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THE BITE: KFC seeks professional chicken taster, Welbilt channels its inner Gary Neville and Rational’s cryptic event invite

KFC ad

Andrew Seymour takes a lighter look at some of the more intriguing developments and observations from the industry this week.

Finger Lickin-ternship

Have you ever caught yourself licking your fingers and thought, ‘I’d look decent doing that on a billboard?’ No, thought not. But KFC is confident it will find someone who has after posing that question to customers in a bid to find a professional chicken taster.

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The fast food chain is asking its followers to tweet them with one good reason why it should hire them for its latest vacancy.

“KFC is on the hunt for a professional finger licker,” the job advertisement states. “Yes – one clucky fan will get the chance to tuck into some of Kentucky’s finest, winging their way to stardom as the face of the chicken legend’s latest campaign.”

The chosen candidate will take part in a photoshoot for KFC as part of the role, with the photograph then being displayed in a KFC restaurant and on a billboard.

The advert doesn’t go on to give any other perks of the job, but I would like to think that access to an industrial level supply of lemon-scented hand wipes is a given.

Welbilt makes MNF look easy as ABC at HRC

Move over Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, you’ve got competition from the company that makes Merrychef ovens and Crem coffee machines.

Viewers of Sky Sports Monday Night Football will be familiar with the giant, interactive ‘SkyPad’ that the duo uses to dissect all the action and big talking points during Premier League games.

Well, catering equipment manufacturer Welbilt had something similar on its stand at HRC this week.

Its interactive table made an appearance at a UK show for the first time, allowing staff members to call up brochures, product info and videos with the swipe of a finger.

“It is something that was bought by central marketing for everybody to use,” explained UK sales director Steve Hemsil. “We have got so many different brands and we can’t show them all here but if somebody comes on and wants to talk about our Convotherm 4 units or our American brands, we can bring that up pretty quickly and easily.”

As well as the fact that you can make annotations on the screen a la Neville and Carragher style, one of the more interesting features is that you can have two people standing on opposite sides of the table viewing the same material the right way up.

If Sky ever needs an emergency replacement for their Premier League pair, the Welbilt team are only a phone call away.

Getting your head around VR

While we’re on the subject of technology, I also got to test out how virtual reality is redefining the way that commercial kitchens are designed and planned. Lloyd Catering was one of the first adopters of VR within the catering equipment sector and over the last few years its offer within this area has become even more sophisticated.

The last time I put on a VR headset was a couple of years ago when a manufacturer was using it to demonstrate how its heating products looked within a building. But Lloyd’s ‘Room Scale’ VR system (elegantly modelled by my colleague Mark Harris, below) takes it to another level.

When you ‘walk’ around the kitchen everything you see around you in the room, from the cookline to the refrigeration cabinets, is exactly to scale, making for a completely immersive and engaging experience.

Customers have been raving about the technology because it gives them a complete picture of the space they will be working with and the opportunity to give valuable feedback before a project commences to the on-site stage.

The technology is so effective that managing director Simon Lloyd even admitted to getting a sense of déjà vu when visiting a finished kitchen that had initially been created using the tool.

Having witnessed how much this technology has evolved in a short space of time, I wonder where it will be in another five or 10 years?

Perhaps users will be able to interact with the equipment, opening and closing doors and cabinets, or experimenting with how an appliance is cleaned or maintained.

Or perhaps there will be life-size chef avatars walking around so you can get a real sense of just what the kitchen environment will be like when it is in full swing.

What’s Rational cooking up?

Rational partners and key accounts have received a note in the post inviting them to an event in South Wales at the end of this month.

But apart from the date and venue, the invitation to join the company on its ‘More Tour 2020’ is notable for its lack of detail about what exactly will be taking place when attendees get there.

“Who sets the standard for a professional kitchen – and why does it have to look a particular way?” reads the cryptic invite. “Taking this into consideration along with current trends and requirements, we have further developed the standard; with one goal in mind – to make professional kitchens of this world more intelligent, more efficient and more productive.”

Rational has famously built a £700m business from one product line (okay, there’s a bit of the former Frima multifunctional cooking stuff in there as well) so the common theory is that it will be unveiling some new features or configurations, though that hasn’t stopped some from speculating that it might be branching out into a new category.

“Perhaps we are going to see a Rational microwave,” joked one chef at HRC this week.

Rational UK boss Simon Lohse was predictably tight-lipped about the plans when I spoke to him at the show earlier this week.

“We are inviting a number of our key accounts, all our Deal partners and other people within the industry to that event, and that is as much as I can tell you at the moment,” he said.

So is it a new product launch? “I can’t confirm or deny that. It will be a very exciting event and I would encourage you to be there!”

March 26th is when the event is scheduled – and we’ll be paying close attention to what goes on.

Crossrail fail

The UK government doesn’t have the greatest track record for completing massive infrastructure projects on time and I was reminded of that this week when I looked back at the initial announcement from Hotelympia that it was being rebranded to HRC.

It was two years ago that the change was unveiled, with organisers insisting the move was designed to lend greater clarity to the event’s offer and further reinforce its relevance to the entire hospitality and foodservice sector.

At the time, then-HRC portfolio director Ross Carter also made the point that the revamp of the exhibition would be boosted by the fact that exhibitors could be whisked to the ExCeL from the heart of London in a matter of minutes.

“Further strengthening the HRC proposition, the establishment of Crossrail’s new Elizabeth Line, fully open in December 2019, will mean the 2020 event is accessible in just 10 minutes from central London,” he said.

As it stands, it is looking like it won’t even be ready for next year’s show.

“Our latest assessment is that Elizabeth line services through central London will commence in summer 2021 but we are aiming to open the railway as soon as we can,” revealed Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild recently.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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