Induction cooking has rapidly grown in popularity in the last few years and operators are now finding new ways to use it, especially when it comes to front-of-house applications.
Whether it means customers can watch a chef fry up a steak before their eyes, eat a buffet lunch at their favourite hotel, or order a hot dog with extra onions at half-time at Wembley, induction technology is increasingly opening new avenues and reducing energy costs for kitchens.
The use of induction in front-of-house environments can offer tremendous flexibility for operators as well as provide a significant aesthetic boost that drives sales.
“People choose and buy with their eyes so good visual presentation makes servery counters more attractive and ultimately more lucrative for operators,” explains David Pedrette, managing director of kitchen specialist Target Catering Equipment.
Induced Energy’s sales director Duncan Woolmer agrees, noting that the right set-up will automatically pull in punters. “You will find more and more customers choosing a restaurant based on its front-of-house ‘theatre’ and overall speed of cooking,” he says.
Charvet UK sales director Ian Clow summarises the issue: “Restaurants and other establishments want their customers to see the chefs in action, and perhaps be tempted into premium price dishes.”
Why doesn’t every kitchen use induction technology?
Shaune Hall, product development chef at Falcon Foodservice Equipment, says induction equipment is becoming extensively used in the foodservice industry as caterers increase efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Induction is very energy efficient, both in the kitchen and front-of-house, and reducing energy usage makes both financial and environmental sense. Most foodservice operators endeavour to be labelled greener by promoting responsible and sustainable operational practice. Induction helps them meet these challenges.”
There are other benefits too, as noted by Welbilt UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil. “This type of cooking also allows for an increased menu variety and speed of service,” he says.
Foodservice Equipment Marketing’s commercial director, Mark Hogan, talks up induction’s 90% energy efficiency in comparison to the 40% of gas cooking.
He says: “It also provides caterers with quicker heat, more precise control, and they are easy to clean.” This precise temperature control can also mean a significant drop in food waste from burning and drying out.
But it’s not all plain sailing for the induction industry. For one, suppliers still have to fight the misconceptions about price. Despite the huge energy and food waste savings an induction system represents to a kitchen, venue, hotel or canteen over the product’s lifetime, the increased price tag over more traditional systems still puts buyers off.
“The biggest challenge for suppliers,” says Target Catering’s David Pedrette, “is getting operators to understand the benefits that are responsible for the increased front-end cost, which is immediately seen as a higher initial outlay when compared to traditional alternatives.
“However, the cost benefits over the longer-term lifetime, when quantified, make this increase in front-end cost all the more insignificant.”
Most foodservice operators endeavour to be labelled greener by promoting responsible and sustainable operational practice. Induction helps them meet these challenges”
Pedrette goes on to describe the “often overlooked” but “enormous” effect of food waste on an establishment. Both in terms of cost and environmental impact, he argues, kitchens should be aspiring to cut food waste through overheating and drying out, two worries that induction equipment users can forget thanks to the specific temperature output settings of induction units.
Another challenge to suppliers is the misconception that front-of-house cooking means grease and steam, off-putting smells, or even dangerous levels of smoke.
“No operator wants their customers to experience a smoke-filled room with cooking smells when insufficient ventilation is available,” says Paula Sherlock, managing director of Signature FSE. “This can be the case when using induction which is not part of a front-of-house system.”
Induced Energy sales director Duncan Woolmer adds: “Usually the biggest challenge for the end-user is extraction and ventilation in front-of-house areas. These public spaces aren’t often equipped with ventilation systems, but they are still required to remove the steam.”
This is where products like Signature FSE’s livecookintable come in. Signature’s Sherlock says: “The solution that German brand livecookintable found is to create its own airwall that cleans the air coming from its cooking devices, which is a great advantage when cooking in front of guests, leaving the venue smoke- and grease-free.”
Those worrying about a bulky, noisy system also need not fear. “It is also very discreet in terms of noise level,” adds Sherlock, “and easily moveable on its wheels or transported in its own cargo case.”
Stuart Flint, training and demonstration manager at Electrolux Professional, points out that induction cooking by nature does not require the same sort of ventilation and extraction that gas cooking does.
“All types of cooking require some degree of ventilation. But gas cooking is not permitted in front-of-house,” he notes. This is because of the levels of heat, steam, grease and smoke. This is where induction technology is superior as it does not require the same levels of extraction.
He continues: “Our Libero Point apparatus features an innovative anti-odour system with triple filtering ventilation, which makes it ideal for front-of-house systems.”
As end-users become accustomed to the technology, they are also coming up with more innovative ways of using it. Liverpool Football Club has installed Signature FSE’s livecookintable range in its VIP executive boxes — where a chef cooks in front of guests — as well as the ‘Dug Out’ street food area of its Anfield stadium.
