THE LONG VIEW FROM LOCKDOWN: Mechline marketing manager Kristian Roberts

Kristian Roberts, marketing manager

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, Kristian Roberts, marketing manager at Mechline, shares his thoughts.

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

Hygiene and infection control measures that have come about as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to be prominent throughout 2021. Even as vaccines are rolled out and the world gets a handle on the pandemic, a greater emphasis on hygiene and safety will shape kitchen and restaurant design for many years to come – with businesses looking to future-proof their premises.

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At the start of the pandemic, businesses reacted quickly to install short-term measures to become Covid-secure and open safely after the first lockdown.

Now, nearly a year down the line, seeing that these concerns, and to a degree the restrictions, are not going anywhere, we expect businesses will be looking to invest in longer-term solutions – with a greater focus on sustainability and cost efficiency.

This includes the installation of more permanent hygiene-promoting fixtures and technology, such as more hands-free hand wash stations and air and surface sterilisers/sanitisers, for example, Mechline’s HyGenikx range which covers both front and back house, and washrooms.

Customers will continue to seek assurance that kitchens take hygiene seriously – and look to visual cues to do this. We expect the need to ‘show’ customers that relevant hygiene is being taken seriously will see businesses focus increasingly front of house, on products that they can “display” and supporting signage to tell customers what measures are in place.

Have you seen customers significantly adapt their kitchen operations in any way over the past 12 months? If so, do you feel those adaptations are here to stay?

Yes. Hospitality staff have had to get to used to a whole new way of working, with businesses required to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of Covid-19. Kitchens have implemented steps to promote social distancing (where it is possible) and minimise contact by, for example, designating work areas, providing floor markings, and allowing as few people in the kitchen as necessary.

Other measures such a screens, one way systems, and a reduction in contact points between front and back of house staff have also been introduced.

Good commercial kitchens always prioritise cleanliness and safety, but the pandemic has prompted the need for even more efficient and dependable hygiene measures – and many businesses have turned to technology to support this. Minimising contact with the aim of reducing the chances of cross-contamination is essential.

We all know that thorough and frequent handwashing is central to preventing and slowing the spread of coronavirus – and we have seen kitchens make the switch from manual taps, to non-contact taps and basins that facilitate hands-free operation to reduce the potential of cross-contamination.

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

Hygiene has always been a priority for commercial kitchens and this year protocols rightly needed to go up a gear. Although we hope this is a once in a generation event, some of the resulting Covid-secure measures act as a precedent for how kitchens should be designed – to maximise hygiene and safety.

We expect kitchens will be designed with impeccable hygiene and safety at the forefront, with clearly defined areas, more handwashing points (including at entry and exit points), signage to remind/instruct staff, and technology to support these hygiene practices and to improve hygiene to levels above what can be achieved with traditional cleaning alone.

The installation of more permanent hygiene-promoting fixtures and technology, will include, for example, more hands-free hand wash stations and air and surface sterilisers/sanitisers, such as Mechline’s HyGenikx range which covers both front and back house, and washrooms.

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

Operators need to consider the best products that encourage good hygiene practices and products that benefit the environment. Some of the measures put into place quickly in 2020 were not good for the environment, for example, the volumes of food wasted because of short notice lockdowns, or the increase in demand for disposable takeaway boxes and cutlery.

Sustainability will need to be brought back as a priority to future-proof restaurants. Thankfully there are solutions that do both – promote good hygiene and are environmentally-friendly.

HyGenikx is an advanced and compact, wall mounted sanitisation system, proven to eradicate viruses and bacteria throughout foodservice and hospitality environments, washrooms, changing rooms and beyond.

HyGenikx improves hygiene standards to levels impossible to maintain with traditional cleaning methods, but also extends the shelf-life of fresh-perishable food, which can significantly reduce food waste and cost and prevents food waste from going to landfill.

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