One of Welbilt’s top global executives insists the “sky’s the limit” when it comes to networked kitchens – as he revealed that 2.5 million of its appliances could be connected within the next four years.
Welbilt’s KitchenConnect digital programme is a key part of the manufacturer’s growth strategy and received a major boost at the end of last year when it entered a formal partnership with tech giant HCL Technologies.
KitchenConnect’s open cloud-based platform makes it possible for operators to connect other brands of kitchen equipment to it, simplifying how they transform to a connected operating environment. It provides real-time insights, allowing for better equipment performance, reduced costs and food waste and improved workflows.
HCL will develop and enhance the KitchenConnect solution architecture for improved scalability, security and functionality of the platform.
Welbilt’s senior vice president and general manager, EMEA and APAC, Phil Dei Dolori, said: “We have been working with HCL for over a decade, enabling and helping us with our engineering, CAD design and detail work so we knew them well. But what we needed was a partner that could help us scale the digital side of the business very quickly.
“It also helped us from a capital investment standpoint because our agreement with them is quite simple: they’ll get a percentage of future revenue. So we didn’t have to lay out significant portions of capital during the pandemic.
“Every product we make is born digital and our target is to have 2.5 million connected appliances by 2025. It is starting to mainstream and I would say it is moving 20% to 30% up that curve very quickly and it’s going to accelerate. HCL is doing all the architecture, they’re doing the apps, they’re working with us and our customers on the user interface. We have a common controller now, the only one in the world that fits on a combi oven, a Merrychef oven, a Frymaster fryer, a Multiplex Freshblender and so on, which is really making it easy for our customers.”
Asked whether the company has a succinct vision of what a connected kitchen looks like, Mr Dei Dolori stressed that it would be different for everybody.
“In the complete sense, you might say you walk into a restaurant and everything is connected to a monitor from the moment you go in and speak to the receptionist or sit down at the table — the HVA system, the point-of-sale system, the cooking, the refrigeration.
“That’s the extreme sense, but for, say, a restaurant chain that specialises in fried chicken wings it might simply be about connecting to the equipment and monitoring what’s going on with the fryer and maybe the ice machine and refrigeration. So I think it really depends on the operator but obviously the sky is the limit and that’s the beauty of it — you can adapt to a particular customer and take it as far as you want.
“I think it can go in many different directions and the companies that are able to do that, particularly with packages of equipment or partial packages, are going to lead the industry in the future, there’s no question about it.”
Mr Dei Dolori was speaking to FEJ editor Andrew Seymour as part of a special interview featured in the April edition, as well as online.