Online Exclusive: The Most Influential Equipment

Customer demand leads to innovative menus; equipment technology makes that innovation possible.

Electronic ordering system at Vanderbilt University.

People aren’t the only element influencing non-commercial foodservice. Equipment and technology have gone a long way toward influencing how menus are being developed and presented. With the help of Tom O’Brien, the equipment writer for our sister publication Restaurant Business, along with several consultants and chefs we talked with, we have compiled a list of 10 examples of equipment and technology that have done much to change the face of non-commercial foodservice.

Blast chillers: The idea of cook-chill has been prevalent in the foodservice industry since the 1970s. But the technology “still has steam” today, as one consultant stated. Blast chilling serves multiple purposes, such as enhancing food safety and saving labor, and the technology is such that today's blast-chillers are available in several sizes, from floor models that can handle an entire rack of cooked foods straight from the oven to under-the-counter versions.

Combi-ovens: Another piece of equipment that has evolved over time as foodservice needs have changed, Tom O’Brien says these ovens have “revolutionized high-volume food preparation and holding.” They are versatile and flexible, with a variety of cooking modes, and the ability to pre-program them by storing recipes and cooking instructions have made them easier than ever to operate.

Electronic ordering systems: Whether in kiosks in front of a counter in a restaurant or food court, or simply an app you can download to your smartphone or tablet, these systems have enhanced customer service by reducing service lines and wait times by allowing customers to order their meals ahead of time—sometimes before they’ve even left their offices or classrooms.

Heat recovery systems: This “green” technology has been able to serve a dual purpose, consultants say. By reclaiming the heat that large pieces of equipment such as dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers generate, operators are able to reduce their energy bills and their repair bills; heat recovery has the added benefit of helping compressors run cooler, which adds months or years to the life of this critical piece of equipment.

Induction cooking equipment: Induction burners offer several benefits to foodservice operators, including fast heat and quick cool-down and the removal of flames from the cooking equation. That, coupled with their portability, makes induction burners ideal for action stations or other demonstration cooking set-ups.

“Less oil” fryers: A prime example of technology developed in response to a need; in this case, the desire to make fried foods more healthful. “Expect to see more of these,” says O’Brien, “as nutrition continues to be a factor in menu development.

Panini grills: “Twenty years ago, no one in the U.S. had heard of panini, let alone eaten one,” O’Brien recalls. “Now, just about every foodservice operation has a panini grill—or two or more.”

Turbo-chef-type ovens: Especially in limited menu environments, these high-speed ovens have helped tremendously in speeding through-put while adding touches such as crisping and browning more easily than a microwave oven can. In larger operations, they also have helped chefs expand their menu variety.

Sous vide technology: Sous vide, developed in France in the early 1970s, is the process of cooking food in vacuum sealed packaging in a low temperature water bath, typically the temperature in which the food is intended to be served. Proponents of the technology say this slow-cooking method allows chefs to achieve desired results without inflicting the “damage”, such as loss of moisture, that high-heat cooking methods do. “How much of a long-term effect it will have on the industry remains to be seen,” says O’Brien. “But it definitely is changing the way chefs think about food prep.”

Waste reduction equipment: Whether they are compactors, dehydrators, composters or recyclers, “green” equipment “will become increasingly important as waste removal costs continue to increase,” says O’Brien. In non-commercial foodservice, of equal importance is the desire of operators to make their facilities more environmentally friendly. 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Foodservice operators and other employers in New York City are adjusting to a new law that enforces paid time off for staff who have been the victims of certain crimes.

Called paid safe leave, the benefit is believed to be among the first of its kind in the nation. A more limited version has been in effect in Minneapolis since last summer.

The New York law applies to employees who have been the victims of actual or threatened domestic violence, unwanted sexual contact, stalking or human trafficking.

Workers can also opt for safe paid leave if a member of their...

Industry News & Opinion

A Massachusetts bill to end lunch shaming has been stalled in the House, reports South Coast Today.

The House chair of the Education Committee voted on Tuesday for further study of the bill, which would prevent schools from throwing away hot lunches and/or serving an alternative meal to students behind on lunch payments. Under the bill, schools would also be unable to bar students with unpaid balances from participating in extracurricular activities.

Additionally, the bill asks schools to take action in reducing families’ meal debt by helping families apply for free or...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of California, Santa Cruz is converting its Cowell Coffee Shop into a “multi-service basic needs cafe” to aid students facing food insecurity .

The new cafe is being created through a partnership with dining services, the school’s center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and UCSC’s Cowell College. Due to open at the start of the fall semester, the lower part of the cafe will continue to be a study space for students (with free coffee and tea) and will also host nutrition and financial wellness programming.

Upstairs, the kitchen will be used as a...

Managing Your Business
quitting job

What prompts foodservice managers to clean out their offices and head out with a last paycheck? A new survey suggests the triggers may be changing with the times.

The canvass of 2,000 restaurant professionals, conducted by placement firm Gecko Hospitality, shows lifestyle issues abounding among the top 10 reasons for parting with a restaurant employer last year.

Here are the gender-specific lists:

Top 10 reasons female managers leave

1. Better opportunity

2. Unemployed

3. Relocation

4. Not satisfied

5. No growth

6. Long...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code