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Opinion: When can automation really be the answer to consistency, labour-saving and efficiency?

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Valentine's Steve Elliott believes that without a grounding in overcoming operator pain, smart technology has no real purpose or value in a commercial kitchen.

Steve Elliott, sales director of Valentine and CuisinEquip, analyses the impact of smart catering equipment and argues that it’s only relatively recently that commercial kitchens are truly ready for such technology:

Smart catering equipment is nothing new. However, from combi ovens powered by AI to warewashing equipment that senses the load and adjusts the wash time and temperature appropriately, it’s only relatively recently that commercial kitchens are truly ready for such technology.

Smart equipment – appliances fitted with the latest technology – can be found across the market and from almost every manufacturer, but how much of this technology really solves an operator’s pains day in, day out, and how much is, in reality, nothing more than a gimmick? Ultimately, technology in catering equipment should be designed to make the operator’s job quicker and easier or to save a business money.

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Regardless of whether a foodservice site is independent or part of a larger group or chain, saving time and money without compromising on the quality of food and customer experience is the holy grail. This has become even more crucial as the industry continues to recover from the pandemic and the staff shortages show no sign of abating. Chefs are now increasingly looking for automated kitchen equipment which enables fewer staff to serve the same quantity of food, in the most time- and energy-efficient manner.

It’s this focus on output, consistency and efficiency that drives innovation across the Valentine and CuisinEquip portfolio. For example, the Valentine EVO Computer fryers represent the very pinnacle of our range. Featuring intelligent computer-controlled cook cycles, automatic basket lifts, precision temperature control and pumped oil filtration, the technology works in unison to effortlessly cook a kitchen’s most popular items. Using an intelligent combination of timing and oil temperature control, the computer fryers cook foods to their optimum standard, then lift the basket to prevent overcooking and reduce associated wastage. Allowing the chef to continue with other essential tasks, the smart fryer automation and oil filtration, capable of extending oil life by as much as 40%, can reduce labour demand and drive efficiency in a kitchen.

For our business, it’s not simply a case of automating traditional equipment, but also keeping an eye on new technology to understand how it can benefit the operator. LightFry presented by CuisinEquip represents a unique proposition for the commercial market. Based on innovative Swedish air fry technology, LightFry uses steam, hot air and movement to produce a deep-fried flavour and texture without the need to add a single drop of oil. 100% less fat, the LightFry’s design makes it extremely efficient and significantly reduces waste, including used oil disposal. Automatic emptying and integrated cleaning functionality further enhance efficiency and speed of service, all without compromising on the quality of the food and the experience for the customer.

So, although smart equipment has been around for several years, we believe that it is not about having all the bells and whistles, but more about using automation and innovation to the benefit of the kitchen. Ultimately, without a grounding in overcoming operator pain, smart technology has no real purpose or value in a commercial kitchen.

Tags : automationcuisinequipfryerssmart kitchensValentine Equipment
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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