The visual appeal of the rotisserie is a key to their success — it emphasises the fresh-cooked offering, writes Simon Frost, chair of trade body CESA.
“The typical image of a rotisserie only tells half the story — there is actually a wide range of differing sizes to suit most operations, with capacities as low as six chickens. While the growing popularity of chicken as the prime protein source is a factor in the success of rotisseries, operators should remember that they can be used for a wide variety of products.
“In rotisseries that are designed to cook in batches, a drum rotates skewers during the cooking process. Some manufacturers also promote this type of design for continuous production. The food product, primarily whole chickens in today’s market, is mounted with a skewer passing through its centre.
“Some rotisserie manufacturers use planetary drive systems that provide dual-action rotation, with the skewered product rotating as the drum revolves. Other manufacturers use free-hanging baskets that emulate a Ferris wheel’s motion. Baskets can also accommodate other products such as potato wedges or vegetables.
“For those operations that require continuous production, a vertical rotisserie oven, which offers rotating skewers in a ‘ladder’ formation, is often used. As heat rises, the food product nearest the top of the unit cooks first. When the top spit is removed, the others can be moved up to accommodate the raw product, which has been added at the bottom position. In all cases, it’s essential to train staff to use the equipment safely and to keep it hygienically clean.”
TOP TIPS FROM THE TRADE
1) Throughput is everything where rotisseries are concerned. If you’re cooking hourly batches of birds you need to make sure you can keep up with demand while the next batch is being cooked. Examine the consequences of going up or down a size of oven or buy a second unit so that they can be stacked.
2) Sales are often better when the rotisserie is full and on view to the customer; likewise an empty rotisserie may have the opposite effect. Many operators automatically ask for the largest model but then regularly end up with empty spits during cooking periods, which lacks visual appeal when selling freshly cooked chicken. It is often much more effective to have a smaller rotisserie combined with holding equipment.
3) Rotisseries are associated with chicken, but savvy restaurant operators are also realising they are ideal for cooking a multitude of items. All different kinds of roast meats, sausages, suckling pig and fish can be put onto a rotisserie, with specialist accessories such as basket spits, roast clamp baskets, spare rib racks, vertical drives for kebabs and even soup pans helping to drive menu flexibility.