Foodservice operators face a host of challenges today, and with ever-tightening profit margins a constant threat, it’s critical to be able to serve their guests as quickly as possible. On one hand, few things turn off potential lunch or dinner customers than slow service times. On the other, the ability to serve even a few more customers during those critical meal periods can spell the difference between a successful operation and one that’s forced to shut its doors.
Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant kitchen during peak meal periods knows how stressful it can be. Adopting a cook and chill system can not only help reduce that stress but speed up service and help address labor issues as well.
Challenges Facing Today’s Restaurant Industry
There’s never been a more difficult time for the restaurant industry than the present. Foremost among the challenges facing foodservice operators is labor, with food costs, space limitations, and ever-changing customer tastes following close behind.
For most operators, a complicated menu featuring a host of dishes prepared from scratch simply isn’t feasible. Some dishes, including soups, beans, and sauces, need to be prepared in bulk and take much longer than most restaurant guests care to spend dining. And with speed, consistency, and quality the core to the success of many restaurant brands, preparing dishes from scratch during a busy meal period can be a recipe for disaster.
Implementing a cook-chill system can help address all of those issues and more.
Challenges of Traditional Commercial Kitchen Equipment
Although a cook-chill system can help simplify restaurant operations, not any kitchen equipment will do. Some items need to be baked, while others need to be steamed. Still, others need to be grilled, while some need to be roasted. That’s before items need to be chilled, rethermed, and held for service.
Purchasing a separate piece of equipment for each of these tasks is not only expensive, but there’s a good chance that outfitting a kitchen with a variety of ovens, chillers, warmers, and so forth will leave little room for the people who will be preparing the food.
The Alto-Shaam Cook-Chill System
Consider a restaurant that features steak or chicken tacos prominently on its menu, with rice and beans on the side. The restaurant is located near an office park and does the bulk of its business between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Most of its customers have an hour or less for lunch, so the speed of service is imperative. And like most restaurants, staffing remains a challenge.
By leveraging a variety of Alto-Shaam restaurant equipment, beans and rice can be prepared once or twice a week, chilled, and rethermed as needed. Instead of trying to cook steak or chicken during the lunch rush, those items can be prepared early in the morning or even the night before. Enough rethermed product to cover lunch service can be placed in a holding oven just before opening, so when the doors open the kitchen is ready to handle those hungry customers.
Combitherm® Combi Ovens
The first stop for food in a Cook-Chill System is the oven. Unlike traditional commercial ovens, a combi oven, or Combitherm oven, combines multiple cooking functions into a single appliance to produce the highest quality food. Alto-Shaam’s combi ovens can be used to prepare large amounts of foods to an almost-done state, while their programmable recipes guarantee food consistency no matter who is cooking.
QuickChiller Blast Chiller
Anyone who’s spent time in the restaurant industry knows how critical it is to minimize the amount of time food spends in the “danger zone” between 135° and 41°. Alto-Shaam’s QuickChiller blast chiller systems are designed to rapidly and uniformly decrease the temperature of hot foods well within HACCP and FDA requirements. Blast chillers chill food faster than other methods, and the rapid air-cooling process chills food while creating smaller ice crystals than a normal freezer. This approach minimizes flavor loss that occurs during evaporation. The smaller the ice crystals are in food, the less damage there is to the product when it’s time to refresh for service.
Heated Holding Cabinet with Halo Heat Technology
After refreshing food in the Combitherm oven, holding equipment is just as crucial to ensuring quality and consistency. Keeping food that has been cooked to perfection hot until the moment it is served demands the precision of Alto-Shaam’s Halo Heat® technology. Gentle, radiant heat evenly surrounds food without the use of extremely hot elements, added humidity, or fans. And unlike traditional heated holding or low-temperature cooking technologies, temperatures created by Halo Heat technology don’t fluctuate to extremes.
With controlled temperatures and a closed environment free from forced air and added humidity, food is kept warm and flavorful, just as intended. Alto-Shaam offers a range of heated holding solutions that utilize gentle, radiant Halo Heat.
The Benefits of The Alto-Shaam Cook-Chill System
Implementing Alto-Shaam’s cook-chill system offers several benefits for busy restaurant operators. Production times and requirements can be reduced by producing food up to five days in advance, freezing it, and rethermalizing based upon demand.
Because many items can be prepared in advance and stored until needed, confusion and crowding in the kitchen during busy meal periods can be minimized. Advanced preparation offers flexibility, taking stress out of the cooking process and improving morale for your team. Alto-Shaam’s equipment features programming functions that make it easy to produce outstanding results, so quality is consistent and waste is kept to a minimum. And because the bulk of the prep can be done during slow periods or before the restaurant opens, mealtimes run smoothly and with a minimum of kitchen personnel.
The foodservice industry has changed dramatically over the past few years, and running a profitable operation requires a new approach. Incorporating a Cook-Chill System just might be the approach that’s needed.
Want to learn more? Contact the experts at Alto-Shaam!