Contract caterers need a firm grasp of catering equipment innovation in order to provide clients with the best service. FEJ caught up with high-flying event catering specialist Centerplate to find out from group projects manager, Steve Lelittka, where the kit fits into the equation.
Given that Centerplate works across a multitude of sites, how do you make sure that each site has the right equipment to provide the quality of food or type of food offered?
Centerplate is involved in the foodservice design of all kitchen spaces in new builds and renovations, and the purchase and brand specification of all equipment used in our client’s venues. Every client, venue, and situation is different; sometimes we have to work within the confines of a particular space and budget and select equipment to meet those needs, and sometimes we can create best-in-class kitchen spaces that are designed to deliver a flexible range of menu options.
How involved is Centerplate in the design and purchasing of kitchen equipment — or is this left to the client?
With Centerplate’s purchasing power and relationships with equipment manufacturers and suppliers, we are able to procure and purchase all kitchen equipment for our clients. However, depending on the situation, both Centerplate and/or the client can purchase the kitchen equipment for the venue. Centerplate is deeply involved in the equipment specifications and kitchen design and layout no matter who purchases the equipment in the end.
How closely do you keep an eye on innovation in new catering equipment? Has the company embraced any new cutting-edge equipment that it is particularly proud of?
Centerplate keeps a very close eye on foodservice kitchen design and equipment innovation being mindful of the difference between short-term fads and thoughtful innovation. We attend equipment trade shows and demos annually to keep up to speed on the latest equipment innovations and trends with trips to the NRA show in Chicago, NAFEM show, and HOST in Milan. In addition, we subscribe to many foodservice design and equipment-related periodicals and have one-on-one in-person meetings with equipment manufacturers and suppliers. We also survey the markets we work in and identify new food concepts and equipment in use that we can bring into our venues.
The biggest factor in procuring equipment for our operations is knowing your audience and customer and designing a kitchen that is purpose-built for efficient, best-in-class service.
Are there any brands that you have had recent success with?
Recently, we have had great deal of success with the Electrolux High Speed Panini Grill and have expanded cooking capability in spaces with no ventilation by using ventless Turbo Chef Ovens with combination microwave and convection cooking technology. In the UK we have recently been working with MKN and their new fexichef, which has proven to be be a success.
What are the biggest considerations for you when it comes to sourcing equipment to support your operations.
The biggest factor in procuring equipment for our operations is knowing your audience and customer and designing a kitchen that is purpose-built for efficient, best-in-class service. Reliability, budget, and ability to deliver for the operation is key. However, energy efficiency, particularly in support of LEED status for buildings, is absolutely a consideration.
Is your strategy geared more towards leasing equipment than owning it?
Centerplate typically leans towards owning our kitchen equipment rather than leasing it. We win contracts and are in it for the long haul. We get the best value and service from the manufacturers and suppliers when we own rather than lease.