Welbilt’s UK and Ireland sales director, Steve Hemsil, argues that multifunctional equipment can be the only way forward when commercial kitchen sizes are continuing to shrink:
It is estimated that the size of commercial kitchens has shrunk by a third in the past decade, so much so that in many cases, outlets will no longer have a behind the scenes kitchen but more a front of house area prep area. Not only is this down to operators wanting to maximise covers, but also the fact that food outlets are popping up in smaller and smaller units.
This has led to the demand for traditional pieces of equipment which have only a singular use diminishing, and multi-functional units that can take the place of two, three or even four pieces of kit increasing in popularity. No more is this so than within outlets that have a focus on food to go and take-away options. But feasibly, how few pieces of equipment do you need within a modern kitchen?
The answer to this is dependent on many factors, not least the amount of covers in the outlet, as well as the style of menu on offer. For many coffee shops, convenience stores and QSR environments, just having a high-speed oven, such as a Merrychef e2s, is the perfect option to create a wide range of menu options throughout the day. With the ability to cook, toast, grill and bake a wide variety of food in a matter of seconds, accelerated cooking ovens have revolutionised the sector and, with no heavy-duty extraction required, they really are the place anywhere option. Furthermore, with many of these machines either coming pre-programmed or better still, with access to a full recipe library, the options are wide open.
However, when operated in tandem with a mini combi oven, such as a Convotherm, an outlet can extend the cooking options even further. By adding the ability to roast, steam, regenerate and deep-fry in to their repertoire, many small outlets have all they need to expand their offering into a full menu. When you take in to account that a tabletop mini combi takes up very little additional space, but can open up a nearly infinite range of new possibilities, it is likely that this additional investment will pay for itself within a matter of months.
When it comes to specifying these key pieces of kit, dealers must also consider how easy these units are to operate; after all, there’s little point in an operator investing in fewer units for the sake of saving space and initial costs if it comes at the long-term cost of user error. It is therefore imperative that operators invest in intuitive models which share a universal operating system such as Welbilt’s range of easyTouch models, which now go across Merrychef, Convotherm and Frymaster brands.
So, whilst the kitchen continues to reduce in size, and the equipment becomes even more multifunctional, the criteria for what an outlet requires, remains the same – space, requirement, menu diversity and long-term planning.