There is no point having a fast car if you don’t know how to drive it. The same applies to combi ovens. Operators that take time to assess the most suitable solution for their needs and commit sufficient resources to learning the technology will reap the greatest rewards in their kitchens, writes Phil Dixon at Brakes Catering Equipment.
There is a place in the market for all types of combination ovens, from manual models right the way up to the ‘all singing, all dancing’ models that do just about everything for you. Manufacturers identify requirements in the market and provide a solution by developing the relevant technology in response.
The key to getting the right combi, however, is the setting into which it is going to be placed. Ultimately, this can be influenced by the knowledge of the salesperson who is selling the unit to the operator and their understanding of the operator’s requirement.
Sometimes sales personnel simply default to offering the marquee model without truly appreciating whether it is the right model for the operation that it will be going into.
If a site is not utilising all the functions of the model they have purchased it may be that that particular model was not the right one for their requirements in the first place, because if it was they would automatically utilise those functions.
Training makes a difference
The other side of the coin is training; people (operators and equipment salespeople) can at times be guilty of failing to appreciate the importance of training on these units. Some combis look very complicated — even if they aren’t once you get into it — and this can lead to the user being scared of fully utilising the unit to the point where they end up using only the functions that they have figured out for themselves. How can an operator use all the advantages if they are simply not aware of them?
Therefore, training is key to making sure the operator gets the most out of the chosen machine. This, however, is easier said than done as the operator must be prepared to commit to spending time on training (at the point of purchase and going forwards), and in some instances the cost, which we all know doesn’t always happen.
So, it is right that the manufacturers place an emphasis on developing new technology, but there has to be an appreciation of where and when this technology can be used, just as the manufacturers will have had certain types of customers and their requirements in mind when developing the product. This placement of product ultimately comes down to distributors ensuring that they put the right units with the right operators and that those operators are making full use of the relevant technology.
Horses for courses
It is all about recommending the right product for the operator. What suits a chain operator will not suit a Michelin starred restaurant. There is a huge range of skillsets in the industry from the very best chefs right the way to night porters, who are being asked to satisfy a room service menu. The manufacturers are developing models to suit all these scenarios. The key element here is product choice: choose the right product for the right operator. I would say that manufacturers are not guilty of over-engineering combi ovens — they are simply ensuring they have models to suit all requirements.
Making the most of functionality
With all units that offer a range of functions, training is key. People cannot utilise functions they are simply not aware of. In addition, it is also imperative that the user is given time to ‘play’ with the unit and become familiar with it. This cannot be done during a busy service on a Friday night, so it requires a commitment from the operator. But this training is invaluable as it will give the customer the building blocks they need to become comfortable with the unit and maximise its true potential.
Phil Dixon is General Sales Manager, Capital & Light Equipment at Brakes Catering Equipment, a leading supplier of capital goods, light equipment and design services. www.brakesce.co.uk
6 technical questions to ask before making your choice of combi oven
1. What are the performance and cost implications resulting from steam coming from a water boiler or by spraying water onto heated elements in the oven?
2. Is there a high pre-heat function to enable fast heat recovery when cold food is put into the oven?
3. How easy is it to clean the oven cavity and door seals? What self-cleaning features does the oven have?
4. What programming features does the oven offer? How easy is it for staff to understand these and do they meet my kitchen needs?
5. Is there a self-diagnostic facility to warn me should something go wrong?
6. Is there a food core temperature probe, rapid cool-down feature or a reversible fan for even heat distribution?