What’s on the menu?

From fresh baked goods to whole chickens, gourmet casseroles to hot and crispy chicken or fries—breakfast, lunch, dinner—late and over-night, the explosion in the availability of hot, fresh and delicious food in locations you might not expect is astounding. If you’ve driven in the US and stopped along the interstate at one of the countless gas station/convenience store chains, you’ve no doubt noted the radical transformation that has taken place in their food offering. This is just one example of what a new breed of cooking equipment is making possible for all sorts of operators.

It’s the speed, versatility, ease of use, and size of this equipment that’s driving this trend. In the past, ventilation was a must-have requirement for commercial cooking applications. Depending on the items you wish to cook, there is now a full range of equipment available that does not require ventilation. For places where it is required, light-weight portable ventilation is now an option.

Chains like Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Subway and others, first benefitted from this technology. They’re often the reason why development like this gets started. Convenience and some QSR chains soon followed. Today short-stay hotel properties, caterers, schools and even traditional operators and chefs have created their menu around the capabilities of these high-speed appliances.

For non-traditional locations, it’s enabled them to offer a broader menu of hot and freshly prepared food. For more traditional kitchens it has broadened their capability and capacity by saving them labour, space, traffic, energy and the most precious resource of them all—time.

For the consumer it means there is more choice than ever. Convenience and quality are hard to resist. A recent study predicts that Canadian families will spend on average and additional $348.00 this year. 59% of that increase – $208 – will go towards eating out and opting for prepared food more often.

According to an article in the Globe and Mail,  Americans split their food budget 50/50 between the grocery store and the purchase of prepared foods from various food service outlets. In Canada the number is less at only at 30%. However, the number is expected to rise steadily over the next decade.

This is good news for the food service industry as a whole. It means additional competition, as more non-traditional locations such as convenience stores, food trucks, pop up restaurants and kiosks are more able to serve a menu that’s not only convenient, but hot, fresh and delicious too.