Don’t be afraid of no ghost kitchens

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How multifunctional appliances can help restaurants adapt to new business models

As businesses continue to adapt to the changes forced on them by the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many are considering what multifunctional appliances like those from Rational can do to streamline their procedures.

Even before lockdown measures were introduced, delivery and takeaway were becoming increasingly important to many restaurants. Lockdown has accelerated this trend, along with others like the rise of ghost kitchens, also known as dark, virtual or delivery-only kitchens. These are centralised production facilities which can produce the menus from a range of businesses for delivery, to both the consumer and, in some cases, the restaurant itself.

 With many high street foodservice businesses now operating as hybrids of traditional restaurants and non-public facing production kitchens, they are having to adapt their working processes to accommodate both in-house diners and an increased demand for home delivery. Stephan Leuschner, Rational’s highly experienced international director of key accounts, estimates that by 2022 half the turnover of traditional restaurants will come from delivery and food-to-go, with the ghost kitchen market reaching a value of $1 trillion by 2030. “Operators looking to adapt to these changes will be able to draw valuable lessons from how ghost kitchens operate,” he says.

The benefits of multifunctional 

The primary consideration should be to optimise the available kitchen space. Preparing food for delivery requires more processes than dining in, and consequently space to operate effectively. Most importantly, there needs to be a dedicated area for packaging and collection. Replacing the traditional cookline with modern multifunctional appliances frees up space in the kitchen, which can then be used to create separate, hygienic areas for meal preparation and packing. Multifunctional appliances such as the Rational iCombi Pro combi-steamer and the iVario multifunctional cooking system can save up to 40% of kitchen space and also increase the overall productivity of the kitchen, with no reduction in quality.

For example, Rational’s iCombi Pro has a footprint of less than one metre squared.  Its four intelligent functions monitor and control every aspect of its operation, allowing different meals to be cooked together with perfect results every time. Chefs can even change their mind and adjust the desired results during the cooking process.

Similarly the iVario, which uses contact heat, allows unprecedented control over the heat distribution in its pans making it simple to cook diverse foods at the same time, in the same pan, without compromising on results. Meanwhile the ultra-fast cleaning on the iVario and the automatic intermediate cleaning program on the iCombi, which takes just 12 minutes, help maximise productivity by keeping idle time down to the bare minimum.

 The ability to program a range of meals to meet precise requirements means that Rational equipment can be operated by staff with a range of skills. The cooking process is started with a touch of a button and runs automatically, the iCombi Pro and iVario only report when there is a need for action. In this way error rates and waste are extremely low, regardless of who is operating the cooking system. This also makes it easy to integrate new units into an existing setup, by copying existing programs onto the new equipment. And by ensuring standardized, consistent results, operators can be sure they are keeping their customers happy.  

Virtual brands

One of the main features of ghost kitchens is the production of menus from a range of restaurants in one space. This is something that Stephan thinks many restaurants could learn from. “By creating or acquiring different virtual brands, businesses can diversify their offering, and increase their potential customers,” says Leuschner. “Multifunctional appliances like those from Rational allow smaller restaurants to introduce procedures that help them to compete with larger ghost kitchen facilities. They can easily offer curries, burgers and pizza, at the same time.

“The advantages of being able to produce more food with less equipment should be immediately obvious to many businesses as they step up to meet the increased demand of delivery and food to go,” says Leuschner.

“The consistency of the results that Rational achieves will also help meet the expectations of quality that customers have, too.”

Rational’s Ghost Kitchens Webinar

Rational is launching a new online series in February called Trend Talk, taking an in-depth look at ghost kitchens. Trend Talks will involve a series of webinars and online discussions covering every aspect of operating a ghost kitchen, including the opportunities they present operators in the wake of the pandemic and the resulting lockdown. 

The first Trend Talk is on Wednesday 24 February and will feature top class speakers discussing the opportunities presented by ghost kitchens, and how to design the right kitchen set-up as well as presenting new food concepts. Further online talks will take place regularly throughout 2021.  

For more information and free registration for the event on the 24 February please visit www.rational-online.com/ghost-kitchen-talk/

About Rational: 

Rational is the leading provider in hot food preparation equipment and, with the iCombi Pro and the iVario multifunctional cooking system, the company delivers 95% of all conventional cooking applications. Rational’s ConnectedCooking allows operators to monitor, manage and update their Rational appliances remotely, from a PC, tablet or smartphone. iKitchen is the combination of the iCombi Pro, iVario Pro and ConnectedCooking – iKitchen delivers the best kitchen management and the best cooking solutions.  

For information and brochures, or to find out about free Rational Live online demonstrations, call +44 (0)1582 480388, freephone 0800 389 2944 or visit www.rational-online.com