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, Meiko’s UK managing director, Paul Anderson, shares his thoughts.
Which kitchen trends do you expect to have the most impact on your business or solutions during 2021?
Hygiene is the top priority for our customers who are calling upon our expertise in areas outside of the dishwash. Meiko is a supplier of warewashing equipment and service but our hygiene horizon is expanding out of the dishwash and into other areas of the kitchen where our command of warewashing and food waste handling technology is widening the scope of our business.
Our reputation is made on washing dishes and ensuring that they return to the customer having eliminated the risk of coronavirus. But now we also supply Meiko BioMaster food waste handling solutions which turn all kinds of catering food waste into biomass for recycling.
The key to the buying decision is two fold: the desire to achieve a sustainable solution to food waste, and the improved hygiene from removing waste bins, wheelie bins and leaky black sacks.
The virus pandemic has delayed progress in this area, but the fact that the UK government has since highlighted biomass as its preferred food waste handling option can only lead to more interest in the technology.
Another noticeable trend is that customers are switching from using plastic disposable bottles, to hard glass and washable plastics. This has prompted demand for Meiko bottle washing systems and the baskets needed to transport them safely.
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?
Social distancing has been key for many customers, to the extent that some large multi-staffed dishwash systems have seen major changes to working patterns to accommodate the new demands.
I would hope as I am sure the operators and staff do, that once we have all had the vaccine that the situation might return to a more normal form of operation.
Do you expect the Covid-19 pandemic to have a lasting effect on any aspects of the way commercial kitchens are designed in 2021?
I think the distancing requirements has created some new design challenges and also highlighted the issue of labour, prompting increased discussion and exploration of the labour-saving aspects of dishwashing, such as automatic cutlery lifts, tray handling systems and, most popular, ‘one-person sorting solutions’ – clever use of roller tabling and, where necessary, powered curves to allow one person to do what usually takes two or three.
What do you think will be the most important factors for operators when it comes to kitchen design in 2021?
The key concern for 2021 has to be hygiene and maintaining safe kitchen environments, both for catering staff and their customers.
This means not only buying the right kind of kitchen equipment – proven to eliminate virus and food poisoning bacteria where it can – but also maintaining that equipment, for it is only by properly servicing kitchen equipment and especially dishwashers, that we can ensure those machines eliminate the virus.
In January 2020 we had our machines tested and certified that they actually would eliminate the virus. No-one else thought to do that and we proved our machines eliminated the virus and other food poisoning bacteria, through using a combination of heat, chemicals and time. But that reassurance is only given if the machines have been regularly and properly serviced!