There were plenty of Brits in attendance at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention centre this week to see what the North American market has to offer. FEJ was among those to head across the pond in search of new innovation from manufacturers. Here are 5 bits of kit that caught our eye.
1. Merco visual holding cabinet with tray tracking
Everyone knows how timers work. You set them, and they count down. Merco’s new tray tracking technology takes it up a notch. Insert a tray and the timer starts automatically and counts down – and if you need to move the tray, the timer electronically stays with it, tracks to the new location, and continues counting. This latest innovation from the Welbilt brand is understood to have already captured the interest of some of the world’s biggest fast food brands so watch this space.
2. Henny Penny FlexFry
Billed as a first of its kind by the US brand, FlexFry offers a combination of open frying and pressure frying in the same battery footprint. The new combo includes Henny Penny’s F-5 electric low oil volume platform and 2, 3 or 4 vats of pressure frying. Touchscreen interface, three-minute express filtration and auto top-off on the F-5 and for pressure frying an easy open/close lid and pressure assist technology. It’s certain to prove a hit for operators seeking maximum flexibility from a frying platform, while the interface brings it up to speed with other types of cooking equipment.
3. Tortilla Masters Equipment Ventura Flex
This product certainly fills a huge hole in the US market and with Mexican and South American food going great guns in the UK there is every chance it will appeal to operators this side of the Atlantic. Tortilla Masters’ Ventura Flex is the first electric tabletop corn tortilla machine. At just 51mm x 51mm, with a small high-torque motor, Ventura Flex produces up to 840 corn tortillas per hour. Molds and settings produce different sizes and thicknesses. Ideal for restaurants, the machine’s specialty is to produce a perfect corn tortilla that is ready to cook. This product was gaining plenty of interest from operators keen to understand how the compact machine is capable of offering controlled production when it is needed most.
4. Apex Supply Chain Technologies Axcess 2000.H pick-up station
You only have to learn that this product was co-developed with Little Caesars – the largest carryout-only pizza chain in the US – to know that it’s got legs. The Axcess 2000.H Pick-Up Station is described as the industry’s first heated, self-serve order pick-up station. As orders are placed inside the device, an app notifies customers. Customers skip the line, input their pick-up code, opening the customers’ secured compartment containing their order. Customers grab their order and leave the store in seconds. With grab-and-go an opportunity for many operators, this product will interest those looking to streamline queues and still deliver a hot product.
5. Bear Robotics foodservice robot
Not an item of catering equipment as such, but having seen ‘Penny’ darting around the show floor, this autonomously driven foodservice robot with artificial intelligence has clear implications for kitchen environments. Designed to manoeuvre in tight, crowded quarters, Penny can shuttle food from kitchen to tables and brings dishes back for cleaning. Tray shape, suspension, everything is optimized for foodservice needs. Bear Robotics, the company behind the system, is already working on a ‘Penny 2’ featuring an upgraded design and a tablet that communicates with customers and takes orders. More details are expected later in the year.