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Catering Smarter with RATIONAL

Reference Encore Catering 6P6A0934.tif 476518 image pressCaterers find the RATIONAL iCombi Pro and iVario Pro helpful for high-volume productionWhat trends are you seeing in catering/off-site foodservice these days?

Stuart Schwadron, Senior Manager of Design & Consultant Resources: What I’ve recently seen and heard is there’s an increased reliance on technology to alleviate some staffing concerns.

Jim Lund, Director of Product Design & Consultant Resources: A trend that’s growing is the demand for catering operations to offer a variety of different cuisines — ethnic or regional-type cuisines. Many times, that can be challenging for a catering operation to fulfill those needs if they don’t have trained staff at that skill level or that specific cuisine.

Is the labor crunch having a particular effect on catering/off-site operations?

JL: I would say yes. I owned a business that did off-site catering for about 10 years. Catering is extremely labor intensive, as far as hauling things to and from locations and from your main kitchen. In general, the hospitality industry is so short on labor, and there’s even fewer people who want to get into those heavy-lifting, labor-intensive jobs. So they’re really struggling.

SS: I’ve done lots of catering as well, and labor’s a big chunk of it. I think that’s only going to continue.

How about food costs? How are they affecting this segment?

JL: Like everybody in the hospitality industry, food costs are one of the highest things on their P&L list. With the rising cost of inflation and everything else that we’ve seen over the last year and a half, it’s affecting them. So their profit margin is shrinking because of rising food costs.

How are you seeing the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro help catering/off-site operations produce food efficiently?

JL: With over 47 years of experience building combi ovens, we’ve learned so much. Now [users] can simply define the results they want from the food, push the coloration button, push the temperature button and the unit’s going to configure everything. It’s going to walk that cook or chef through each step they need to get a consistent finished product. Every time, it’s going to come out the same way, no matter the skill level of the person doing the operation on the iCombi Pro or iVario Pro.

What makes these two products unique, and especially suited for this segment?

SS: One thing RATIONAL does a little differently from other manufacturers is that we believe in being able to match a piece of equipment we offer to the needs of the customer. We can offer a lot of benefits. With the iVario Pro, we offer casters, so when you talk about off-premises catering, we believe you can set up a kitchen anywhere.

JL: There are lots of large off-site caterers that use our equipment for the same purposes as an operator internally — they don’t need a large temporary kitchen with a variety of traditional cooking equipment, say, at a concert or racing event. They can do it all in a small footprint with the RATIONAL cooking systems.