Opinion

How technology can transform the hotel kitchen

By Guy Cooper, managing director of Mitchell and Cooper

Like most industries, technological advancements have positively impacted many in the hospitality sector. Technology has provided businesses with the ability to navigate challenges such as no-contact food deliveries and check-ins throughout the pandemic, Brexit, staff shortages, and other disruptions, but with hotels facing further tests due to rising living and resource costs, you may be wondering whether similar tech could be extended to the kitchen. Here, I’ll explain a few ways in which new kitchen technology can benefit hotels.

Innovative technology and IoT kitchens

Internet of Things (IoT) technology utilises sensors to connect smart appliances in a kitchen, allowing them to be monitored and controlled via a central terminal such as an app. This technology allows for kitchen appliances to be remote controlled, but it can also be used by some appliances to automate the cooking process. 

Another innovative technology is multifunctional appliances. Multifunctional appliances are not only space-saving, since you need fewer appliances to do multiple jobs, but they can provide more food preparation options with fewer stages for example, food processors and appliances that can both prepare and cook meals, or dishwashers that wash and dry.

Automation in the kitchen also contributes towards multifunction, as with automated cooking you can perform multiple steps in one setting. This allows kitchen staff to spend more time on tasks that require a human touch, such as presentation.

Applications in hotels and hospitality

Factors such as food storage temperature and cooking efficiency can be monitored through the data gathered by IoT technology, so that any errors or issues that could impact the kitchen’s output can be quickly identified and corrected by the user. Similarly, it can allow for the optimisation of efficiency by scoping the data to find areas for improvement. 

Automation in food prep and cooking can help eliminate many problems that are caused by human error, such as timing mistakes that can lead food to be over or undercooked. Higher precision in cooking times plus ingredient measurements and food preparation techniques can not only help a kitchen to produce better quality food consistently, but also offer a wider range of dishes including those that are potentially above the staff’s skill level. 

In hospitality, margins can be slim. Though an additional expense upfront, the right tech can streamline processes and maximise the potential of stock, which can help free up more budget long-term. This information can also help chefs come up with menus and daily specials, plus make ordering new stock much easier, too, as some smart appliances may even do this for you.

Impact on customer experience and demand

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers, so being able to control and monitor kitchen appliances through a central device can improve food safety and energy efficiency through effective management of your inventory. Food waste can also be reduced as all inventory is accounted for and sell-by dates kept track of, which can improve the overall sustainability of the establishment. 

Appliances that can automate food preparation could be used to help increase menu offerings, prepare more impressive dishes, and allow kitchens to continue to provide consistently excellent food during busy periods or when a kitchen is short staffed. Spending on staff training could then be reduced, which in turn, could mean a higher budget for better quality ingredients.

With IoT technology becoming more sophisticated, chefs and kitchen managers are able to control more appliances from a single central device. Fridges, cookers, and even food prep equipment, can be monitored and activated through apps, or they can be set to a timer to switch on and off automatically. This ensures that disruptions such as glass or crockery shortages or missing ingredients can be avoided during peak service, and guests get their meals on time. 

Futureproofing 

As consumers want increasingly innovative ways to reduce carbon footprints and improve animal welfare, sustainability and environmental concerns are best headed off sooner rather than later. Depending on the menu, new inventions and technologies can replace old, inefficient practices and even provide more novel ways of doing things. Simply upgrading your appliances can have a marked improvement on your energy efficiency rating, and perhaps your food safety ratings, too. 

In the near future, technology may find new ways to improve offerings for customers with dietary requirements. This is another trend among guests that’s been picking up momentum, whether due to better understanding of illnesses such as coeliac disease, or changing attitudes towards vegan diets. Custom menus could be generated with ease by simply inputting the allergen or ingredient to be omitted, taking stock levels into account to produce recipes that can be replicated there and then.

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