Recent years have seen many foodservice equipment innovations — more so than ever before. Increased minimum wage, exposure to liability and the need for speed are some of the contributing factors. How does equipment factor into this? Can equipment help reduce labor hours? Can temperature controls in equipment reduce human error in cooking temps? Can equipment cook food faster with the same result?

Ron parting shot HeadshotRon Rubinstein, Principal, Fredco Mfrs’ Reps, Irvine, Calif.Yes. New technology can enable operators to improve production flow, food quality, food consistency, food safety, reduce labor costs and offer energy savings. Many equipment manufacturers offer these new technologies in cooking appliances that no longer even need to be under a hood, another desirable feature today.

These new equipment pieces can give operators an edge over the competition, which is why it’s common for large chains to maintain their own test kitchens where they can test new equipment to validate the performance before purchasing.

Testing new equipment before making a purchasing decision has many advantages in understanding all the available options. This same logic applies for independent restaurateurs, hotels, convention centers, schools, B&I facilities and small chains.

Test kitchens can provide a no-cost, hands-on experience and the good news is more of them keep popping up across the country. In Southern California, the local gas and electric company makes test kitchens available in Los Angeles and San Diego. Many manufacturers’ representatives also have test kitchens at their facilities. Several restaurant equipment dealers have test kitchens. Operators can make an appointment and test equipment there or even ship the desired equipment and the test kitchen staff will run efficiency tests. My company offers a mobile test kitchen which allows the testing to be done at the operator’s location. Mobile units enable the test kitchens to arrive at an operator’s location, where they can bring product from their kitchen on board and have the staff test drive the equipment, so to speak.

Most test kitchens are supported by chefs who understand how new technologies can integrate into everyday operations.

Test Kitchen Benefits

The goal of a test kitchen experience is to educate and communicate how operators can use each piece of equipment. To make the most of the test kitchen experience, include multiple personnel, such as the chef, owner, an operations person. If possible, operators should bring their own food and ingredients instead of using what the test kitchen provides. The chef knows exactly what they want the finished product to taste like and starting with the exact ingredients will enable a true equipment test. The chef can dial in then to change settings and get the exact crunch he wants on the toast, for example. Larger chains test on their own.

Visiting a test kitchen or having a mobile one roll up directly to the operator should be part of the regular process in researching equipment and improving purchasing decisions.

How often is something so valuable offered at no cost? Our tight-knit foodservice industry looks out for each other — you just need to know who to ask.