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“A big focus for all our brands is cloud-based kitchen management”

Michael Eyre, culinary director

With brands such as MKN, Mibrasa and Metro joining a portfolio that already includes esteemed names such as Henny Penny, Rosinox and Wood Stone, Jestic Foodservice Solutions offers access to some of the most innovative kitchen equipment around. As the demands of operators change, the quality of its portfolio and culinary support is helping operators scale new heights, as culinary director Michael Eyre reveals.

To what extent do you think the pandemic has affected operators’ perceptions of what innovative catering equipment is? Have the challenges that operators have faced over the past year concentrated the mind a little more on this issue?

During the pandemic, operators have had to innovate, adapting menus to suit home delivery and takeaway channels and working in spaces made even smaller by social distancing restrictions. This was no more apparent than with the growth of dark kitchens – with operators looking to maximise productivity in the smallest possible footprint.

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Due to this, operators’ perceptions of innovative equipment has altered from simply technological advances to intelligently-designed equipment which can save space, or can offer multiple layers of cooking in the same footprint to increase efficiency and workflow. This is evident in the interest we have seen for products like the MKN SpaceCombi Team – an advanced and easy-to-use combi with two separate cooking chambers with 2 x 6 GN 1/1 inserts, yet which is just 55 cm wide.

With some appliances, operators will often say that they only use 20%-30% of the available features and functionality. Have you seen anything to think that this might be changing?  

Modern catering equipment often comes packed with features and technology and while not all of these may be fully utilised in day-to-day kitchens operations, the challenges the pandemic has created – whether it be menu diversification or kitchen reduction – is seeing operators experiment more with the equipment they already have.

As a result, operators are making more use of the features and functionality of equipment like combis, which have established themselves as the workhorses of commercial kitchens as they are well-equipped to cook a huge variety of foods and dishes and can improve workflow efficiency.

Operators are not just harnessing the functionality of prime cooking equipment as we have seen inventive uses of equipment like our Elmeco slush machines to make and hold smoothies, frappes and other blended drinks, thereby increasing the speed and efficiency of beverage production.

What about customer priorities when it comes to new equipment – what are the most important considerations for operators these days?

Functionality and size remain two of the key considerations when operators are selecting new equipment.

First and foremost, the equipment must be able to produce consistently delicious food but with space a premium in kitchens, equipment needs to pack a real punch in a small footprint.

Another consideration which is of growing importance is the weight of equipment. Given the rapid expansion of food trucks, catering trailers and street food venues, there is a payload limit to what they can carry.

It is for this reason that equipment like the Alfa Pro pizza ovens, which are steel-lined rather than stone-lined, are proving popular with mobile food-to-go operators – as they are both compact and lighter than traditional ovens.

Your development and test kitchens in Paddock Wood and Manchester are fully open again. What sort of things can operators use these for?

Nothing beats face-to-face interaction and for customers to be hands-on with the equipment themselves and so we were delighted to be able to welcome operators back to our development kitchens in Manchester and Kent. Operators can use our test kitchens for a host of different applications from initial consultations and product demonstrations through to menu development sessions and staff training.

We also run retraining sessions which is particularly useful when new employees have joined. We also encourage customers to make use of the dedicated meeting facilities at our Manchester and Paddock Wood offices for offsite gatherings.

You work with many leading brands from Europe and North America. What are the newest products or brands to join the portfolio that operators should look out for?

We have had some really fantastic brands join our portfolio recently and we are very excited to introduce their equipment to operators. This includes the advanced SpaceCombi from MKN which offers all the power, features and control chefs could hope for in a combi, but at just 55cm wide. The MKN SpaceCombi is also incredibly easy to operate thanks to the MagicPilot touch and slide operating system, which is as simple and intuitive as your smartphone.

Metro has been another exciting addition as their innovative storage and shelving solutions like SmartLever and Smartwall Productivity Systems are helping operators maximise space back of house.

The advanced range of XpressChef high speed ovens from ACP Inc have the power and performance to consistently deliver high quality food, in a fraction of the time, and includes the popular 3i which is available on a 13 amp plug and includes a smartphone-like 7-inch True-Touch HD touchscreen – so quality results are assured regardless of staff skill levels.

Last and by no means least are the superbly engineered charcoal ovens and open grills from Spanish manufacturer Mibrasa. One of the recent product launches from Mibrasa is its stunning Parrilla Fire Series, which combines charcoal and firewood cooking to create the ultimate live fire grilling appliance.

Your manufacturer partners will all be working on new equipment innovations for launch at a future date. What kind of areas would you say are getting the most attention when it comes to their R&D activities right now?

Our manufacturer partners continue to invest in developing their equipment portfolios with a focus on saving space and ergonomic design so chefs can achieve more despite space restrictions back of house.

A big R&D focus for all our brands is cloud-based kitchen management systems, which give operators more control and a better understanding of how equipment is performing across their estate. One of the benefits of this AI technology is that equipment can, in effect, monitor its own performance and foresee problems so they can be resolved to avoid unnecessary downtime.

Technology development is actually making things simpler for operators and given the shortage of experienced staff across the industry, equipment which is easy to use and can ensure consistent results is important.

It doesn’t get any easier than MKN’s barcode reader which can scan a barcode of a product and then automatically set the relevant cooking programme in the combi so the operator simply has to press start.

Jestic is sponsoring the Operator of the Year for Equipment Innovation category at the 2021 FEJ Awards. For more information about the company visit www.jestic.co.uk

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Andrew Seymour

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