Manufacturers step up catering equipment training for operators

Electrolux training

Most catering equipment buyers spend a lot of time evaluating what a new product can do and how it can help their operation, but what happens once it is installed? FEJ checks out the different types of training offered by manufacturers and suppliers.

On-site training

If conditions allow, and it doesn’t interfere with daily service, many operators favour on-site training as staff don’t have to travel and they can learn in the environment that the equipment is going to be operated in. Fortunately, most manufacturers are happy to facilitate on-site training if a significant purchase is made and the support is required.

Ajaz Akhtar, business unit manager at Foster Refrigerator, says that when customers purchase any of its refrigeration equipment, it conducts on-site training led by experts that know the kit inside-out. “Our trained regional managers and support teams via our dealership network talk chefs through the programmes on the units, and answer any questions,” he explains. “Full operating instruction manuals are also given to customers for each of our refrigerators. The manual contains a lot of accessible, quick-to-read information, including clear ‘do and don’t’ lists.”

Over at Foster Coldstores, commercial sales manager Samuel Devitt adds that where a more extensive project is concerned, an entire day will be allocated to putting operating staff through their paces. “For larger projects involving a variety of Foster equipment, or where there are larger teams to be trained, Foster often organises a specific training day, tailored to that customer’s specific need, and how they will use the kit,” he explains.

Blended training

The most important advice for any operator is to select the type of training that most suits the requirements of their business and staff. Manufacturers will usually try to accommodate the needs of their customers, irrespective of how simple or complicated they are.

“We are quite happy to go over the operation of the units over the phone if that’s all that is required, and sometimes with the simpler units that’s all that is required,” points out Donald Harvey, area sales manager at Blue Seal. “But we are also happy to visit a site after installation to do a proper, full training session on the equipment, from stripping the units down, keeping them clean and operating them correctly to practical cooking training sessions that show users how to get the best from their new purchase.

David Riley, managing director, warewashing, at Hobart, suggests the explosion of all-day dining means that training is more important than ever. He says: “Increasingly, it is consumers, and not operators, that are setting the agenda for when they want to eat and this is having a significant impact on kitchens and the way in which warewashing equipment is being used. Added time pressures could see training fall down the pecking order — we’re calling on casual operators to not let this happen.”

Riley says that in the UK, Hobart offers completely free training for the life of its warewashing equipment, which means staff are fully briefed on the best and most effective ways to operate the machines. Crucially, the on-going training programme means operators can take regular advantage to help new employees get up-to-speed, he adds.

Automated training

The sophistication of the latest kitchen technologies, and the ubiquity of touch-screen, iPad-like operating interfaces, means that training on catering equipment can now take place without even leaving the kitchen or speaking to a real person.

Foster’s Ajaz Akhtar notes that with some kit, users don’t even need to refer to traditional printed operating manuals anymore. ”The Foster EcoPro G2 range, for example, has a simple-to-use ‘smartphone’ style control unit, which is situated in clear view at the front of each cabinet. This makes it very easy for users to set the temperature, and check it regularly. It is also light-reactive, so is easy to see, without using reams of energy.”

It pays off in the long run to have well-trained staff who understand how to operate the equipment properly and get the best out of it”

eXpresso PLUS supplies coffee machines to commercial customers, and director Manish Shah says that while it provides detailed operational and maintenance manuals with every purchase, some systems can be set up and operated with ease.

“There are machines that require little training, such as a self-serve machine. eXpresso’s Lavazza self-serve tower units house an automatic bean-to-cup coffee machine that produces consistent, high quality coffee at the push of a button. This has been programmed to create a great espresso in 28 seconds, and there are options available that provide a range of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soup. Modern technology makes the machines easy to stock, clean and maintain — it is just vital that staff are trained on the day-to-day maintenance.”

Online training

The World Wide Web has opened up an array of new opportunities in the way that training is delivered. From live webinars to digital training videos and instructions, operators don’t need anything more to enlighten staff than a laptop and an internet connection.

One of the most successful interactive web-based communities, and one which incorporates an element of training, is Rational’s ClubRATIONAL initiative.

The programme was set up as a way to keep Rational customers up-to-speed with new developments, but has grown to become one of the largest initiatives of its type in the catering equipment industry, spanning 80,000 members across the globe.

As well as free workshop training programmes for members, ClubRATIONAL offers 24/7 access to service professionals that can provide technical assistance. Lee Norton, managing director of Rational UK, says interest in the programme has been particularly strong in the UK, growing by 85% during the past 12 months. “We are passionate about giving chefs the opportunity to exchange their ideas and SelfCookingCenter 5 Senses cooking tips. With ClubRATIONAL, chefs have the chance to get the best from their SelfCookingCenter 5 Senses.”

Catering equipment supplier Nisbets is also making use of the web. Many of the 21,000 products in its portfolio are self-explanatory, but for those requiring additional guidance, such as its Buffalo meat slicer range, the company has begun producing training videos.

