Consultant Q&A: Juan Martinez, principal, Profitality, Miami
FE&S: Why should operators consider incorporating a conveyor oven?
JM: The benefit of these ovens is they’re easy to use and almost fail-safe. Users put food in one end, and it comes out finished on the other end. From an operational perspective, they’re simple.
FE&S: What should operators consider when purchasing a conveyor oven?
JM: They need to first figure out what it is they’re trying to do. It’s important to look at the menu and determine what items will be prepared in this oven. Also, the capacity is a factor in terms of the oven size and throughput, as is the quality and cost.
FE&S: What are the different options in terms of cooking technology?
JM: These ovens can do anything. Technology has evolved from basic radiant heat, similar to a traditional toaster, to cooking that utilizes forced air. The latter has revolutionized the conveyor oven industry as it blows air over the top and cooks much faster.
FE&S: Are there limitations operators should be aware of with conveyor ovens?
JM: One of the challenges is conveyor ovens only have one to two speeds, and these are fixed and cannot be changed. Ovens can be doubled up, but then operators risk having too many from a capacity perspective. The cavity size, temperature and airflow also are fixed, so there is not much flexibility in terms of the process and types of products that can be cooked simultaneously. Ovens with two speeds and two belts can provide more options, but having designated ovens can get confusing in busy kitchens. Also, conveyor ovens don’t have wet heat or steam like a combi, which may be a drawback for some operations.
FE&S: Are there space considerations with these units?
JM: Location is critical because these ovens need space for loading and unloading. A u-shaped layout is a popular choice to help conserve space.
FE&S: What about ventilation requirements with these ovens?
JM: Hoods are typically required with gas models, while electric ovens require less ventilation since there is no gas that needs exhausting. Although some conveyor ovens are hoodless and utilize a catalytic converter on top for venting, these types can be pricy.
FE&S: Are there cleaning and maintenance factors that come into play when choosing an oven type?
JM: Since these ovens need to be cleaned daily, operators should consider how easy the unit is to assemble and disassemble.
FE&S: What do operators commonly overlook when it comes to conveyor ovens?
JM: Depending on how integral the oven is to their business, operators may want to consider purchasing two units in case one goes down, even if the capacity isn’t needed. Also, they should look at the level of difficulty in readjusting the oven.