Foodservice Equipment Reports

Learning Time

With fall just around the corner, we’re getting close to the dealer buying group meetings, or as I like to say, learning time. Among the reasons manufacturers are willing to be part of your group (and yes, offer those back-end rebates) is the opportunity they get to show and tell you about all of their new products and programs. It’s a great opportunity for speed learning—kind of like speed dating. May I make some suggestions about some product categories you might keep your eyes open for this fall?

Combi Ovens—Combination oven-steamers finally have gained traction in the U.S. market. You may not be aware that the combi-oven market was almost as big as the convection-oven market in the 2012 version of NAFEM’s “Size & Shape of the Industry” study. I suspect combis might surpass convection ovens in this year’s study, due for release this fall. They are used in all kinds of segments, not just institutional kitchens. Even some big quick-service chains are looking at them.

Nearly all cooking equipment manufacturers now offer a combi. They come in a remarkable range of sizes, configurations and price ranges, from three-pan counter units to big roll-in rack versions. They also have a wide range of control and features options. There are combi “lites” with just a bit of control over the humidity levels to full-featured units with touch screens, self-cleaning cycles and even bar scanning for automatically inputting cooking cycles. One key benefit of cooking in combis is greatly increased yield. In this time of big jumps in beef and pork prices, that’s a great selling feature.

Fast Ovens—Also called accelerated-cooking ovens, these appliances are another category of new cooking technology that is exploding. The product offerings and number of manufacturers are expanding rapidly. Most use some combination of microwave, convection and impingement technologies, but there are fast ovens available that use no microwave. There are small-, medium- and large-cavity versions, conveyor and shuttle options and multiple control iterations. Once pricey, there are now models available at prices nearly all operators can afford. And these ovens can be used in just about any foodservice option that needs to offer a wide variety of products fast, very fast, from bars to room service in hospitals.

Induction Products—We covered all of the new ways induction technology is being used in the February 2014 issue of Foodservice Equipment Reports. If you missed it, click here: From new heavy-duty cooking applications, including ranges, griddles, woks and even braising pans, to uses in soup warmers, food wells and other heating and warming applications, induction is moving off of the tabletop and counter. But the table and countertop are still great applications. Anyone who has been in business travel hotels with free breakfast or big paid breakfast buffets understands just how this technology is expanding dramatically. Induction soup warmers cost more, but their amazing heat-control options have a very positive impact on quality and waste. And some of the new heavy-duty induction cooking applications are truly remarkable.

Smallwares and Tabletop—For the latest developments in smallwares, tabletop and servingware, check out the winners of FER’s annual Smallwares & Tabletop Awards, just announced a couple weeks ago. You can see the list of winners here.

There are some really cool new products with great applicability for all of your customers.

Have a good time meeting with all of your groups’ colleagues and suppliers at your meetings. But keep your eyes on these new products you can sell.


Robin Ashton


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