In London, meanwhile, The Savoy has embraced induction technology for the buffet presentation of its events, conference and meeting rooms by specifying Venta’s buffet system.
“Venta’s contemporary style works very well alongside the hotel’s classic look and has been a huge benefit to the events operations team who often need to change a room set-up in a very short space of time,” says Signature FSE’s Paula Sherlock.
My guess is you will see more variety of standard induction products available on the market with touchscreen technology to control cooking appliances becoming favoured”
Steve Snow, managing director of MCS Technical Products, is another who has seen the impact that induction can have in the hotel sector.
“The Wolburn Hotel in Bedfordshire uses a credenza sideboard to house three CookTek Incogneeto units with Dolphin 1/1 chafing dishes on top. This portable credenza sideboard was specially developed for the hotel.”
And Charvet’s Ian Clow adds: “The new Langley Hotel chose to use Charvet’s reduced depth Pro700 induction and griddle modules — with custom black colour panels — for its open-view teaching kitchen.
“The reduced depth of a Pro700 module saves 200mm compared to a conventional range, ensuring the hotel could maximise use of space while retaining a domestic feel to the kitchen. The kitchen is open-view to hotel guests but will also feature heavily in tweets, video and photos of cookery school guests.”
Smaller establishments are benefitting from the technology, too. Induced Energy’s kit is being used by Leeds-based independent pasta restaurant Sarto. It built a front-of-house island which has induction at the heart of the cooking process. At peak times, the restaurant can easily turn over 80 covers.”
BGL Rieber’s MD, Gareth Newton, says that their technology was recently used in a novel location. “Using the mobile front cooking station with self-ventilation, some tabling, K-Pot electric chafing dishes to keep food hot and a whole bunch of salads and accompaniments, a pit garage at Silverstone was transformed into a lunch venue following a major Grand Prix and for one of the F1 teams using the track for tyre testing.”
He also describes how a growing number of schools are utilising their induction equipment for both cooking and keeping food warm. Two ACS Varithek systems can serve 180 stir fry meals in 40 minutes, Newton says.
Target Catering Equipment, meanwhile, has focused on bringing a variety of cuisines to induction cooking. David Pedrette comments: “We have previously developed a mobile front-of-house induction cooking station for a well-known contract caterer. This was to enable the contract caterer to present a healthy food and lifestyle concept to the offshore oil and gas industry.
“The concept enabled them to deliver fresh, cooked-to-order choices, featuring Asian wok cooking and traditional European pan and griddle plate cooking using induction technology. The development of this product resulted in the winning of a contract against stiff competition to supply the offshore oil and gas industry operators with a whole new style of dining with improved quality and taste, but above all, a healthy choice option, as a healthy workforce is a more productive workforce.
“Target Catering Equipment has also worked with an independent Japanese chain to develop an induction grill steamer specifically for the cooking of Gyoza dumplings front-of-house.”
The future of induction
Induction manufacturers and suppliers are confident that the induction boom has only just begun. Experts note that a lot of Japanese and Nordic food influences are transferring to the UK where induction and modern cooking techniques are being used to cook traditional food.
Target Catering Equipment is currently working with clients to develop a ‘smoke without fire’ induction concept for front-of house-use. This will see smoked wood chip flavours infused into the cooking process without the use of live flames.
Elsewhere, Induced Energy’s Duncan Woolmer expects big things of its new CS3000KH keep-hot model. “It’s a 0.8kW single induction zone for maintaining the heat of food items. The model runs from a 13 amp plug and can be used with a ceran glass top or even placed invisibly under a 12mm stone counter.”
Gareth Newton adds: “Some sites require all catering equipment to have fire suppression, even on mobile equipment. Rieber is launching a new option in 2020 for its ACS Varithek front cooking system, which will feature a dedicated fire suppression system using technology from Amerex.”
Finally, Signature FSE’s Paula Sherlock says: “Gastros Switzerland will launch its InductMobile battery-powered OEM solution to fit any mobile equipment operators want to use. It is ideal for care homes, in-room service trolleys and more, providing precise temperature control via induction technology with the ultimate in flexibility as the battery allows the unit to be used away from a power source.”
Falcon, meanwhile, will launch an entirely new range in 2020, while Foodservice Equipment Marketing plans a similar release in the coming 24-month period.
Target Catering’s Pedrette concludes: “What will be new for 2020? We never really know, but we are looking forward to it. There are exciting times to come with many different food choices developing and specialist niche foods becoming tried and tested on street food stalls and pop-ups. These new food concepts offer the ideal opportunity for the use of the very latest energy efficient, instantly controllable and safe induction cooking technology.
“My guess is you will see more variety of standard induction products available on the market with touchscreen technology to control cooking appliances becoming favoured. Equipment with knobs and rotary controls will take second place to the advanced technological demands of today’s modern school of environmentally-concerned chefs.”