Focus on innovation the right strategy

Most, if not all of the major equipment brands were there and many had their latest and greatest on display. Rather than fill their booths with products and equipment we’ve seen ‘a million times’ before—they brought new technology instead. As did we. It was the right strategy. We spent a lot of time with visitors who were genuinely interested to learn more about how a new breed of equipment can help to streamline process and lower operating costs.

The level of interest was much higher than in the past. Food service is an industry steeped in tradition. That combined with a sensitivity to the higher purchase price usually associated with new equipment has slowed the pace of adoption. At least in North America where, compared to our cousins overseas, we’ve lagged behind. In a sense, we could afford to. But for many operators who face a steady rise in operating cost and competition, that’s no longer the case.

Other markets adopt sooner due to comparatively higher operating costs

In other markets, they had no choice but to turn to technology. While we’ve enjoyed comparatively low food, resource, space, and even labour costs—that’s simply not been the case ‘over there’. Higher costs and stricter environmental regulations have taken their toll. Operators needed innovative ways to combat those costs, meet those regulations, and still be profitable.

New technology might be more expensive than so-called ‘traditional’ equipment. But the payback in cost-savings, productivity and speed, combined with a reduction in equipment and environmental footprint is often more than able to deliver savings and profits that exceed those additional up front costs.

As costs rise so does interest in solutions that more than offsets them

Now that we’re experiencing similar pressures here, where everything from space to food, labour, energy, fuel, and other resource costs are on the rise, it’s no surprise that interest in finding ways to mitigate those costs is higher than previous years. Visitors not only watched our demonstrations but also took the time to discuss their operation and the processes they were looking to improve. This is a savvy market. Operators are asking the right questions.

Events like this serve as a great way to get an indication of what operators are thinking. From our perspective they’re thinking smarter and looking seriously at ways to leverage technology to manage costs, streamline service and see greater success from their efforts.

Automation and multi-purpose solutions biggest draw

We ran continuous demonstrations on 15 different pieces of equipment and received great traffic in all areas of our booth. But the solutions that demonstrated an ability to ‘automate’ all or part of a process definitely received the most attention. Followed closely by equipment able to perform a variety of tasks and processes. Both correlate directly to where operators are facing some of the greatest pressure—labour, space, resource and food costs.

Top 5 equipment demonstration areas (in terms of visitor engagement and traffic):

  • Speed and Combination cooking platforms from Amana and Lainox
    • Speed and convenience are key ingredients in many successful food service operations. Consumers want food that’s nutritious and delicious—cooked fresh and fast. With modern day cooking platforms not only can foodservice Operators meet this demand, they can do so with less food waste by cooking smaller batches with greater consistency and less reliance on specialized labour to prepare and serve it.
    • Both Lainox and Amana have developed cooking platforms that feature superior programming, one-touch cooking controls, menu management tools and a combination of cooking technologies that meet the need for speed, simplification and quality in the kitchen with reduced labour and stress.
  • Blended soups, sauces and smoothies from Vitamix.
    • Fast, fresh, nutritious and delicious is more on trend than ever before. As are freshly prepared blended beverages, dips, soups and sauces. As a result, Vitamix generated a lot of traffic and interest. Vitamix quite simply takes this category to a whole new level. And not just because they make the finest blenders on the market.
    • Their continued investment in recipe and process development truly helps operators expand their thinking and their menu. Helps them meet and profit from consumer demand for healthier choices and more variety from their out of home meal expenditures.
  • Induction—the world’s most energy-efficient cooktops—from Adventys.
    • Let’s face it, few pieces of equipment rival the energy use and ambient heat output of traditional cooktops. But commercial kitchens are busy spaces and powerful, ‘always-on’ burners and griddles seem necessary to just keep up. Induction cooktops change all of that. Heat is almost instant, on-demand and generated in the cooking vessel itself.
    • This technology is really becoming of age due to the fact that it blows away gas and electric burners, in both power and efficiency . From melting chocolate to simmering delicate sauces to a full-on boil in half the time, induction delivers consistent, powerful heat with two-thirds less energy than gas and one-third less energy than radiant electric burners. Plus, a significant reduction in overall ambient heat in the kitchen reduces strain on, and energy consumption from HVAC and Refrigeration systems.
    • While Induction is smart all on its own, the Adventys brand is a smart choice for many reasons. The size of their range (cooktops, warming, induction griddles), standard ‘like for like’ sizing (when replacing a competitive brand), beautiful touch screen controls and a ‘value line’ that’s simply unbeatable in terms of quality and price.
  • Prep, preserve, portion and cook hands-free—from Brunner-AnlikerBesser Vacuum and Sunkist
    • It’s been said that the chef’s knife is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in the kitchen because of the arm that operates it. That’s why a piece of equipment that can expertly chop, cut, dice, grind and slice easily got a lot of attention.
    • Brunner Anliker’s GSM5 does exactly that, and operators took notice. Brunner Anliker’s master-class in food prep was consistently one of our busiest throughout the show. Sunkist’s Sectionizers and Juicers too garnered a lot of interest for some of those same reasons.
    • We also showed operators how to portion, package and preserve food more efficiently with Besser Vacuum chambers—and then how to cook and hold that food ‘a-la’ sous vide using Besser’s Vacook Commercial Sous Vide Circulator. While sous vide is a slower cooking process, we showed how it takes no monitoring, cooks and holds food to a perfect temperature that is ‘ready to serve’ or, in the case of proteins, finished and served in seconds.  With outstanding, mouthwatering results.
  • Traditional equipment that’s anything but—Wood StoneHestan and Antunes
    • Wood Stone kept us all well–fed with hot fresh pies and sandwiches expertly prepared in their open hearth gas-fired pizza oven. Also live and on display was their space-saving vertical rotisserie oven. Why are solutions like these part of a smarter commercial kitchen? Because craftsmanship and quality are always a smart choice—as is application-specific technology that produces the best results in the best way. When pizza or chicken is on the menu—it doesn’t get any more delicious than this!
    • The same can be said for heavy duty cooking equipment. When you’re building a smarter kitchen, it makes sense to choose equipment that not only performs but has been engineered to last. That’s where Hestan Commercial comes in. For us, it’s the finest equipment on the planet. And, with the only truly modular cooking lineups in the business—it’s smart too. That means that changes in the configuration and order of your line are easy – in the field! A change in process, location or menu in your future? No problem. Hestan adapts.
    • ‘Rounding up’ our top 5 is none other than Antunes. Their application-specific toasting, steaming and grilling equipment is helping to drive breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night at the majority of the world’s leading chainsWith all-day breakfast on trend for many operators, Antunes is always must-see. Where labour and operational costs are a concern, and quality, consistency, and throughput non-negotiable, Antunes solutions produce outstanding results with minimum training and monitoring required.

Events like the RC Show, that put innovation in the spotlight, are great for the Canadian Food Service Industry. They give foodservice operators the chance to discover ways to make their commercial kitchens smarter—all in one place. For companies like Food Service Solutions, hearing directly from chefs and operators about the challenges they face is invaluable. Especially when they allow us to show them right there and then how to alleviate those challenges, turn them into opportunities and keep their business and our industry as a whole, as vibrant and healthy as ever.