The National Association of Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers Show got underway in Anaheim Thursday, with 500-plus exhibitors touting their goods. Amid a blinding sea of stainless steel, it’s not always easy to pinpoint trends. NAFEM offered some guidance by creating a What’s Hot, What’s Cool Gallery highlighting products that fit four mega-trends: Health & Wellness; Productivity, Efficiency & Precision; Global Flavors & Craft Preparation; and Community Responsibility.
Digging deeper as I walked the show floor, I spotted five emerging mini-trends.
1. The color purple
It seems the industry has agreed on purple as the universal color to identify allergen awareness. Several manufacturers are now producing cutting boards, rubber spatulas, tongs, storage bins and other equipment in purple to designate the items as being intended exclusively for contact with gluten-free or nut-free ingredients. One company even has an entire prep cart colored purple.
2. Slimmed down for smaller spaces
There’s nothing new about restaurant kitchens having smaller footprints. Over the past several years, large pieces such as combi ovens, warewashers and fryers have been downsized to fit in tighter spaces. Now makers of toasters, blenders, condiment dispensers and other smallwares have followed suit, narrowing the width of their products or arranging them in graduated tiers to maximize counter space.
3. The chef is in the oven
Many combi ovens come with touchpads that make cooking foolproof—an employee simply has to press the icon of a chicken or muffin and the job is done. Now one manufacturer’s combi oven comes with a Microsoft-compatible portal so a chef can upload a demo video and train staff right at the piece of equipment.
4. A customized cooking cart
Modular units may be mixed and matched to create a compact portable kitchen that can be used for display cooking or in the back of house. The newest pieces include induction burners, induction woks and induction griddles, with refrigerated drawers underneath.
5. It’s all in the technique
Multi-tasking equipment is still valued, especially for those small footprint kitchens where one versatile piece has to perform many functions. But trending at the show were robata grills, smokers, planchas and other specialized cooking gear that can differentiate a menu.