The Operator of the Year for Equipment Innovation, sponsored by Jestic, acknowledges that the introduction of new equipment to a kitchen — be it in the form of cooking, refrigeration, warewashing, beverage or any other category — can have a profound effect on a foodservice business’ operations.
This award recognises the time, investment and sheer hard work that goes into rolling out innovative equipment across multiple sites.
We are delighted to announce that the 2019 shortlist includes the following operators:
Retailer Ikea has already prevented more than 1.4 million kilos of food from being wasted globally following a pledge two years ago to halve restaurant waste before the end of 2020 and its UK division is playing an integral role in that. The adoption of a touchscreen-enabled smart scale solution that measures wasted food and its sources has inspired kitchen staff to find clever ways of reducing waste. It has also gone a step further by installing Winnow Vision across 23 of its UK and Ireland stores, which uses machine learning technology to recognise different foods being thrown in the bin and calculates the financial and environment cost of this to ensure more profitable kitchens.
A focus on reducing kitchen complexity and creating an efficient environment for chefs to excel has seen Loungers deploy cutting-edge equipment to achieve its goals. It has embraced the Logwood kitchen management system to increase kitchen ticket times, brought in hot-holding for select ingredients to improve speed of service in high volume sites and introduced high speed panini grills that have transformed its lunchtime trade. Subtle tweaks to back-of-house design, such as the addition of station fridges with saladettes for all garnishes and ‘to hand’ food items, as well as a roller toaster to assist with throughput of burger buns and muffins, has reduced the rate of chefs crossing over each other and boosted kitchen flow.
A clear focus on solutions that save franchisees time and improve their profitability has led to Subway introducing new reach-in refrigeration and commercial dishwashing technologies to its estate. Greater levels of automation in the way that franchisees handle time-consuming back-of-house processes such as cleaning breadforms and cookie trays has boosted productivity and operational structure. The focus on kitchen efficiency is underpinned by the expansion of its ‘Fresh Forward’ branding, affording stores a layout that boasts a flexible dining area, revamped queue lines and counters and digital menu boards. A forensic approach to category management gives franchisees peace of mind that new equipment has been sufficiently specified and adapted to meet the unique demands of a QSR kitchen environment.
Wagamama’s commitment to fast-cooked, fresh and healthy pan-Asian cuisine is underpinned by a philosophy that chefs working in its open kitchens need access to the best equipment. Over the past year, energy and oil efficiency has been a major focus area for the business, with the company adopting new technology that not only improves food quality and consistency but meets its sustainability goals. Henny Penny fryers are an integral component of its cooklines and extensive testing on the newest models with in-built filtration and precision temperature control have delivered significant savings and achieved an improved end-product. Targets on oil savings, oil life and energy, measured through usage and food quality and consistency, were all quantified by its culinary development team.
Kitchen innovation has kept YO! Sushi at the forefront of the Japanese fast-casual market, with the company evolving the dynamics of its kitchens to support the growth of hot food, which now represents 50% of sales. To achieve this it has worked with suppliers to ensure the right ergonomics and equipment for each task. As a result, it has trialled and installed new kit such as self-filtering fryers, combi ovens, warming units, pasta boilers, gyoza steamers, walk-in fridges and freezers, new rice cookers, nigiri machines, saladette units, robata grills and hot food passes. These enhancements have been central to supporting the roll-out of an additional 35 dishes over the past year.
The 2019 FEJ Awards ceremony and gala dinner takes place on Tuesday 4 June, the first evening of the Commercial Kitchen show, at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole.