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Equipping for Efficiency

Jessica HighRes DSC 2107 1Every foodservice professional has ideas about what makes a piece of equipment efficient. We asked Jessica Gates, Associate Design Project Manager for RealFood Hospitality in Newton, Mass., to share her thoughts.

What makes a piece of equipment efficient?

Jessica Gates: It depends on the operation, but it’s a combination of saving labor, time and energy while producing consistently. One of the things that we find most interesting about the efficiency of pieces of equipment is just how flexible that they can be. In many of the operations we work with, there are going to be meal periods where you just have a couple of people and there are going to be meal periods when you’re absolutely swamped. And being able to utilize technology in order to make sure that everything is as consistent and as regular as possible — no matter who’s working in the kitchen — is really important.

You say location affects efficiency. How so?

JG: The efficiency of a piece of equipment might actually depend on where it’s located. If it’s in the kitchen, you always have to have someone in the back of the house who can staff that. If you have it perhaps at a [location] peripheral to both the kitchen and, for example, the bar or a host stand — somewhere you always will have somebody staffed — the efficiency of that piece of equipment has less to do with the functionality of it, but actually where it is placed and how it is utilized by those staff.

Do you think technology is making equipment more efficient?

JG: I absolutely do. One of my favorite examples relates to the technological relationship between a blast chiller and a combi oven. If these pieces of equipment can interact with one another, when it’s finishing its cycle, the blast chiller can let the combi oven know that it is time to start heating that oven up. That reduces labor. All of that can happen off-site so that these pieces of equipment are not tied to human error. They’re set on a schedule and communicate with each other. Let’s say something went wrong with that blast cycle and it’s taking a little bit longer. That information can be communicated to these other pieces of equipment. It can create interesting ways to consolidate labor and keep things moving in a kitchen in a less manual way.

Is there an efficiency trade-off with smaller equipment?

JG: It definitely depends on the piece of equipment and the operation. We’ve designed a number of kitchens that might as well have been in a closet. That’s the footprint that we’re working with, so smaller equipment is a necessity. But in terms of efficiency, to me it’s so much more about how these different pieces of equipment are arranged in order to relate to each other as opposed to how much space they’re actually taking up.

Check out the following stories for a variety of efficient equipment for both front and back of house.