Back to the future: Look inside tomorrow’s restaurant kitchens

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.

Today's top stories

1
The Tijuana Flats fast-casual Tex-Mex chain is adding a family meal kit as a delivery option available from all 130 of its branches starting Monday. The $31.99 kit consists of a taco bar in portable...
2
The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and The Brass Tap casual-dining chains have been sold by Levine Leichtman Capital Partners to another private-equity firm, CapitalSpring. Terms were not disclosed. The buyer,...
3
As operators look for more ways to diversify revenue streams, getting into packaged goods via in-store merchandise or licensing can be an appealing option. Because restaurants are not necessarily set...
4
Providing exclusive consumer trends and insights to enhance your marketing strategy. Powered by Technomic . “Technomic is a Chicago-based consulting and research firm providing a 360° view of the...
5
Sometime in the past, the editor of Drive-In Theater Business probably stared at a blank sheet in the typewriter and wondered what he’d say about the industry in his next column. Possible topics...
6
In my late 20s, there was a wedding boom. It felt like every other weekend, my friends and I were going out to a bar to toast another newly engaged couple over fancy margaritas, smoky Manhattans or...
7
Chipotle has closed its restaurant in Sterling, Va., after at least a dozen people say they were stricken with flu-like symptoms after eating there. The chain is aware of “a small number of reported...
8
Chef Bobby Flay’s 17-unit fast-casual chain is using a little-known securities option for small-to-midsized businesses to sell an undisclosed stake to the public for $15 million. The so-called mini-...
9
Chick-fil-A began testing packaged takeout meals yesterday in the chicken chain’s latest effort to bolster both off-premise and family traffic. The brand is calling the four-meal packages “meal kits...
10
In a food-obsessed city such as Portland, Ore., chef Gabriel Pascuzzi saw a niche he could fill. He wasn’t overly impressed by the sandwich scene, and he observed the crowds lined up at other chef-...