“The video covers everything from safety information and operating instructions through to details of how to sharpen the blades and clean the machine thoroughly,” explains Richard Ebbs, head of product training at the Bristol-based business.

He continues: “It also covers all the essential health and safety aspects of using the meat slicers. If used without the correct training, meat slicers have the potential to be dangerous pieces of equipment. With their popularity increasing and the need for greater cost control within many outlets, we felt it essential to give the operator greater guidance on usage in a format that can be shared with all kitchen staff. The video is available via the Nisbets website and on our YouTube channel.”

CookingLive FRIMAUniversity training

Some manufacturers offer training curriculums that involve visiting their factories to learn about their machines. Carpigiani goes one step further by offering customers access to its Gelato University, which has so far trained more than 6,000 people. And for those that can’t get out to its Italian HQ, it now offers free, one-day courses in the UK.

“These help to provide a base to which operators can develop their knowledge of the equipment, the production of ice cream and the outstanding profit opportunities available from this lucrative sector,” explains sales director, Scott Duncan.

“The courses are held at locations around the country and are run by our expert team who are on hand to answer any questions or queries an operator may have. In addition to the one-day events, Carpigiani UK offers a range of other operator training programmes including on-site visits, helping the user to get the most from their appliance and specific training on installation and cleaning cycles.

Cooking equipment supplier Frima provides an array of training resources, including on-site training, online videos and telephone support. Managing director, Graham Kille, says one of the most effective ways that operators can gain an understanding of the equipment is to begin the process of education prior to installation: “It makes sense to come to a presentation or a Cook Live event before the equipment arrives. Watch the online videos and ring-fence time for this and for further training. So often, people do not allow enough time for training — it pays off in the long run to have well-trained staff who understand how to operate equipment properly and get the best out of it.”

Development kitchens

Fully-specced development kitchens offer an ideal opportunity for operators to get their staff used to equipment in an environment fully geared up to training. Many manufacturers have invested in training kitchens during recent years as part of the extra service they offer.

One of the most comprehensive facilities in the UK can be found at Electrolux HQ, where just under two years ago it opened a ‘Centre of Excellence’ containing a full working kitchen with warewashing and food prep areas. Stuart Flint, regional training and demonstration manager at Electrolux Professional, says: “We always offer the option of bespoke training support to every operator who chooses to purchase one of our products — either on the operator’s own site, or at our dedicated Centre of Excellence. This year will see us hold a series of dedicated sector-specific workshops at our Centre of Excellence. The idea behind our workshops is to give both existing and potential customers the chance to see for themselves how certain technologies and cooking methods can really enhance the overall quality of their output. Our commitment to training is such that we have three full-time development and training chefs, who will be visiting customers and carrying out demos every day of the week.”

Multi-brand importer Jestic also has a development kitchen at its headquarters in Kent, which is regularly used by chain customers. “Our dedicated development kitchen allows operators to not only try new appliances but also train and develop their skills,” explains product director Michael Eyre. “Our dedicated culinary team use expert knowledge across all our brands to skilfully assist with this training, menu development or simply a refresher course on how to get the best out of their equipment.”

Eyre insists the main aim with any training is to enable chefs to generate the most value from their new appliance. “This means demonstrating key features, optimising programme settings to suit the particular menu and comprehensive education when it comes to the new cooking styles that are on offer for many of the brands we supply.”

Warewashing manufacturer Meiko is another company that runs courses for managers and operators at its UK head office in Slough. Dave Kemp, technical services director at Meiko, says: “The headquarters of Meiko UK includes a fully-functioning training facility, with working machines including undercounter models, hood type and rack transport. Meiko is reputed to offer the very best technical services back-up in the industry because we provide ongoing training support to our customers through our nationwide network of distributor partners and directly through Meiko’s own regional sales managers and technical services engineers.”

Tailored training

Almost all manufacturers will provide bespoke training if it’s required, so it is most certainly worth asking how a supplier can tailor their offering to suit your business.

Warewashing manufacturer Winterhalter always provides basic training as part of the installation process or at the point of commissioning. This normally includes fundamental operation and daily maintenance procedures. But marketing manager, Paul Crowley, says it can offer any sort of training the customer wants.

“We provide on-site training or, in some cases, casual dining groups have visited our offices for training. We find that some customers understand the importance of training more than others. We are guided by what the customer wants and tailor our provision accordingly. A couple of years ago we developed some YouTube training videos, which have been very successful. Some of the videos have been viewed 5,000 to 6,000 times.”

Justin Stockwell, managing director of Caffeine Ltd, says the most effective training will take into account the unique needs of the customer. “Training varies from quick set-up and cleaning for key staff and full barista training for new starters to full training of the entire coffee process in remote locations. What is key for us is that we offer a full training package that fits the needs of the client. We will regularly audit and monitor the consistency of the beverages in our clients’ locations to ensure consistency and quality is achieved at all times.”

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