Catering equipment manufacturers should be doing more to create products that specifically match a consultant’s plans for a kitchen – and not the other way around, according to Miran Stirn, managing director at Kopa Grilling Solutions. Here is his account of why he thinks things need to change…
Specifiers of kitchen equipment, from charcoal ovens to chiller cabinets, face a familiar set of challenges.
Not only does the equipment have to perform, and at the right price point, but it must also fit with its environment. And by ‘fit’ we can mean it in both ways: ‘fit’ in terms of aesthetically, in a design that complements its surroundings; and ‘fit’, quite literally, in whether it can be physically installed into a space that has been allocated for it.
It’s a difficulty that has troubled designers for years, which makes me wonder whether specifiers and equipment manufacturers, including ourselves, have been looking at this challenge from the wrong angle.
Why are kitchen designers having to accommodate equipment of standard sizes into their designs, when they should really be asking the manufacturers to build equipment to fit into the designs they have created?
Square pegs and round holes
Let us be clear, it is not wrong for a manufacturer to build equipment to a standard template, nor in standard colours – and specifiers will be aware of this when designing a new facility. But life isn’t always that easy or convenient.
Sometimes space is at a premium, and the designer has to optimise what little space he or she has. Sometimes, too, a designer may want to take what is essentially a ‘behind the scenes’ piece of equipment and bring it to the ‘front of house’, as part of the ‘theatre’ of cooking and hospitality.
The arguments against creating bespoke equipment are well-known. Fundamentally, they come down to cost and the inability or reluctance of certain manufacturers to adapt production lines to one-off machines. But again, this should not be a barrier, and there are ways of creating more agile manufacturing processes that allow for bespoke orders to be fulfilled without the costs being disproportionate to the task.
It is also possible to build equipment not only to a bespoke size, but also to a bespoke design, using high quality refractory steel, for example, to make it highly resistant to intense heat and appropriate for use in plain sight of customers, or in different colour schemes to ensure the equipment blends in with its environment.
Case for customisation
For new and brand-conscious operators, this is hugely important. Functionality does not have to be at the expense of design, or vice versa, and there is no reason why kitchen equipment that is more modern and elegant in design should not also be easy to install and use. Neither should it lose anything in performance either.
Equipment that looks good can also have a direct impact on sales and where the equipment may be used. Open kitchens are now very much in fashion, but so too is the trend for creating cooking stations with charcoal grills (i.e not requiring power) on external terraces or by the poolside, creating further sales opportunities.
Being able to customise commercial kitchen equipment design – to build grills and associated equipment in different sizes, shapes and colours is a huge advantage to designers and foodservice consultants challenged to make the impossible possible. And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.