Cooking at the Touch of a Button

How technology is simplifying foodservice training
Photograph: Shutterstock

CHICAGO — With rapid labor turnover and often unskilled workers in the convenience-store industry, it’s important that equipment be easy to operate.

Much of it these days “is more a computer than an oven,” said Ed Burcher, who is based in Oakville, Ontario, andpartner in The Business Accelerator Team. “Employees are trained as much on technology as food. So for operators, there’s less effort on the training side and more time to focus on hospitality.”

Related: Cooking Up a Smart Kitchen

Cooking with Rational’s combi ovens is as much about knowing how to program the unit as preparing the product, says Steve Snitkin, director of client development, supermarket/convenience segment at Rational, Chicago. “Using combi technology helps the midlevel cook ensure the food quality is better, and having set cooking processes is key to consistency,” he said. “For the brand recognition, you want the food to be the same wherever you go.”

Merrychef’s speed ovens feature icons on their outside, so employees can cook food with the touch of a button. “[It’s] easy, quick, with no skilled labor needed,” says Brian Holdrich, vice president, sales and marketing, Americas, Welbilt, New Port Richey, Fla. “For customers, it’s just as important to know what you’re going to get as the quality of the food that comes out of these ovens.”

Alto-Shaam’s Vector ovens can be preprogrammed at the manufacturer’s factory. “We work with the end-user to determine what settings they’d like,” says Leslie Hoffman Banados, vice president of national accounts, foodservice, Alto-Shaam, Menomonee Falls, Wis. “You can program, and when it’s installed it’s literally plug and play.” This is ideal for c-stores, she says, where there is a lot of employee turnover. Certain employees can even be locked out of using the oven completely.

Retailer GetGo, the c-store unit of Giant Eagle, now makes any changes to its ovens from its headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa. Before the ovens offered internet of things connectivity via WiFi, says Jon Cox, vice president and chief merchandising officer, “it was really time-consuming and the chance for error was great.”

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