Versatility and quality: The kitchen of the future
Versatility and quality: The kitchen of the future5 minutes
For years, industries have discussed the ways in which technology is changing the world. Then, in March 2020, Covid-19 redefined what it meant to be "disruptive." Throughout it all, the food service industry pushed forward, utilizing emerging technologies to produce innovative offerings while prioritizing the health and safety of both their workers and customers.
Now, as people return to a life that more closely resembles the times before March 2020, the industry is continuing to evolve, leveraging technology to address new and old challenges alike: labor shortages, supply chain issues, food safety recalls and more. Trends from ghost kitchens to versatile menu ingredients that can reduce food cost are driving the industry to new and exciting places. The question is: How can leaders of the industry get the most of these trends?
Dining spaces disappear as restaurants go virtual
Ghost kitchens – commercial kitchens without a dining space attached – are a growing trend that has received a fair amount of attention over the past year as the pandemic shut down dining rooms across North America. Facilitated by a rise in online ordering, ghost kitchens offer an innovative, contactless solution by merging online ordering and delivery (or curbside pickup). Their emerging popularity prior to 2020 suggests great potential for future growth as the industry addresses a new set of challenges.
Ghost kitchens have the ability to reduce overhead costs in several ways. First, they enable restaurants to operate with fewer employees, as there is no waitstaff required. Locations utilizing online ordering or self-service kiosks can use these technologies to streamline processes for greater efficiency. And ghost kitchens can reduce a restaurant’s footprint by eliminating the need for a sit-down dining space.
The ghost kitchen concept is not new to restaurants in areas with high real estate prices, such as New York City. When opening his renowned vegetarian burger spot, Superiority Burger, in 2015, chef and founder Brooks Headley saw the take-out counter model as an essential way to cut costs so his restaurant can offer quality ingredients at reasonable prices.
"Accessibility is really important to me," Headley told Believer Magazine. "It's really crucial that I sell things as cheaply as possible."
Of course, finding operational success in tight spaces can be its own challenge. As restaurants across North America seek to reduce costs, they’re looking for innovative technologies that can help them make the most of limited space, such as compact and stackable kitchen appliances. While this very simple business principle - making more while using less - is driving technological innovation, restaurants are also reducing food waste by making the most of their basic ingredients.
Menus expand as customers demand variety
As delivery continues to grow in popularity among consumers, many restaurant owners are looking for creative ways to meet a growing demand for more options. People ordering delivery for a group may find it cumbersome – not to mention expensive – to order from multiple locations in an effort to meet everyone’s needs and preferences.
By moving from a traditional, brick-and-mortar dining experience to a digital-first one, kitchens can provide customers with a wide variety of food options in the form of a virtual food hall. To gain the most from this exciting possibility, however, kitchens will need to reexamine their processes, ingredients, and the tools they use to prepare their meals.
One solution for kitchens has been to focus on basic, versatile ingredients that can be utilized in a myriad of recipes. Take, for instance, pulled pork. Using BBQ sauce, this protein can be the center of a pulled pork sandwich; seasoned with chili and cumin, the same pulled pork can be the base of a carnitas offering. By using the same protein for both dishes, the kitchen becomes more efficient by minimizing prep time.
Versatile, easy-to-use kitchen tools – especially those with a small footprint – can also open up new possibilities for kitchens looking to get creative and innovate their menu offerings. Technologies that combine modern microwave and broiling solutions in a single device enable kitchens to create new and exciting choices for their customers without increasing the need for space or labor.
Speedier cooking – without sacrificing food quality
Everyone has had the microwave meal that seems to change its temperature with every bite. It’s never the desired effect, but there are moments in life where we all feel the need to sacrifice quality for time.
While this may be an acceptable sacrifice in our busy personal lives, it’s simply not an option in a commercial kitchen where quality and customer satisfaction are paramount. For that reason, many restaurants are hesitant to utilize microwave technology, which traditionally does not produce consistent results.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right microwave technology, commercial kitchens can produce high quality meals that are perfectly cooked every time. What many don’t realize is that, when a typical microwave is used at 50% power, it’s actually operating at 100% power half of the time – hence the phrase “zap it in the microwave.” Inverter microwave technology addresses this issue by allowing for continuous output throughout the duration of cooking, so you’re actually getting 50% power the whole time. This prepares meals quickly, as you might expect from a microwave, while also heating evenly.
Innovation for today and tomorrow
Throughout its history, the restaurant industry has proven itself to be a champion of innovation with its ability to not just meet, but exceed and set customer expectations. The unparalleled challenges of 2020 required the industry to build on this agility more than ever before. As parts of the world begin to reopen, restaurants - and their kitchens - are preparing to face new challenges and create the experiences of the future.
But they don’t have to go it alone. At Panasonic, we’re working persistently to develop new technology solutions to meet the ever-evolving needs of the restaurant and food service industry - often in direct collaboration with business leaders and innovators in this space.
Click here to learn more about Panasonic’s versatile, powerful and compact kitchen appliances, which are helping restaurant owners surpass the expectations and demands of their customers.