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, Gary Nunn, managing director at Unox, shares his thoughts.
Which kitchen trends do you expect to have the most impact on your business or solutions during 2021?
There are a number of issues and considerations which continue to impact kitchen design, most notably kitchen size and extraction limitations. These longstanding challenges won’t disappear anytime soon and I expect the size of the space in particular will become more of a concern with social distancing.
Another factor which is becoming increasingly prevalent is connectivity, particularly as equipment continues to develop. Connectivity of devices is already changing our lives in the home (think anything from Amazon Alexa to connected heating controls) so it’s inevitable that it will do the same in the workplace too. I can’t underestimate the potential of connecting ovens to the internet for enhanced performance, traceability and ease-of-use.
Internet connectivity is now vital in a kitchen to help optimise efficiency, monitor performance, undertake remote diagnostics, download recipes and much more. Whether it is ovens, refrigeration or dishwashers, the more we can connect devices, the more efficiently the kitchen can run. At Unox we call it Data Driven Cooking – making best use of the data to improve productivity, optimise efficiency and deliver more consistent results.
By incorporating DDC into our range, users can collect data, processes information, analyse the modes of use and produce daily reports. They can also connect to the internet to send recipes and download HACCP data to any oven in any part of the world.
Data driven cooking is very much about helping staff to get the most from their equipment. What other benefits does it offer?
The possibilities with this level of analytics are endless but even in its most basic guise, operators can enhance safety and transparency, optimise water and energy efficiency, and even eliminate waste to maximise profits. All of which points to a more cost-effective, time-efficient kitchen with complete peace of mind over food safety and compliance auditing.
However, none of this is possible without a good internet connection. A lot of kitchens are inevitably below ground level, in the basement or tucked around the back of a building. At older sites in particular this can present challenges when users want connectivity but can’t facilitate it with their existing internet supply. But greater usage requires more reliable internet supply and the demand is only going to increase going forwards.
Designers should be taking this into account and thinking about connectivity alongside more conventional considerations such as flows and kitchen space. Router boosters and high speed/fibre lines are possible solutions, but we’re finding these aren’t always being considered at design stage, which can reduce the potential of the kitchen equipment once it has been installed.
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? 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 we are already starting to see the impact of coronavirus on eating out trends and therefore kitchen design. There is no doubt that Covid-19 has brought challenges, but with challenges, come opportunities and I have seen many success stories of operators pivoting their business, making the most of delivery and click & collect options to reduce overheads and drive margins.
Food-to-go is booming and whether it is due to tiering restrictions or cost-saving measures (or more likely a combination of both), many operators have successfully ramped up their delivery and click & collect services, in some cases moving their entire operations from high street locations to one satellite kitchen.
Some of our clients who were previously taking £30,000 per week in a retail environment are now achieving £25,000 per week in takeaways alone – so it is clear to see why they would close retail outlets to save rates, rents and salaries.
Of course, different ways of working require different equipment and it will be vital for operators to invest wisely to make sure they can meet new demands. Our BAKERLUX Speed.Pro, for example, is the first speed baking oven which saves kitchen space by combining the performance of both convection and high-speed ovens. It means a quicker bake with a smaller kitchen footprint – two things which will really help operators in 2021.
What do you think will be the most important factors for operators when it comes to kitchen design in 2021?
Clearly the pandemic has had a financial impact on many operators. Efficiency will continue to be a big driver, not least because lower energy consumption means lower bills, at a time when many operators are understandably looking to cut costs. But efficiency just does not cover water and energy consumption – efficiency of produce will be important too, reducing food waste to keep costs down and promote sustainability.
With this in mind, the Evereo from UNOX is a unique innovation which has redefined the concept of hot-holding. Acting as a ‘hot fridge’, Evereo uses patented technology to maintain food safely at the temperature at which it is served and eaten, and above the danger zone for bacterial growth. This means caterers can produce quality dishes with no waiting time, even where kitchen space is limited, by cooking dishes in one kitchen, before preserving and serving from another location using Evereo.
Food can be cooked and held without the traditional, energy-intensive process of blast chilling, cold storage and regeneration, which not only saves energy, but also removes the guesswork to help reduce food waste. It’s a truly revolutionary piece of equipment and best of all, it costs just £1 to run for a 12-hour period.