While “technology” has been the buzzword of business and industry for almost three decades now, “technology” as a component of restaurant kitchens seems to have hardly changed during this time frame. In short, there seems to be very little that distinguishes a restaurant kitchen of today from a similar restaurant of 30 years ago. The commercial kitchen ranges, fryers, dishwashers, ovens, griddles, broilers, refrigerators, freezers, and numerous other food handling and preparation accessories look, for the most part, like they’ve hardly changed.
However, looks can be deceiving and restaurant kitchens have, in fact, been incrementally adapting to the tech world. In the past few years, technology has begun making even larger inroads into the restaurant business, and chefs and restaurateurs are now being presented a wider range of tech-upgrade options when considering their purchases or leasing of new restaurant kitchen equipment.
Touchscreens Making Inroads
Perhaps the most visible change is the increasing conversion of restaurant equipment control functions from knobs and dials to touchscreen. While knobs and dials still predominate large single-function (though multi-task) cooking appliances such as ranges, broilers and griddles, they are becoming more common in other equipment, such as combi and rapid-cook ovens, which represent technological change in their own right. And, really, when it comes down to it, there is no need for a gas-fired range to have anything more than a knob to increase the flame and resultant heat, and an ignitor to fire it up.
Speaking of Combi and Rapid-Cook Ovens….
Combi and rapid-cook ovens have been on the restaurant scene for over 15 years now, but uptake in restaurant kitchen usage was considered relatively slow until the past few years. Hotel and high-volume restaurants were early adopters of the combi oven, while smaller specialty kitchens with enough capital were early users of rapid-cook ovens.
A combi (short for “combination) is basically an oven that offers the chef a choice of cooking by convection, steam, or combination of both. This allows for both dry heat and steam methods of cooking within the same oven, and allows for a unique combination of the two, which is fostering the creation of new dishes by allowing chefs to precisely maintain moisture levels in the food during the cooking process.
Rapid-cook ovens are similar to the combi in that they also combine several different cooking methodologies—microwave, convection, air impingement—within one platform. And as the name implies, these ovens cook food at higher speeds than conventional ovens, while also maintaining flavor. Additionally, and speaking of “tech,” many rapid-cook oven models incorporate catalytic convertor systems that capture steam, grease and smoke, thus obviating the need for an oven hood.
Some Tech Changes Driven by Regulation
While the above-mentioned oven technologies were spurred by cooking efficiency, some technological changes are driven by government regulation. In particular, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency implemented new regulations in 2015 dictating allowable refrigerants used in commercial restaurant refrigerators and freezers. The new rules are designed to encourage the industry to use the hydrocarbon refrigerant R290 or “flammable” refrigerants in new equipment by phasing out the use of refrigerators, freezers and ice makers that rely on ozone-depleting refrigerants. While this will undoubtedly cause some short-term pain for restaurants trying to come into compliance, the new tech will provide energy cost savings, and the phase does allow for significant time (up to 2030) for restaurants to replace their existing equipment. When considering the lease or purchase of new refrigeration equipment, make sure to ask the leaser or seller about its compatibility with EPA’s new rules.
Talk Tech with Your Commercial Kitchen Equipment Supplier
There is little doubt that technology will continue to make incremental inroads into restaurant kitchens across the country in the years ahead. The Restaurant Blog will keep abreast of advances in restaurant kitchen technology to keep you informed of new innovations. But you should also talk “tech” with your commercial kitchen equipment supplier to ensure that they are keeping up with the times, and, equally important, keeping track of government regulations that may make your equipment legally obsolete. Restaurant Appliance Depot keeps track of changing restaurant tech, and provides a wide range of the latest technologically advanced restaurant kitchen equipment through its lease-to-own program. To review their equipment and learn more about their unique lease-to-own program, visit their website at RestaurantApplianceDepot.com.Pages: