Expecting more for less has become a well-worn theme of these austere times that we are supposed to be living in.
Although you are probably sick of hearing that phrase, the truth is that those three words pretty accurately describe what is happening with kitchens up and down the land.
To put it simply, kitchen footprints are shrinking, leaving designers with the challenge of squeezing catering equipment and refrigeration into ever tighter spaces and shapes.
Restaurants are opening up in places which were never originally intended for preparing and serving food, while new developments seem to be allocating less and less space to kitchen areas. Then there’s the ongoing rise of street food, which challenges the very definition of what a compact kitchen is all by itself.
Just as significantly, operators want to make existing locations more profitable and one of the most attractive ways of doing that is trimming a few square feet off the kitchen to squeeze in extra tables.
You can argue that a kitchen is the engine room of a food operation, but the prospect of bringing in extra revenue by accommodating more punters is the only metric that counts for revenue-hungry operators.
It is therefore not hard to understand why the lure of growing sales in return for sacrificing 20% to 30% of kitchen space is one that many are finding difficult to ignore. Crucially, though, no matter how much production space is reduced, all will expect their kitchens to perform just as well, if not better, than before. More for less, if you like.
This trend is by no means new, but it is escalating, and it continues to have implications for those at the design and manufacturing end of the supply chain. If the R&D departments of the serious catering equipment brands aren’t already directing their energy into developing kit that packs a punch but takes up less surface room, they can rest assured that their nearest competitors certainly will be.
You only have to look at the consumer technology market for evidence of how competition has driven vendors to introduce immense capability into pocket-sized gadgets
Commercial catering appliances can obviously never be slimmed down to that extreme — after all an oven or a refrigeration unit still has to hold a certain volume of food product — but it does illustrate how market forces can lead to traditional design boundaries being challenged.
The stakes are getting higher for equipment suppliers. Consultants dealing with small footprint kitchens say that if their first choice brand can’t meet the sizes they need, they’ll have no hesitation specifying one from the next best supplier that can.
If the ‘more for less’ culture is here to stay, catering equipment manufacturers have to accept that every millimetre really does count.