The must-haves for modern restaurant kitchens are about much more than just technology. High real estate costs and government regulations are putting pressure on restaurants’ back-of-house areas to inhabit smaller footprints and be more environmentally conscious. At the same time, operators are looking to cut energy and labor costs. And consumers’ demand for customization is driving open, interactive plans. Here’s a look at the innovations that are shaping kitchen equipment and design.
1. Digitally controlled walk-in cooler
Modern walk-in refrigerators aim to have maximum storage capacity for the space they take up. Mounted control pads monitor defrost, fan and temperature functions for improved energy efficiency. The most up-to-date units also manage lighting and send door- ajar and temperature alerts to smartphones.
2. Smaller, cooler warewashers
Dish machines used to generate a lot of steam and heat, making it necessary to place them in a separate dish room. New ventless, heat-recovery warewashers recycle the steam, heating incoming cold water—a feature that saves energy and keeps the kitchen cooler.
Speedier, programmable dish machines mean fewer staff are needed.
3. Wearable technology
Chef coats and pants sport ports for ear buds and pockets for tablets and smartphones so staff can easily access orders, plating instructions and more. Apps on devices can be programmed to turn equipment on and off, regulate thermostats and expedite orders. Smartwatches will make it even more convenient to perform these tasks.
4. Back-of-house monitors
Prep stations are equipped with display monitors linked to the restaurant’s POS system or servers’ handheld devices. These relay orders, special requests and other information electronically, speeding service.
5. Cold prep stations
Refrigerated drawers slide out for easy access to perishables. Sink units can be dropped into work tables and frost-top surfaces—also called iceless fish stations—keep product cold and safe as it’s prepped.
A two-sided prep table conserves space and promotes collaboration.
6. Open plan
An extended peninsula can stand in for the traditional pass between kitchen and dining room. It doubles as an expediting area and chef’s table.
7. Drop-in induction cooktops
Single or multiburner induction units can be installed in countertops to fit any layout. The burners require magnetic cookware; with induction flat tops and planchas, the food can be placed directly on the surface. Induction cooking is designed to be energy-efficient, fast and consistent.
No longer is it necessary to flip a switch to activate exhaust fans. New demand-control ventilation systems—that sit in an enclosed unit anywhere in the kitchen—have built-in sensors that detect how much or how little exhaust is needed and adjust accordingly.
8. Cleaner, safer fryers
Electric fryers now come with self-contained recirculating exhaust hoods and built-in fire suppression so the fryer can be placed anywhere in the kitchen.
9. Hybrid broilers
Medium-capacity broilers that fit onto a compact countertop space now combine radiant broiling and convection technology. This saves energy and operating costs and improves cooking precision.
Touchpad technology and USB ports for flash drives give staff across all locations access to uniform, on-the-spot recipes and instructions.
10. Harder working combi ovens
Multitasking combi ovens perform the functions of a convection oven, kettle, steamer, fryer, smoker and dehydrator, all in one unit.
Integrated oil-filtration systems extract used cooking oil and funnel it through pipes to a tank outside, where trucks pick it up for recycling.