As the Food & Beverage function becomes a key revenue driver, hotels are increasingly looking at kitchen equipment that is not just functional but also cost efficient. An important aspect that defines a hotel’s reputation is the kind of food it serves. Naturally, kitchens have become an important area that hoteliers are now focusing upon to ensure that the equipment in these spaces is both effective and efficient.
The kitchen is the centre of the business where the menu comes to life. That being the case, hoteliers need high quality kitchen equipment that can withstand the pressure of daily use. Freezers & Refrigerators, Food Preparation Counters, Slicers, Mixers, Food Processors, Ranges, Ovens, Sinks, Shelving, Safety Equipment. “The gas range is the powerhouse of the kitchen, so it is important to choose one that meets both your cooking and aesthetic needs. Gas ranges make it easier to judge heat and change from high to low much faster than their electric counter parts. Freezers and Refrigerators are one inseparable part when it comes to setting up a kitchen. A commercial kitchen is all about menu planning and optimum usage of all the resources and that is where refrigeration plays an important role to increase the shelf life of all the ingredients and preparations, which in turn increases the profitability of the kitchen,” said Subrao Hati, Corporate Chef, Vits Hotels Worldwide Private Limited. Subhadeep Datta, General Manager, Goldfinch Hotel, Mumbai added, “currently, we are using equipment like high-end alto-sham and bakery ovens. We are in the process to upgrade our bakery oven for the better quality of work as this will ensure highly efficient and uniform baking.” According to Anthony Huang, Executive Chef, Sheraton Grand Hotel, Brigade Gateway, Bengaluru, “the dough mixers, dishwashers and most importantly the firefighting system that is installed in our exhaust hoods are few of the critical equipment which keeps all our guests and associates safe.”
Gopal Jha, Executive Chef, Grand Mercure Bangalore explained, “a good commercial kitchen needs industrial grade equipment that will stand a busy restaurant schedule. The design and layout of a restaurant kitchen should allow food to flow seamlessly from the preparation area to the dispense line. Sometimes a new restaurant has a fabulous location, but a small kitchen space can be a big disaster. The ideal way to plan an upgrade or expansion of a kitchen is according to the cuisine you serve at your restaurant. This would allow proper equipment selection, spacing, and determination of capacity. A good kitchen design and proper menu-planning spare you from facing many future problems.” Thermomix by Vorwerk is a critical though simple kitchen equipment that Roseate House are currently using and still want to upgrade as the latest version has a touch screen for convenience. “You always have to keep upgrading kitchen equipment with the changing technology to keep up with competing hotels. Coming to aesthetics we procure the equipment in sync with our hotel interiors, design and standards,” said Anuj Wadhawan – Executive Sous Chef, Roseate House. “From last few months our R&D Team is working on a dosa maker. Dosa making is an art which is done by south Indian chefs only. We are trying to reach a level with this dosa maker (which is partly manual), where anybody can make a dosa following a basic level of instructions. As we have a chain of restaurants, the basic objective of designing such equipment is to have consistency all over the brand and better utilization of man power,” said Hati. Huang added, “most of the equipment that comes in today are energy efficient and have additional features and programs that allow you to control moisture, time, and quantum, of heat or even speed of mixing. These can be programmed to suit the requirements of the recipe. They also look much better and flush in well to the assigned spaces. Additionally newer equipment invariably has built in safety mechanisms that protect the user as well as the assets of the organisation.”
A poorly planned kitchen results in high payroll, slow production, unhappy kitchen staff, and dissatisfied guests. “We are planning to add to our existing equipment is the Pacojet Ice Cream Unit for easy and quick ice cream production, since we make own ice-creams at the property sticking by the policy of offering food made from the freshest ingredients, which is why we make ice-creams from scratch. Additionally, we are also looking at acquiring the Excalibur Drying Unit for dehydrating the fruits and vegetables utilized in the kitchen,” said Chef Ravish Mishra, Executive Sous Chef, The Westin Kolkata Rajarhat. A good kitchen design needs to be energy efficient to help reduce the cooking, heating, and cooling costs. The biggest and most common problems are found in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system of the kitchen. Navin Kumar, Executive Chef Radisson Blu, Paschim Vihar said, “thanks to latest technology and awareness, manufacturers are coming up with sleek but sturdy commercial state of the art equipment that are well designed, environment friendly, energy saving efficient. There are few international parameters to look for like, EU energy label that measures the degree of the energy usage. For refrigerators, the rating usually comes in the form of A+ or A++ depending on the capacity.”
Again while planning to upgrade or expand the kitchen, hoteliers need to keep several factors in mind balancing aesthetics with functionality. The key to the success of a food business is in the kitchen design. A strong design will ensure that the kitchen runs smoothly and efficiently and for this the key lies in planning well in advance of the service opening time. “We all know that we need great staff, solid equipment and a chef who knows what he or she is doing, but a vital part of operation is the design of commercial kitchen. Both food and nonfood commodities need to be kept in a place which is free from contamination and in the right temperature, depending upon the product. Likewise, whether you are processing a fillet of fish or you are chopping tomatoes, it is vital to segregate different types of food during prep and as well as storing. The front of the house staff should have rapid and safe access to the pass (pick up counter) without disrupting the kitchen flow. Another aspect to be taken care of after service and continuous rolling of crockery, cutlery and glasses will help in rapid service in the restaurant,” said Hati. Emanuela Tavolini, Director of Sales Europe, Graff explains, “as we do for any product or collection, GRAFF is very attentive towards the market requests and very open to any feedback coming from customers and designers. For this reason all kitchen products have been developed to satisfy any request coming from both the residential sector and the hospitality sector. The new Sospiro collection for the kitchen, for example, is offered as a single hole and as a bridge option to suit a contemporary style as well as a more transitional style. Furthermore the Sospiro faucet is available also in a small version to suit the bar area. Considering that in our domestic market in US the demand for kitchen faucets has been traditionally very strong, we could design products that meet more and more the needs of comfort, functionality and aesthetics.”
