For Bas, there’s more to a kitchen than appliances alone. A bold statement from someone who works at a leading producer of kitchen equipment. “There’s two ways to look at it, really”, he smiles. “There’s the physical kitchen, and there’s the kitchen as a concept.” In the past few years, which have been particularly tough for the foodservice industry, Bas has seen kitchen ownership shift: formulas are on the rise, operators are consolidating, and big investment companies are joining the game. Add to that the staff shortage, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a strong focus on speed and repeatability in the kitchen. But how is it influencing innovation?
Bas van Montfoort
As the general manager of Electrolux Professional Benelux, Bas knows his way around the professional kitchen. The heart of foodservice businesses across the globe is becoming increasingly standardised.
Quality served quickly
“When you break it down, everything in the kitchen comes down to heating up, cooling down or making wet”, Bas begins. “Appliances like the combi steamer combine those functions, but I feel innovation should be approached from another angle.” Bas is referring to optimising operations. “Speed may well be our number one focus”, Bas says thoughtfully. “We see a lot of chefs saving time by preparing dishes in advance, either themselves or by an independent kitchen. Speed can also be achieved with fool-proof machines, as simplicity helps speed up learning curves. Third, we invest in connectivity, which speeds up lots of processes that used to require specialised mechanics and technicians. Nowadays, our equipment can be reprogrammed for an entire business chain at the push of a button. And when a machine malfunctions, it can be accessed remotely to detect the problem, after which an off-site mechanic will generally be able to guide operators through the repair process.”
The kitchen of the future
So, what about robotic equipment or futuristic features? “I feel that adding features should really add value”, Bas says. “It should improve processes or quality in your kitchen in an easy way. A kitchen that can send you notifications, for instance, adds an extra layer of useful information, so that’s something we’re working on closely in addition to improving speed.”
On the other hand, Bas has identified another, entirely opposite trend: going back to basics. “It’s very different from what we’re doing, but fire often makes for a great experience”, Bas explains. “It shows there’s always a countermovement, as modern appliances are metal boxes that give you absolute control. It also goes to show that you don’t need a million features to create something special.” He laughs. “I still like my fries best when they come from a fryer!”
Make your kitchen a great place to work
The main thing to invest in, according to Bas? A kitchen people want to work in. “Whether you’re a big or a small company, make your kitchen a great place to work! Nobody wants to work in a hot, dark basement. Thoughtful design and a real focus on usability can fundamentally improve people’s working life.” Bas gives an example of how they worked with chefs to develop a door handle that you can open with your elbow. “In all honesty, it’s nice to have a collection of quality appliances that work in a similar fashion and are easy to understand, but it’s things like a good kitchen layout, effective ventilation, or great ergonomics that make all the difference!”.