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THE LONG VIEW FROM LOCKDOWN: FEM’s commercial director Mark Hogan

Mark Hogan

Restaurant operators have never faced so many challenges over the past 12 months, from opening and closing kitchens at short notice, to transitioning to delivery and click and collect, as well as managing social distancing from a back-of-house perspective. How much of a profound impact will it have on the way kitchens are designed this year? In this special series gauging the views of industry leaders, FEM’s commercial director, Mark Hogan, shares his views.

Which kitchen trends do you expect to have the most impact on your business or solutions during 2021?

Touchless technology has become increasingly important with the stringent hygiene regulations demanded in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. FEM has recently introduced Server Products Touchless Express Dispensers – these motion-activated dispensing units are the first pumps of their kind to serve toppings without physical contact with the unit. We currently supply the Single Countertop Touchless Express dispenser which has a 4.9-litre capacity to dispense house-made condiments and sauces contact-free, offering a hygienic solution to condiment dispensing.

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The focus on food safety is always paramount in a catering operation. Camshelving Elements are fitted with Camguard antimicrobial shelf plates to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and vented shelves to allow for maximum airflow around perishables.

The rise in ghost kitchens combined with social distancing measures has created the need for more productivity from fewer people. The latest Vector Deluxe multi-cook oven offers a series of advances to the oven’s control systems, including Wi-Fi connectivity.

As well as allowing one chef to cook up to four entirely different dishes at once, very quickly, in one compact unit, this new Vector allows staff to remotely download information such as HACCP, without needing to visit the kitchen, thanks to its cloud-based remote oven management system.

Have you seen customers significantly change their kitchen operations in any way over the last 12 months? If so do you feel these adaptations are here to stay?

Yes – with Covid restrictions, hospitality businesses have had to adapt. They have needed to be flexible and to change very quickly, adopting new solutions to meet new demands. In the long term, many of these solutions will be here to stay as they enhance customer and food safety.

For example, the implementation of PPE and acrylic safety screens to create a protective barrier between customers and staff may be relaxed as restrictions ease, but there are many situations where the increased safety element will be appreciated by staff and customers alike.

 

Operators have been focusing more on offering home delivery and takeaway to remain operational and this shift is likely to be on-going. We have seen an increased focus on having robust and superior food delivery products such as the Cambro GoBag and GoBox ranges of insulated food delivery products.

Hot holding equipment such as drawer warmers from Alto-Shaam are also popular. These ensure menu items are readily available during service and help with the effects of reduced kitchen staff while coping the increased demand for takeaway and home delivery.

Do you expect the Covid -19 pandemic to have a lasting effect on any aspects of the way commercial kitchens are designed in 2021?

Yes, especially in terms of the continued development of touchless technology. Touchless technology offers both customers and operators a greater level of safety by minimising touch points and contact.

What do you think will be the most important factors for operators when it comes to kitchen design in 2021?

As we surface from this phase of the pandemic we need to be prepared for a resurgence or the emergence of other viruses. Space-saving and multi-functional kitchen equipment will be in demand as the need for running a socially distanced kitchen is likely to continue for some time.

More touchless technology should become available for the UK foodservice industry and hand sanitising stations should be sited throughout kitchen areas to promote hygiene. Screening between staff and customers will be incorporated into new designs to combat airbourne transmission of viruses.

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