The smart kitchen may not be a new concept in the food industry because a lot of food companies are now using equipment which are all functioning with the latest technologies. Hoteliers are now looking at smart appliances from ware washers and ventilation systems to oven and refrigerators that do self-diagnostics and track performance. “Going by 2018, some of the latest trends which are quite popular are Sous Vide units, Quick Chilling Ice Cream Units, Evaporators. Equipment related to molecular gastronomy are also gaining popularity. Hospitality is the East is thriving. With that, there has been an increase in demand for state-of-the-art equipment,” opined Mishra. Some of these ovens even have a self-cleaning system. Front to back integration through POS systems which are cloud based is becoming a trend so no heavy servers required. “Business owners are realising that multi-utility machines are revolutionising the kitchen experience and changing the way commercial kitchens should function. However, as the machines come at a onetime heavy cost, thus the hotel management needs to analyse and justify its long-term utility and return on investment,” says Datta. WiFi and internet enabled kitchen equipment are trending. Some companies also have kitchen equipment apps where you can file complaints, look for recipes and other functions. Smart kitchens, cabinet colours, streamlined designs, materials and textures, effective storage solution, modern appliances and single level multipurpose kitchen islands are some key trends. “Now that open kitchen concepts and front-of-house prep have become commonplace, you will see a lot of visually appealing equipment showing up. This includes ovens and fryers in bright colours as well as sleek touchscreens replacing knobs and buttons. In terms of size, you do not have to go for traditional sizing any longer. It seems like the sky is the limit with variety. In 2018 larger kitchen islands will come to the forefront. They will have storage solution cabinets and be fitted with various under-counter appliances while also providing seating–serving as a casual dining and/or drinking bar. To accommodate the increased size, we are seeing a tendency for the kitchen island to extend into living room spaces in homes with open plan designs. This ensures the kitchen island can be multi-functional without cluttering up space in the kitchen,” said Jha.
Striking a Balance
While keeping an eye on the functionality, hoteliers also need to ensure that the cost element is kept under control, especially during procurement, long time use and maintenance. The cost of the equipment needs to be kept in check so that it does not impact the capital expense. “For most of the kitchen equipment we buy, aesthetic perspective is not our only priority. Our chefs need to be comfortable, the effectiveness and the durability of the machine as well as the cost of it are kept in mind,” opined Datta. The common denominator for maintaining your most expensive appliances is simply the act of cleaning them efficiently. Chef Nishesh Seth, Executive Chef – Le Meridien Goa Calangute avered, “I do my due-diligence while procuring new equipment. I read up on trends, discuss products with my peers for industry feedback and also visit industry expos to get an understanding. Before procuring any equipment I take an active interest in understanding durability, after sales service, access and availability of spare parts, training and demos for my handlers by the manufacturing company is factored in before the final purchase is made.”
Naturally, the criteria for selecting suppliers for kitchen equipment products and solutions are important as there are different types of suppliers available in the market for different products. “Selecting the suppliers who can meet your consumers’ demand for higher-quality products may bring some initial costs, but it will pay off over time through consistent, high-grade quality. However, the process to find the ideal supplier is often not easy and requires discipline and hard work,” adviced Jha. While some of them are associated with very big brands, there are several who also manufacture equipment locally. Hoteliers prefer to work with suppliers who are open to suggestions and are able to design the desired equipment. “Usually, we prefer to continue with the existed suppliers. However, while choosing the new supplier, a couple of things we definitely keep in mind – reliability and responsiveness, timely delivery, market and industry certification, ensuring quality for consumers at the best available price,” said Datta. Wadhawan added, “we look at their association with renowned brands, their technical know-how and their ability to deliver all the international latest kitchen equipment within the required time frame.”
After procuring the equipment, the optimum usage depends on the location where it is placed. To ensure the equipment is placed in the right location, it is best to refer to the master kitchen design where all the required equipment is designated the best location. Although every kitchen comes with their own challenges, the master kitchen drawing ensures all the equipment are placed ergonomically. “If the equipment is placed keeping chef and other kitchen staffs’ easy movement across the workstations, strategically placed for heating and cooling appliances, well ventilated then it should be considered as well placed,” avered Datta. Ventilation needs is also factor into the equipment selection and kitchen design. Equipment such as hearth ovens, rotisserie ovens woks bring excitement to a display kitchen, yet they often require strong ventilation. Many kitchens now feature induction cooktops and ventless fryers and grills to balance out the exhaust demands. “The basic principle of ergonomic design calls for employees to expend the least amount of energy to complete the most tasks in the shortest amount of time. An under counter freezer, for example, might be placed right beside the deep fryer. This allows the fry cook to retrieve foods and place them in the fryer with little effort. The chef doesn’t even have to take a step,” said Jha. Certainly hotel kitchens are rustling up a storm and it’s the time to ask them – “what’s cooking?”
This story appeared in the Feb 2018 issue of Hotelier India here: Kitchen Design Feb 2018