It feels like microwave technology has been around forever, such is its place in the professional kitchen today. But while its place at the table is unquestioned, its application lies in the hands of those specifying and operating. FEJ reports.
Return on investment is a factor that every buyer will take into consideration when purchasing catering equipment – and with microwaves that can literally be achieved in a matter of days, according to suppliers leading the way in this expansive market.
Microwaves have so many uses that the commissioning of multiple units are par for the course in many sites; indeed one manufacturers suggests there are plenty of instances where up to 12 units are “now the norm”.
With buyers demanding rapid turnaround, speed and menu flexibility, the dependence on microwave technology as a main stay of the kitchen armoury looks assured for a good while yet. But, at the end of the day, nobody wants things to become over-complicated.
“More and more chefs and business owners are requesting simplicity and ease of use,” observes Simon Drought, sales director at Dongbu Daewoo Electronics. “There is also a growing trend for low power units for specific purposes, such as heating desserts and melting chocolate. And we are seeing the growth of applications where the consumer heats their own food, such as snacks in garages and canteens.”
Drought cites Daewoo’s KOM9M11S 1100W model as a classic example of a machine purpose-built for a commercial setting but with the simplicity and familiarity that makes it perfectly suited to small business owners.
Panasonic’s latest professional microwave, the NE-1853, has just been given ‘approved product’ status by the Craft Guild of Chefs following testing as part of its Product Endorsement Scheme. The NE-1853 boasts 15 power levels offering accuracy and flexibility in cooking and comes with 30 programmes, including 5 stage heating
Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager for commercial catering equipment at Panasonic, says it’s clear that many buyers now realise that investing in premium products brings marked benefits.
“We are thrilled to have received this endorsement from the Craft Guild of Chefs but what has been most pleasing about the whole exercise was learning that chefs do recognise that by paying slightly more for equipment with a better build quality results in greater value for money in the long run,” he says.
Experts say that the microwave market has largely divided into two groups of ovens over recent years: light duty models with outputs of 1000-1100W and heavy duty applications of outputs between 1800-1900W.
Kurran Gadhvi, marketing manager and area sales manager at Valera, says there is also another key product development to note: “Over the last couple of years new models coming into the market have been available with a 2/3 GN size cavity capacity compared to the 1/2GN capacity models from all the leading brands.”
Heather Beattie, brand manager of Uropa Distribution, which wholesales Samsung commercial microwave ovens, believes microwaves remain in demand because cost control and green efficiency are at the top of everyone’s agenda these days.
“It’s all about the fast regeneration of certain foods, retaining moisture and nutrients,” she says. “Keeping the six burner on throughout the whole day wastes energy and is bad for the kitchen environment — raising temperatures and consequently over-working the ventilation system. It is much better all round to par-cook food items and then regenerate them on demand. Commercial microwave ovens are perfect for this – they are easy to operate, cook fast, are energy efficient and don’t take much space.
“They don’t produce large quantities of steam, heat or odours so, in most cases, they don’t require much in the way of extraction or ventilation. They are ideal for defrosting, re-heating and prime cooking. Chefs can cook or regen either in single or multi portions.”
For Bradshaw, the UK distributor of Menumaster, the key development over the past 12 months has been the increased use and awareness of high speed combination ovens.
“Menumaster has recently introduced a further four models in to its range of commercial combination microwave ovens, making it the most complete manufacturer of commercial microwaves and high speed ovens,” says sales manager John Marks. “It boasts a total of 19 different models throughout the product range including two full sized gastronorm models.”
Bradshaw has also been developing a new ‘Easi-Clean Liner’ to protect the microwaves and high speed ovens it offers, and add greater value.
Maintenance is an important aspect of extending the lifetime of a microwave, as Regale Microwaves knows only too well. Its sister company Cavity Protection Systems has pioneered the popular MicroSave Cavity Liner, shipping more than 10,000 units since it began production.
Many chains are now specifying it as part of any future microwave purchases due to the hygiene and cleaning benefits involved, says managing director, Pat Bray.
“We are finding that more and more restaurant and brewery groups are insisting that when they buy or replace a current microwave oven that it has a MicroSave Cavity Liner inside for hygiene sake and to help avoid downtime due to unnecessary faults occurring,” he says. “This includes ceiling plates burning and base plates cracking, let alone the cleaning time spent by staff trying to keep their microwave ovens clean.”
Whatever happens, the microwave market appears to be alive and kicking — and continues to occupy a far more important place in the kitchen equipment estate than many food enthusiasts might wish to give it credit for.
As Kris Brearley, sales director at RH Hall, states: “A commercial microwave oven provides rapid turnaround, speed and menu flexibility. It is still one of the most affordable and cost-effective catering appliances on the market — it’s the unsung hero of the kitchen.”