Chefs can look forward to combi ovens that offer live energy consumption data and automatically detect food items in the near future, experts are promising.
Many of the current combi steamers on the market are already laden with the latest computer software and touch-screen technology, but advances in R&D will lead to them becoming even more intelligent.
‘The Internet of Things’ (IoT) – a big consumer buzzword used to describe the inter-networking of physical devices to collect and exchange data – will inevitably have an impact on the foodservice industry, too.
Being able to upload software and recipes from a central location rather than going to each individual oven is just one example of how connected technology is already delivering benefits, says Kenny Smith, managing director of Middleby UK.
“As well as being able to provide preventive maintenance recommendations, it will make the ovens last longer and avoid breakdowns,” he said. “Service diagnostics before going to service an oven will enable service providers to know which components to bring. You will also be able to watch the use of the ovens and see the consumptions of power, water, detergents and rinse aids, reorder supplies and learn how to optimise your processes.”
Simon Lohse, managing director of Rational, says the introduction of its own ‘ConnectedCooking’ solution this year shows how internet connectivity is transcending commercial kitchens.
He notes that customers now have everything at their fingertips, even when they aren’t on location – something that would never have seemed conceivable for a chef just a few years ago. “Chain restaurants and companies with satellite kitchens, in particular, now have an easy, centralised solution for ensuring quality assurance and monitoring unit functions,” he said.
Some onlookers even foresee methods of food recognition being introduced in the next two years.
Euro Catering Equipment’s managing director, Tim Charlton, says that such innovation is on its way. “One European manufacturer is currently trialling ‘artificial intelligence’, which allows the chef to load the product and have the oven automatically recognise the food item ready to be cooked,” he said. “The oven then takes over, selecting the required cooking method and taking decision-making out of the hands of the kitchen team.”
He also believes that more manufacturers will incorporate blast-chilling functionality into their combis, permitting both cook and chill without having to remove the food.