Metcalfe has a full range of products suitable for the takeaway sector too, including Roband high speed grill stations, Metcalfe pasta machines, Hallde veg prep machines and Metcalfe peelers, chippers and slicers.
Richards concluded: “As a UK manufacturer we are in complete control of our stock levels and so we have no issues at all in this regard as we can assess stock levels daily and react accordingly. Goods are being dispatched on a next day service every Tuesday and Thursday.”
At Belgium-headquartered Culimat, it is sterilisation equipment which is proving fruitful. UK and Ireland sales manager, Brian Lavelle, said: “Up to recently we have seen steady and consistent orders for Edlund’s patented KSUV-18 Ultraviolet knife steriliser. That was until some recent studies by the medical industry and the BBC showed that UV light was highly effective in killing coronavirus on products and equipment.
“Since these reports, we have seen a surge in demand for the KSUV-18 units which are used to sterilise knives with 99% efficiency. We know it works effectively as it was independently tested by an external laboratory and used globally by both healthcare and foodservice professionals.”
Lavelle added: “Compared to other units on the market, Edlund’s KSUV-18 has an exclusive non-UV filtering knife holder, internal mirrored walls and is 99% effective in as little as 3 minutes. For the above reasons the NHS and national nursing home chains have benefited massively while using these units to better sterilise their utensils, and all supplied through our UK Edlund distributor partners with very low lead times, given our large stock holding both locally in the UK and in Belgium. This applies for all the brands Culimat represents.”