F&B businesses are on the verge of revolutionising their commercial kitchen with unique concepts and equipment. The pressure is on to create a kitchen space that can adapt to new consumer trends. This is because the industry is witnessing food menus becoming more specialised as more and more organised domestic and international players enter this space. At the same time, there is also an urgent need for the industry to become efficient so as to deliver a larger output with lesser cost.
Just look at the traditional chat masala sellers who now have well-organised kiosks. The tandoor oven is not made of clay anymore, combi ovens bake oil-free French fries, and storage has become a priority. Modular kitchens are also growing popular as remote locations are beginning to develop at break-neck speed and real estate costs escalate beyond imagination.
All of these factors combined have driven commercial kitchens to become culinary playgrounds for chefs by providing them with a series of peak experiences and performance-pumping accessories. A large part of the credit for this development is thanks to improvements in the quality, productivity and efficiency wrought upon commercial kitchens by the kind of equipment that is available today.
There are various brands, both international and local, offering top-of-the-line commercial kitchen appliances. Many of them, including larger-sized equipment such as refrigeration units, now come with a growing selection of prices and options, making it fairly convenient to choose efficient equipment throughout the cooking line.
With food & beverage outlets and chefs looking for equipment that bring functionality, power, and ease to everyday life in kitchens, the demand for advanced and intelligent kitchen machinery has touched off in big way.
“The Indian food service market is ready for leading edge products that can reduce energy use, improve food quality and allow more open kitchen formats,” says Nigel Bell, executive chairman, Adande Refrigeration Ltd. The company’s refrigeration solutions based on the ‘unitary’ model, have proved a hit with top chefs everywhere, leading to increased demand for Adande refrigeration products by quick service restaurant chains, specialist kitchen house dealers and commercial kitchen architects.
The staggering growth in the number of food outlets, expansion of the catering segment and changing culinary preferences are encouraging commercial kitchen equipment manufacturers to launch newer and more innovative products. Buoyed by the surge in demand and intensifying competition for smarter kitchen appliances, equipment manufacturers are straining their sinews to bring more cutting edge innovations to their wares.
“Kitchen equipment today are totally technology driven and they play a vital role in kitchen operations. Equipment are making kitchens smarter today by enhancing the quality, efficiency and consistency of food preparations and by helping chefs to upgrade cuisine,” says executive chef Vice President (F&B Production), Le Meridien New Delhi, Davinder Kumar, who has over four decades of experience as a chef with top hotels.
According to Kumar, the defining feature of a smart kitchen equipment is that it should not only offer a smarter way of cooking but also provide an effective means to save on energy and time consumption and wastage of resources such as water.
As the popularity and demand for cutting edge innovative kitchen products grows, manufacturers are competing to bring more such products on the market. Take, for instance, the SelfCookingCenter 5 Senses brought out by Rational International India Pvt Ltd, a leading catering industry machinery and equipment manufacturer. The equipment has found wide acceptance in the market and is a common feature in high-end kitchens.
“It can grill, steam, bake, rise, roast, braise, simmer, stew, poach or blanche. The unit independently determines controls and monitors the optimum cooking process – just by the push of a button,” says Managing Director Rational International India Pvt Ltd, Hiroshi Akai.
While hotel majors such as and other leading chains understand the efficiencies that technologically advanced equipment bring to the overall food service business, even smaller players have now cottoned on to the multifarious benefits that these equipment bring to bear on kitchen operations.
“Not only do they fuel the culinary passion and creativity of chefs, their flawless performance and cutting edge design is a big asset in running kitchen operations, says chef Kumar.
Improvements in design and technology in food service equipment are also bringing about dramatic reductions in energy consumption, resulting in carbon-footprint reductions and significant cost savings. “By improving their energy efficiency through investments in cleaner and superior technology equipment, kitchens can help to bring down operating costs, achieve faster payback and gain from significant ongoing energy and water saving opportunities over the product’s life cycle,” says Kumar.
Such considerations are prompting equipment manufacturers to put their engineering prowess into finding more efficient ways to maintain food quality, conserve energy and reduce cost. In the refrigeration space, companies like Adande have taken this principle to heart. Its insulated drawer ensures ‘low velocity cooling’, which helps prolong the shelf life of food by preventing dehydration. This design innovation provides unmatched temperature stability and exceptional humidity control. Even during frequent or prolonged drawer openings, the attack from high temperature ambient air is minimal, providing a cool and benign micro-climate for the storage of food.
In the hottest kitchens, and even if positioned directly under high temperature griddles and char broilers in the cook-line, Adande drawers perform to specification. The company’s product manual says that metered energy tests, in working kitchens, have demonstrated that Adande’s patented design reduces energy consumption by 40 per cent on average, when compared to conventionally made cabinets, with savings as high as 66 per cent being achieved on some tests.
Energy saving is also a big trump card in the case of Rational’s SelfCookingCenter 5 Senses, as the machinery requires significantly less energy, water and raw materials. Features like Rational’s patented HiDensityControl and iLevelControl ensure that heat and humidity are introduced – precisely metered – exactly where they are needed according to how well cooked the product is.
“This maximises the application spectrum and is the basis for 30 per cent larger load sizes, 30 per cent time saving in production and 20 per cent reduced power consumption compared to existing combi-steamers,” says Akai.
Other companies too are bringing their manufacturing and engineering skills to make their products stand out on fine craftsmanship, durability, the finest materials, robustness and painstaking attention to detail. At various trade fairs, prominent kitchen equipment manufacturers are taking the opportunity to showcase their latest range of products and innovations.
One such product is a food processor by KitchenAid, which features the company’s trademark innovation, the Exactslice system. The KitchenAid 14 Cup Food Processor introduces a unique innovation wherein one uses an external lever to adjust slicing from thick to thin without the need to change blade.
Underscoring its many functional benefits and versatility of applications, Regional Director-KitchenAid Small Appliances, Asia-Pacific, Mohit Jain, says: “This food processor also comes with a plethora of other attachments such as a reversible and adjustable shredding disc, sliding disc, julienne disc along with multipurpose and dough blades which make slicing, shredding, kneading, pureeing and chopping food a fast and simple process.”
While important considerations like the size and scale of the venture and the clientele, nature of the menu and several other parameters are important factors in choosing the right selections of commercial kitchen appliances, the need to meet high energy standards has also become important for such products to flaunt.
It is estimated that commercial kitchens consume approximately twice as much energy as other commercial facilities. The kind of kitchen appliances in use is therefore all the more important from the energy efficiency view point, especially as their services account for a significant share of energy consumption in hotels (as much as 15 per cent of energy consumption).
To buttress their energy efficiency credentials, manufacturers are benchmarking their products to efficiency testing standards. The product list includes combination ovens, convection ovens, rack ovens, fryers, large vat fryers, griddles, steam cookers, insulated holding cabinets, hot food holding cabinets, and an array of other appliances.
The constant appraisals of products on energy efficiency benchmarks have thrown up interesting results. For instance, it has been found that steam cookers in particular offer huge savings for both energy and water. Similarly, convection ovens too offer great energy savings as do a host of other appliances.
These developments are responsible for a growing number of commercial food service equipment that are energy rated and labeled according to their power consumption efficiency. Several energy rating organisations offer benchmarks and performance ratings for a wide and varied list of electronic kitchen equipment. These organisations, along with the equipment manufacturers, are paving the way for mainstream efficiency standards in commercial kitchen equipment.
As energy efficiency norms become widely accepted, the food service industry is moving towards greater adoption of high-tech commercial kitchen equipment, which are manufactured keeping in mind not only quality and value, but also energy and water efficiency. For food and beverage outlets looking to kit out their kitchens or even to replace or upgrade old appliances and equipment, choosing products that are energy efficient is the way to go.