EXCLUSIVE: ‘Perfect storm’ of challenges will fuel smart kitchen adoption

The space and location challenges facing foodservice operators, coupled with increasing pressure on labour and costs, will only serve to speed up adoption of smarter equipment and automated kitchen solutions in the future.

That’s the view of Mike Faers, the former global head of McDonald’s food operations, who now runs his own specialist culinary and strategic services consultancy in London.

Mr Faers, whose early days in the industry were spent in the three-Michelin starred kitchen of Le Gavroche under the mentorship of Albert Roux, believes operators will need to think even more carefully about the equipment and operational choices they make as a “perfect storm” of market challenges threatens traditional business models.

He said: “I think you are going to see a lot of operators looking to move from A3 to A1, you will see a lot of them seek to reduce their square foot footprint, you will see a lot of equipment designs therefore that are space-saving and also utility-saving and also A1 compliant. Whether that is a catalytic converter in a blower or a self-steam vent, those are the sort of things that are driving and pushing the industry in a certain direction.

“I think if you were to look further forward you will see smart technology and centrally-linked technology becoming more evident. Artificial intelligence is a really interesting concept for what we do. Then you have got the skills shortage within the industry, which is massive, and the skills that remain are becoming more expensive, with the minimum living wage and London minimum wage and so on. If you overlay those two elements with a third one of raw material price inflation through Brexit then you have got a perfect storm.”

Given that FIS’ business is all about helping companies adapt to changing circumstances, the company’s services are likely to be even more sought after as operators bid to establish where they fit into the rapidly-changing landscape.

“As providers of solutions, we understand how to make operations more cost efficient, how to manage supply chains in a more cost-efficient way and how the design and use of the equipment can help operations save labour, space and ultimately cost,” said Mr Faers.

FIS’ head office near Waterloo contains a commercial demonstration kitchen (pictured above), which is where it carries out extensive menu and food strategy work for clients. It is currently helping one leading restaurant chain, whose portfolio numbers 120 sites and rising, improve its food delivery times and delivery processes to ease team stress, increase people retention and reduce food waits.

The only areas it declines to get involved in are finding property for clients and offering interior design services because of the specialist nature of those jobs. Nor does it sell kitchen equipment.

“There are enough people out there selling equipment but we will work with the people who sell equipment,”explained Mr Faers. “We don’t make anything from that; we make our profit from consultancy fees from our clients. If we are working with the Hilton or someone then we will put them in touch with X, Y and Z, who can supply that equipment, and then it’s up to them to have that conversation with them. It’s not something we are interested in.”

The full interview with Mr Faers can be read in the forthcoming August edition of FEJ.

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