WITH Christmas over for another year, now is as good a time as any to take a step back and consider what improvements can be made to your business.
And when it comes to the kitchen, assessing the equipment in it is a good place to start.
After additional wear and tear from a busy festive period, the start of the year is a good time to review commercial kitchen kit, equipment suppliers have told SLTN.
“It’s a good idea to give your equipment a ‘health check’ in the new year to ensure it remains at peak performance,” said Simon Aspin, commercial director of Hubbard Systems, which distributes the Scotsman ice maker range.
Echoing this view was Stuart Hayes, sales director at Pantheon Catering Equipment, who said the festive trading period will have “highlighted any problem areas”.
David Watts, Buffalo brand manager at Nisbets, agreed, advising operators that a review of how well each piece of equipment coped with higher volumes of orders is a “good start” as it may indicate “whether a few extra portable items, for example, may be useful to have during busier times of the year”.
Various suppliers say different technological changes within the catering equipment scene can make life that bit easier in the kitchen.
“It’s not unusual for new appliances to be operated and managed at the touch of a button – or the swipe of a screen. The connected kitchen uses technology to improve our industry, creating an ergonomic environment that ensures equipment and staff can work effectively. ” – Glenn Roberts, chair of CESA.
“Advances in design have enabled modern icemakers to produce larger amounts of ice on the same or smaller footprints, with some models now built to cope with the fluctuating temperatures that can occur during a long serving period.” – Simon Aspin, commercial director of Hubbard Systems.
“There are now some warewashers that use heat exchanger technology. These extract energy from the waste water or warm, humid water inside the machine and use it to heat the incoming cold fill.” – Paul Crowley, marketing manager of Winterhalter.
When evaluating the performance of the kitchen, operators should ensure they ask themselves the right questions, according to Mark Banton, group managing director for Parry, a design and manufacturing catering equipment firm.
Banton said operators should consider: was their any interruption to service due to faulty equipment and down time? Did the equipment cope with the number of covers? And were staff satisfied at how well the equipment performed?
Answering these questions can help “identify any problems that occurred”, he said, adding that operators should also take factors like menu changes or possible future expansion into account.
When it comes to choosing kit, Kenan Koyman, development manager at Valentine Equipment, underlined the importance of quality, saying “you do pay for what you get”.
“The pay-off is in the longer term with quality equipment that produces high quality results that your customers appreciate and come back for more,” said Koyman.
Beyond the obvious benefits new kitchen kit can bring, buying new equipment “offers caterers the opportunity to take advantage of improvements in energy efficiency and versatility”, said Shaune Hall, a product development chef at Falcon Foodservice Equipment.
It’s a good idea to give your equipment a ‘health check’.
Graham Kille of Frima UK agreed, stating that multi-functional equipment “offers caterers a chance to be greener”.
And taking advantage of more efficient equipment can also result in reduced running costs, according to both Kille of Frima UK and Mark Hogan of Foodservice Equipment Marketing. Hogan added that multi-functional equipment is “the true staple of the modern kitchen” and allows caterers to save on both space and running costs.
Above all, suppliers emphasised the importance of buying from a reliable and respected manufacturer.
Kris Brearley, sales director at RH Hall, said: “Regardless of size or duty, sturdy manufacture is a ‘must’ and therefore you should choose a well-known brand – anything else won’t perform or last.
“Choose a leading brand with an established reputation for good quality, durability and reliability.”
Brearley reckons the warranty offering is “usually a good indication of the quality”; many now offer warranties of three years or more for catering equipment, he said.
Simon Aspin of Hubbard Systems agreed, saying “reliability is essential”.
The importance of following manufacturer’s guidelines was underlined by Malcolm Harling of Williams Refrigeration, who said that “regular maintenance will reduce the risk of costly breakdown and consequent food wastage”.
If and when key pieces of kitchen equipment are replaced, ensuring staff are up to speed is essential.
Banton of Parry said it’s “worthwhile understanding their needs in the kitchen, as they’ll be using the equipment the most”.
Hall of Falcon Foodservice Equipment echoed this view and said the right manufacturer will be “able to offer advice and training on how to get the best out of the equipment”.
Catering equipment suppliers say there are a number of common mistakes to avoid when replacing kitchen equipment.
“Staff misuse and abuse are two leading reasons for machine breakdown. Training staff on new equipment and operational procedures is vital. It should be considered at the planning stage of a kitchen redesign.” – Glenn Roberts, chair of CESA.
“It’s easy to overspend on equipment that is too sophisticated and large for your menu. Far better to buy what you need and, if you have to at some point, add to it. “ – Stuart Hayes, sales director at Pantheon Catering Equipment.
“Consider your menu type, service style, the ease of cleaning and level of throughput when choosing any new item of equipment.” – Trevor Burke, managing director of Exclusive Ranges.