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ANALYSIS: 20 pieces of equipment that are transforming commercial kitchens

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The NAFEM Show’s ‘What Works!’ Lounge returns in a few weeks to provide insight to which equipment solutions have delivered clear benefits to end-users.

The aim of the lounge sessions is to highlight the impact of which the equipment has had on real-life foodservice operations and share current working examples with the industry.

The instrumental pieces include energy saving ovens and customized cocktail dispensing systems. All products listed focus on saving time, energy, labor costs or a combination of the three.

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Here are 20 names that will feature on this year’s list of most innovative products from the foodservice industry.

1.AccuTemp Products, Inc. – FlexPro Burger Smasher

Cooks who were manually smashing 200+ burgers an hour at a growing southern California fast-casual restaurant chain were getting burned out – and leaving their jobs. Over the course of two years, the restaurant worked with AccuTemp Products to design and test a customized smasher to fit the restaurant’s specific needs. As a result, cook times dropped 15%, production increased by 20% – and cooks were much happier.

2. Alto-Shaam, Inc. – Vector F Series Multi-Cook Oven

For one Alabama restaurant group, finding kitchen talent – and ovens that could keep up with consumer demands – was challenging. After collaborating with Alto-Shaam, the group put just four newly-innovated ovens to the test and discovered they could do the job of seven convection ovens. The results? Reduced labor costs, improved production and a foolproof way for cooks of all experience levels to deliver high-quality food.

3. Belshaw Adamatic, An Ali Group Company – OVEN 2020

A centralized production bakery in the northeast needed a way to improve slow bake times. When Belshaw Adamatic engineered a new rack oven to help them improve their operations, baking cycles dropped from 45 minutes to seven minutes – all while maintaining highest energy efficiency in its class.

4. BKI-Worldwide, a Standex Foodservice Equipment Group Company – TC Fryer – Training Central

A regional fast food chain in the south needed an efficient way to train employees quickly – and keep them engaged. The chain provided guidance to BKI-Worldwide on what they needed from a new fryer training platform, then tested the prototype in one of their busiest locations. The introduction of this new fryer – which included a centralized training platform that provided constant feedback and accountability to employees – reduced training time by more than six hours and eliminated operator service calls, saving the company $5,000 annually.

Cadco, Ltd. – BakerLux Convection Oven

A Las Vegas brunch destination needed equipment that could help them keep pace with customer demand, deliver a quality ROI and expand – all while maintaining a small footprint. The solution? An innovative new convection oven from Cadco that cut bake times by 30% and energy consumption by 20% – and demonstrated a faster ROI compared to similar equipment.

5. Cambro Manufacturing Co., Inc. – Ultimate Sheet Pan Rack

The executive chef of an event catering company needed more effective speed racks for his fast-paced, demanding kitchens. After partnering with Cambro Manufacturing Company to test more durable racks made from composite plastic, the chef and his staff noticed major operational improvements, thanks to the new racks’ ability to withstand heavy loads without warping and prevent pans from sliding.

6. Crown Verity, Inc. – Outdoor Gas Pizza Oven

A well-known celebrity chef struggled with limited seating at his popular Canadian winery. Searching for a way to indulge more diners, he found the solution in a high-volume outdoor pizza oven, customized by Crown Verity, which served as the foundation of a new restaurant and stand-alone menu. The chef successfully doubled his seating capacity – and elevated the dining experience with new menu offerings and direct access to beautiful outdoor scenery.

7. Delfield Company – Specification Line

A Michigan crêpe café needed a cold storage solution that could keep up with their growing business – and fit within their limited kitchen space. Working with Delfield Company, they were able to identify and test a compact new refrigerator with a corresponding app – which offered advanced capabilities and saved the small independent operator hundreds in annual utility bills.

8. Duke Manufacturing Co. – Modular Production Center

A global QSR needed help reimagining a kitchen set up to deliver fresher food faster. After Duke Manufacturing designed and implemented a new layout, dedicated kitchen space was cut by 39%t, employees traveled three-quarters of a mile less per shift and staff bottlenecks were eliminated, thanks to additional access points.

9. Follett LLC – Horizon Elite 2110 Series Ice Machine

Harsh local water conditions meant one Texas C-store operator had to descale his ice machine every six weeks. To solve this ongoing issue, the operator tested a newly engineered innovation from Follett; a high-capacity prototype ice machine designed to run without reverse osmosis or water treatment – and alert the manufacturer when the machine needed to be descaled. The operator was able to go a full 18 months with no descaling, saving him $1,200 in annual maintenance costs.

10. Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. – SmartServe Blend in a Cup

A global frozen yogurt chain saw an opportunity to add treats to their menu that could be sipped through a straw. Partnering up with Hamilton Beach Brands to customize a new mixing solution, the chain installed self-operated, accessible blending machines in two test locations that allowed users to create their own, personalized yogurt blends. The new machines hit a sweet spot with consumers and improved the test locations’ year-over-year sales by 3% with no applied marketing.

11. Heatcraft Refrigeration Products, LLC – intelliGen Refrigeration Controller

Power outages pose a major threat to meat-heavy operations like an American grill chain restaurant. To find a solution and mitigate this threat they turned to Heatcraft Refrigeration Products, the manufacturer of intuitive electronic control. It allowed this chain to monitor their refrigeration units anytime, anywhere, so they could quickly take action in the event of electrical issues – reducing the risk of losing thousands of dollars.

12. Hoshizaki America, Inc. – KMEdge X Ice Machine

A small ice distributor in Georgia had a customer who needed a new on-site ice machine to eliminate the need to have ice delivered. Hoshizaki America’s engineering team worked with the ice delivery company to find the best solution. This new technology ice machine provided both durability and the ability to operate in hard water conditions while also saving the merchandiser thousands of dollars in purchase and delivery fees.

13. InterMetro Industries Corporation, An Ali Group Company – PrepMate MultiStation

A small, unique Pennsylvania restaurant struggled with limited kitchen space and high customer volume. And with menu items changing every day, workspace issues meant there was no room for adding a fixed prep table. Collaborating with InterMetro Industries – who conducted an assessment of the current workspace, layout and process – the restaurant tested a small-footprint, mobile, multifunctional prep station. Thanks to this piece of equipment, the restaurant saved hours of labor every day and increased productivity.

14. ITW/FEG (Illinois Tool Works/Food Equipment Group) – FT1000e Low Energy Series –

Flight Type dish machine

A university in Ohio needed a machine capable of washing thousands of dishes per day while keeping energy costs low. Serving as a test environment for installation and ongoing documentation of a low-energy flight type dish machine from ITW/FEG, it is estimated the university will save $28,000 in energy costs over the next 10 years.

15. Perlick Corporation – Tobin Ellis Cocktail Dispenser

A small, independent restaurant and bar known for all-natural “potions” needed help preventing the ingredients from separating and settling while inside the kegs. Perlick Corporation helped develop a customized cocktail dispensing system to give the owners the freedom to keep their potions flowing (without settling) and created additional space behind the counter.

16. Stoelting – Companion Cart Portable Cleaning System

A soft-serve vending equipment distributor needed a cleaning solution for a group of franchisees who did not have direct access to plumbing facilities. A portable cleaning system was developed by Stoelting and proved to be an effective solution, resulting in less water waste and reduced cleaning time by 66%.

17. Tortilla Masters Equipment, LLC – Ventura Flex Tabletop Corn Tortilla Machine

An executive chef needed help keeping up with the daily demand for more than 1,000 corn tortillas. Until recently, tabletop tortilla machines in the U.S. were only compatible with wheat and flour tortilla recipes. Working with Tortilla Masters Equipment, the chef incorporated the first-ever tabletop corn tortilla machine into his kitchen. This new equipment drastically reduced both tortilla prep time and employee stress.

18. Vollrath Company, LLC – Modular Induction Dry Well Drop-Ins

A senior care facility, responsible for serving residents three meals a day, needed to improve the quality of their food. After serving as a field test location for new dry well heating technology from Vollrath Company, they were able to maintain the quality and temperature of several different foods in one unit, while reducing food waste. The change not only saved the facility money on water and labor – it enabled workers to serve up crisper, greener veggies and improve food quality overall.

19. Vulcan – Countertop Electric Fryer

A national quick-service seafood chain needed to improve fry times while maintaining food quality and reducing their kitchen footprint. The chain presented this challenge to Vulcan, and together they developed a more efficient fryer that can be mounted on refrigerator or freezer bases, improving workflow and kitchen storage. The chain tested the new fryer in their official test kitchen, and after multiple rounds of feedback – and some tweaks from the manufacturer – the restaurant implemented the new fryer reduced fry times by a jaw-dropping 30 %, thus saving an estimated $10,000 annually.

20. WELBILT – KitchenConnect

A restaurant management company needed help optimizing their fry stations to boost profits and serve consistently high-quality food – and to do that they needed a way to get large amounts of data from multiple locations quickly. Introducing WELBILT’s new fryers with remote monitoring capabilities meant the group could access crucial insights about their fryers’ operations from their multiple locations, including crew performance, oil usage, filtering and cleaning and more. This technology helped identify improvements that led to increased profits, higher quality fried food, and an annual 30% reduction in oil costs.

The NAFEM Show is the leading foodservice and restaurant equipment and supplies show in North America. NAFEM showcases the inner workings of foodservice success.

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Carly Hacon

The author Carly Hacon

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