Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.


Insights on Equipment Innovations

Foodservice equipment innovations are only useful if they help operators address key issues like maintenance, sustainability, labor challenges and more.

Alison O’HearnAlison O’HearnAlison O’Hearn, a project manager for Cini-Little International, was part of a committee of Foodservice Consultant Society International – The Americas division members who vetted products for the organization’s 2024 Innovation Showcase. Here, she shares some equipment-related insights that have caught her eye of late.

Ventless Meets Electric

For a variety of reasons, operators continue to face pressure to add more electric equipment, which is where a ventless hood solution meant to work with an all-electric cookline can come into play. This self-contained hood doesn’t require attachment to a ceiling, but rather, can be easily “brought in through a 48-inch door and be positioned to fit over tabletop equipment,” O’Hearn says. “The distance between the equipment and ventilation can also be adjusted. It’s great for working in skyscraper buildings where ventilation out from the third or 10th floor can be challenging.” Caterers and other operators running pop-up food operations in unconventional spaces like lobbies or event spaces could also benefit from this type of equipment to use in spaces where there is no built-in ventilation system.

Enhanced Cleaning and Sanitation

More equipment continues to hit the market featuring automated self-cleaning processes. These products also address the labor shortage problem since less staff may lead to regular cleaning falling to the wayside, and they piggyback on continued consumer concerns about safety and cleanliness in the years post-pandemic.

“These products keep germs at bay, but they also keep the equipment in better working order over time,” says O’Hearn.

For example, one food shield product features UV bonding in the form of an extra protective coating that’s heat-, scratch- and smudge-resistant, “even a little better than glass,” O’Hearn says.

Another example: a bottle wash attachment for dishwashers to get reusable glass bottles —used in operations as pitchers for water and house-made juices and beverages — extra clean. “These bottles can be harder to wash because the neck is so narrow; this attachment really gets the bottles clean so there’s no lingering mold or flavor transfer,” O’Hearn says.

Another product on the market that caught O’Hearn’s eye is a self-cleaning condenser that engages automatically on a regular cycle. Again, sounds simple, “but few people clean condensers and the [refrigeration] unit works so much better and the energy usage is much lower if the condenser is cleaned properly and regularly,” she says.

Also, a manufacturer has rolled out a mold-resistant walk-in cooler. A built-in air purifier installed in the wall runs on regular cycles to prevent mold from growing “which is a big issue in some restaurants,” O’Hearn says.

Unattended Retail

One rapidly developing trend is unattended retail. One product supporting that trend is an autonomous retail merchandising unit that can handle cashless transactions. “Everyone is all about having that preloaded employee or student ID and being able to scan your card at a reader and walk out with whatever items you want,” O’Hearn says. This product takes cashless convenience to the next level by detecting items on shelves and charging customers once they make their selections. These units are pitched as making inventory management, sales tracking and theft prevention easier for the operator.