March 05, 2020 | Foodservice Industry
2019 brought innovations in conscious food choices, third-party delivery apps, sustainable products, low-alcohol adult beverages, and more. 2020 promises to yield even more innovation in the foodservice industry, as well as a return to a few classics from the past.
Single-use plastic is a hot-button issue. More and more consumers are turning away from plastic cups, straws, containers, and plastic wrap, and embracing alternatives made of glass, beeswax, bamboo, and even hay. Some of these products are filtering from consumer households into the foodservice industry, and many restaurants are embracing the change to starch-based plastics and other compostable alternatives. Many of them perform just as well as their regular plastic counterparts, without the negative ecological impact. They are renewable and break down easily in the proper composting environment.
Maintaining indoor air quality in a kitchen is a huge challenge — how do you keep foodservice workers cool, and prevent grease from accumulating? Traditionally, the answer was a vent hood. Unfortunately, some locations and kitchen layouts have very limited options for ventilation.
Enter the ventless hood system. These systems help circulate air and catch grease, even without access to an outside vent. This makes them an ideal option for locations that don't support standard vented hoods, and virtually indispensable for small, mobile kitchens or those set up in historic buildings.
Kitchens are becoming more than strictly the back-of-house. More and more designs incorporate an open concept, giving customers a full view of the food prep area. Alongside this trend, appliance manufacturers are designing commercial food prep equipment that's meant to be seen. New designs are sleek, modern, and aesthetically pleasing, with features like transparent windows. These windows give customers a view of cooking food, including them in the process and adding to the restaurant's atmosphere.
As consumers become more conscious and selective about the foods they eat, the push toward fresh, local, plant-based foods just gets stronger. Green growing cabinets — from companies like Farmshelf — give restaurants a way to provide their guests with exactly what they want: fresh, local, organic greens. Green growing cabinets are effectively indoor gardens, coupling grow lights and auto-waterers with trays that allow kitchens to produce their own micro-greens. They work all year long, regardless of the climate or weather, ensuring a steady supply of quality vegetables.
A lot of the tasks required of kitchen staff are tedious, and designers are beginning to realize that they don't need a human to do them. Instead, automated equipment is taking over a lot of the riskiest and repetitive tasks. It saves workers from injuries, while freeing them up for more demanding, creative work. This equipment also helps save space, since fewer employees are needed to keep up with the pace of a busy kitchen. Automated fryers, for example, can spare employees from the risk of burns, while improving oil quality, extending oil life, and producing better food with greater consistency.
Inefficient equipment is the bane of the foodservice industry. Appliances that take up too much space and only perform a few tasks can be a serious drain on energy and space. New multi-function stackable and countertop-sized devices are filling in the gaps, allowing commercial kitchens of any size to function at their best. Stackable appliances and "cook and hold" ovens help keep commercial kitchens streamlined while freeing up space for essentials.
Composting saves landfill space and produces valuable fertilizer. On-site composting is an easy way for foodservice businesses to operate in a more sustainable fashion while providing added value to the local community. By pairing the composting of food waste with biodegradable plates, compostable trash liners, and biodegradable takeout containers, restaurants can further reduce their environmental impact and improve their perception among ecologically minded customers.
Guests aren't just concerned about consuming high-quality food — they also want clean, palatable water. In some municipal areas, the water supply is anything but. Even if it's safe to drink, it might still have a lingering metallic or chlorine taste. This doesn't just taste unpleasant out of the tap; it can negatively impact the quality of the dishes it's used in. Multi-step water dispensers use a reverse osmosis process to produce clean, high-quality water for cooking and drinking.
As old appliances reach the point where they need repair, more and more foodservice business owners are choosing to invest in new, energy-saving smart appliances instead. Kitchens demand massive amounts of electricity — the bulk of a restaurant's ongoing expenses can be taken up by power alone. Coupled with government regulations on power consumption in commercial operations, restaurant owners are flocking to new, more efficient equipment.
As rent prices increase, more restaurants open in non-traditional locations, and customers continue to make conscious choices about the foods they eat, designers are innovating across all areas of foodservice. From appliances designed to take up less space, to labor-saving automation, to sustainable measures like green growing cabinets, on-site composting, and compostable disposables, there are more options than ever to help restaurants meet the needs of a demanding market.