Driverless cars and delivery drones may get all the headlines, but at the end of the day, operators want technology that will improve operations, and increase the bottom line.
No matter the advances in restaurant equipment, the needs of a restaurant don’t change: Improving efficiency and finding kitchen tech that produces better food products still rules.
“The differences between some piece of restaurant equipment might be small but when you apply them, especially to a large company with a lot small places, all those little things really make a difference,” says Ed Brown, corporate chef of the New York-based hospitality group Restaurant Associates.
The price tags aren’t necessarily high. Sometimes the biggest difference is a simple solution. But when the cost is high, operators say the efficiency gained makes up for it. Check out these examples of restaurant equipment making a difference.
WHAT IS IT: A high-end yet versatile pasta extruder that turns water, flour and other ingredients into a streusel-like dough. More than 100 different dials ensure plenty of different pasta shapes, while a built-in knife can cut some pastas to exact lengths.
WHO’S USING IT: At the Warbler in Chicago, partner and Executive Chef Ken Carter have dramatically cut down on pasta prep time. What they could produce in an hour by hand they are creating in just 15 minutes using the AEX. In addition, the extruder can create pasta shapes that are extremely difficult to roll by hand, like corkscrew-shaped fusilli, bucatini and canestri (larger, curved macaroni style).
ADDED PERK: It’s small, portable and versatile. Not only does it take up a small amount of kitchen space, it can benefit chefs working in more than one location. “It provides us with flexibility to use it at various locations, including at our other restaurant, Gather, should we decide to down the line.”
MARRA FORNI ELECTRIC OVEN
WHAT IS IT: A customizable electric brick oven, whose temperature can be carefully calibrated – and maintained – via a digital keypad. An optional rotating deck is designed to slowly spin around and expose foods to even heat.
WHO USES IT: Chef Ed Brown, who oversees the 160-plus eateries for New York-based Restaurant Associates, didn’t have the space – or firepower – to crisp up Neapolitan pizzas at numerous concepts until he found the Marra Forni. Not only can the ovens reach 1000 degrees, Brown says they eliminate hot and cold spots as well as the need for highly experienced chefs. Brown says every square inch is usable and electric bills aren’t too steep. “Sometimes ovens can be big users of power,” says Brown, “but these ovens are very efficient.”
ADDED PERK: Brown was impressed by how well the oven’s optional rotating deck worked, which allows him to incorporate vegetables, proteins and seafood in some of his concepts that lacked chefs who knew how to properly operate wood-burning ovens.
PRICE: $20,000 TO $50,000
WHAT IS IT: A water-resistant pocket thermometer with a foldable probe that quickly gauges internal temperatures on a digital display. It’s sturdy enough for the kitchen and cheap enough not to break the bank.
WHO USES IT: Although piercing smaller proteins, like steak, fish and pork chops, remains a grill station sin at Chef Isaac Toups’ restaurants, Toups South and Toups Meatery in New Orleans, the James Beard finalist has found other uses. He not only tests the internal temps of roasting chickens, turkeys and whole hogs but also uses them for his crab cakes. “My crab cakes are aioli-based so when they cook, I don’t want them to be overcooked, as the emulsion would break,” says Toups. “The thermapen is essential in ensuring the cakes are cooked perfectly.”
ADDED PERKS: Use it when smoking whole animals, as ensuring proper temperatures can make or break your BBQ or poke the probe in dishes that were prepared in advance and reheated to ensure you didn’t overheat your offering.
WHAT IS IT: Genius Pan containers offer a threaded system that allows the bottom of the pan to adjust up or down in the well, keeping everything looking fresh, topped off and inviting, reducing food waste and saving labor. By rotating tabs on the top of the container as it empties, the ingredients rise back to the top.
WHO USES IT: Vince Sitto, owner of Lentil Mediterranean Grill in Royal Oak, Michigan, knows people eat with their eyes. So, when they choose ingredients for salads, the ingredients always need to look fresh and appetizing. “For years, we’ve needed a solution on how to make our food containers look full and fresh without compromising the ‘First In, First Out method’. The Genius Pan is easy to use, and our employees love it. Definitely a game changer,” he says.
ADDED PERKS: Made from BPA-free Tritan, the containers withstand temperatures from -40° F to 210° F.
THE DIFFERENCE IT MADE: Ingredients always look fresh; less waste.
PRICE: $20 TO $132
VITA PREP AERATOR
WHAT IS IT: Vitamix has long been a favorite piece of restaurant equipment among independent chefs but it couldn’t do one important task – until now. Vitamix has introduced an aerating container that handles the job once left to a food processor or dispensers requiring N20 cartridges. The aerator whips cream, muddles herbs, creates foams and emulsifies using gentle aeration.
WHO USES IT: Holly Jiven, the chef de cuisine at Jose Andres’ Bazaar in Los Angeles, appreciates the aerator for its power and efficiency. “This container can get me the results I’m looking for in a faster and more consistent manner,” she says.
ADDED PERKS: The disc blade quickly chills beverages, mixes bar-quality cocktails, infuses flavors from herbs, and produces fluffy whipped cream and silky-smooth sauces. The patent-pending aerating disc blade extracts essential oils from herbs, and also separates juice from fruit, while preserving textures.