The Restaurant Show has long had a reputation for showcasing the latest innovations, this is particularly true when it comes to equipment. It’s one of the reasons the show has a dedicated Catering Equipment Expo. We spoke to some of this year’s exhibitors to find more out about emerging trends, industry challenges and the equipment and products that are making a difference.

Brilliant ideas for back-of-house

Neil Bradley - Chef, Founder and CEO at Food Safe Systems Ltd (Stand: UL49) thinks it’s time back-of-house caught up with front-of-house when it comes to tech, he told us: “All restaurant and food tech seems to stop at the kitchen door, we have new foods, and better, faster, healthier ways to produce food and get it to the kitchen and plenty of FOH, customer facing technology to encourage more customers, serve them quicker and make payment easier. Yet the kitchen has been largely ignored, partly because, I believe, that few people, certainly no tech people, understand either the challenges of the professional kitchen or the environment in which any solution must operate.”

However, this is set to change, Neil Bradley told us more: “The new generation of chefs are a lot more tech savvy and expect technology to replace the tasks they see little value in, to allow them to focus on their main job, save them time and help them improve their own skills. Food Safe System is our first step in this process, digitising and automating paper-based activities so as to reduce time required to be spent on them while simultaneously improving the process through the use of mobile, wireless sensor and cloud technologies, with each element optimised for the chef and owner/manager.”

Back-of-house investment can really be well worth it as Mailys Robillard - Marketing Coordinator at Robot Coupe UK Ltd (Stand: GK49) explained: “Investing in catering equipment fit for purpose can achieve substantial cost savings in a kitchen. Food preparation has traditionally been done by chefs, yet it doesn’t have to be a chef operating a vegetable preparation machine for example in a kitchen. A perfect cut can be achieved every time using a machine with the required blade in a very short time compared to preparing by hand. As a case study a national pub dining chain invested in Robot Coupe CL20 veg prep machines just for slicing tomatoes and onions and they showed labour savings of 3 hours per day per site giving annual savings per site of over £7,000. Previous to investing in RC machines the chain was buying in pre-prepared vegetables and were suffering wastage. This has also been substantially reduced. In effect the investment in the machine was paid off after one month.”

But what about when back-of-house becomes front-of-house, with the rise of theatre style kitchens in restaurants today? Williams Refrigeration (Stand: UE49) have an innovative solution. Martin Laws of the company told us more: “Customisation is becoming a vital part of both a kitchen and front of house operation. For refrigeration, traditionally this was all about improving functionality so that the equipment met the site’s specific needs. But with the increase in front of house and theatre style kitchens, restaurateurs are keen to change the look of equipment too, so that it fits in with their décor and style. How to change the aesthetics of a stainless-steel box? Well, you could try turning it into a work of art, or giving it a leopard skin print exterior, or transforming it into a red telephone box. Some refrigeration manufacturers now offer fridge customisation using a food-safe vinyl wrapping, such as our Chameleon service. It makes it possible to bring any design or colour to life on almost all of our refrigeration units. It means that no matter the décor or environment in which it’ll be used, your fridge can make an eye-catching statement and add ‘wow’ to the venue.”

Problem solving

True innovation always helps solve a problem, whether that’s a small issue or huge challenge. Often it is the little issues that add up to be big problems though, as Andy O’Donnell of FLAT Technologies Ltd (Stand: GK02) told us: “Wobbly tables have plagued the industry forever. Not only do they upset customers, but an incredible amount of time is spent in restaurants (re)adjusting screw in feet, propping tables up with unsightly napkins or wedges and of course dealing with resulting customer complaints. Often these remedial fixes are ‘un-done’ within minutes once the table moves slightly.”

He told us about his company’s solution: “FLAT table bases and FLAT Equalizers eliminate the problem of wobbly tables using innovative hydraulic technology. FLAT table bases stabilise automatically whereas FLAT Equalizers can be added to existing tables and stabilise the table with a gentle press on the table top.”

Wastage concerns when it comes to wine and champagne by the glass is another example of a little issue that can really add up. New technology from The Bermar Collection (Stand: GF31) can help solve this, Lucy Worrall - Marketing Executive told us more: “The current trend in wine by the glass consumption is ‘premiumisation’; drinking better quality wines and spending more per glass. Increasingly savvy customers are looking for new, exciting tasting opportunities but demand that wine is served in perfect condition. Our innovative collection of Le Verre de Vin systems enable operators to deliver a ‘freshness guarantee’ with every glass they serve.”

No show bookings have traditionally always presented a big problem for the industry, Gary Hall told us how the software from ResDiary (Stand: GJ30) is working to reduce this: “ResDiary gives you the tools to call unconfirmed bookings, send reminders, block no-shows, and much more. We can’t stop everyone from no-showing, but we can help with features like deposits, ticketing, and storing card details to charge the card if someone fails to turn up.”

Data, IoT and the Cloud

You can’t have escaped hearing about the importance of data when it comes to success in business and the hospitality sector is no exception. The team at NFS Technology Group (Stand: GM39) explained how new software is empowering operators with data: “Aloha from NFS is the complete EPOS restaurant management system, giving restaurant managers and owners – even on multiple locations – an end-to-end view of the business that helps inform decisions, cut costs and promote growth. The software captures data that shows which dishes are selling well, and even forecasts trends, so it helps restaurateurs control stock effectively and reduce food waste.”

Helen McMillan Director of Online Commerce at Zonal Retail Data Systems (Stand: GK10) was also keen to point out the vital role of data in the industry: “Access to real time data on purchase volumes, stock levels, pricing and margins, together with full visibility of supplier activity and the ability to control the purchasing of every outlet that will give operators the ability to make the incisive decisions needed to achieve these cumulative gains. When consistently implemented, I have seen improvements on margins ranging from 3 to 8%.”

You may also have heard about the rise of the Internet of Things, where everyday equipment and objects are able to send and receive data. Together with Cloud-based technology, this presents exciting possibilities for the hospitality industry, James Lomas - Marketing Director at AccentPOS (Stand: GN39) told us more: “Upcoming products which are having an impact on the market include IOT products which help to monitor internal metrics such as temperatures and energy usage, whilst intuitive automated security systems look after your premises; all of which are connected directly to your chosen smart device.”

This kind of technology has cost saving benefits for operators, James Lomas continued: “Cloud-based iPad POS solutions such as AccentPOS offer reliable software which is regularly updated, unlike legacy POS solutions which incur costly upkeep expenses. Pair this with a low initial cost for hardware and an all-in-one solution which combines multiple of your current outgoings into one monthly payment leaves you with an average monthly saving of 11%.”

Revolutionary tech

All of this new technology is really starting to make a difference to new and existing options available to operators. Pino Guerrieri of LABWARE SpA (Stand: GJ48) told us what it means for handheld ordering devices: “Handheld ordering systems have been around for years, but while their appeal in terms of versatility and mobility compared to traditional terminals and POS systems have always been evident, they have presented major problems of performance. Hospitality professionals need handheld devices to have more and more functions, with faster data processing, stronger and reliable wireless connectivity, all this while being small, robust and with an endless battery life. Combining performance, reliability and power consumption is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to restaurant wireless ordering devices. To meet this challenge Labware has created Papirus, introducing new capabilities into professional hospitality handhelds in terms of strength, efficiency and battery life.”

Also revolutionising the handheld ordering market is Tevalis Ltd (Stand: GH10), Samantha Weller of the company explained: “Tevalis have redeveloped handheld ordering technology this year to offer something completely new. A seamless application like no other, our Handheld Ordering application has been given the name TevX for a good reason. ‘Tevalis Express’ is a fast, reliable, money saving piece of tech which has been designed to maximise on efficiency. Through simple, minimised data input, operators can expect accurate orders to be taken in minutes alongside minimising the possibilities of incorrect orders and therefore keeping wastage down and profits up!”

We couldn’t conclude this discussion of innovation without some final thoughts on automation and virtual reality, we asked Victor Davies of Lightspeed ePOS (Stand: GE29) for his views:
“There are many innovative products currently disrupting the hospitality market, such as augmented and virtual reality technology that offer a detailed visual representation of the real work and dining
environments. These developments help restaurants improve training and retention. In addition to this, we are seeing more variety in payment options, greener menus and the automation of inventory tracking and purchasing that centralise all operations under one platform. It's never been more important to demonstrate quality, transparency and engagement in hospitality. Technology has fast become the key ingredient for success in the modern food service industry. Simply having good food is no longer enough for restaurants that look to thrive in such a competitive hospitality market.”

Register now to see these innovations and many more all under one roof at The Restaurant Show. 

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