by Jay Kitterman, consultant, Culinary Institute, Lincoln Land Community College
It’s May, and normally I would be attending the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. Previous trips to the show were associated with my varied career roles including hotel management, owning a restaurant, and for the past 25 years with the hospitality and culinary programs at Lincoln Land Community College.
It has been a great learning experience for the students that accompanied us. For many, it was their first time to the big city. Two highlights I remember were when the students saw restaurateur and food celebrity Rick Bayless or the time that Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme almost ran us over on his golf cart. A major highlight was the year that the late Charley Trotter invited us to dine at his iconic restaurant. One student sitting next to me, became very nervous when the server kept moving his silverware.
In brief, the show attracts around 60,000 people from all over the world and has 70,000 square feet of exhibit space. Anything a restaurant needs from toothpicks to food trucks is there with ample food and drink to sample. One of my favorites, being from Chicago, is the Vienna booth where I traditionally line up early for my all-beef hot dog on poppy seed bun with green relish, celery salt,and sport peppers: of course, no ketchup, just yellow mustard. The show was cancelled in 2020 and again this year because of the pandemic. My article today is devoted to new technology that would have been on exhibit.
Springfield’s own BUNN-O-Matic Corporation (BUNN) is a dispensed beverage equipment manufacturer. The company’s home coffeemakers are widely used but the company’s primary customers are commercial foodservice providers worldwide.
Traditionally located in the middle of one of the main exhibit areas is the very impressive BUNN exhibit. I try to time my visit for early afternoon and they kindly store my swag bag filled with spatulas and Edward Don measuring glasses so I can start a new one. I recently asked Desiree Logsdon, Senior Vice President of Corporate Citizenship, what was new at BUNN.
The BUNN Sure Immersion is a commercial bean-to-cup machine that grinds and brews fresh coffee one cup at time. The vibrant touch screen on the unit offers the user a wide selection of one-cup-at a-time selections, both iced and hot. Fresh coffee beans are stored in three separate hoppers that are fed into the grinder before brewing and dispensing. The machine features VirtualTOUCH™, a touchless approach to select and dispense your beverage using prompts from a personal smartphone and easy, step-by-step instructions. By scanning a QR code on the face of the machine, your smart device will mirror the full menu on the Sure Immersion screen. Follow the prompts on the phone and watch the entire process unfold. This equipment is used by convenience stores, coffee shops, restaurants, workplaces and is coming soon to the Pease’s at BUNN Gourmet store in the Gables. https://commercial.bunn.com/new-from-bunn/sure-immersion
The Hobart Corporation in Ohio is another “gold standard” food service company and has been around since 1897. They are famous for their grocery and commercial equipment primarily for cutting, slicing, mixing, cooking equipment, refrigeration units, ware washing and waste disposal systems. This past year they received a technology award for their new two-level, door-type dish machine. The machine has an upper chamber where the operator lifts a door and inserts racks of dirty dishes and a lower chamber for pots, pans and other items. Labor and utility costs are major for restaurants especially. This machine efficiently reduces water usage and pre-scraping labor time. The coolest part is that even dishwashing has gone “Smart.” There is built in Wi-Fi that connects to a new APP on a manager or owner’s phone with information on sanitation, tracks machine usage, product consumption, analyzes water, and will email you with any operational problems. For the operator there is a large friendly touchscreen making the machine easy to operate. https://www.epikitchen.com/new-products/hobart-am16-dishmachine
Scheduled to hit the market later this year or early 2022 is the ColdSnap System. Think Keurig (or BUNN single serve), but instead of making your daily coffee, the ColdSnap makes frozen desserts without the mess of traditional ice cream makers: yes, ice cream, margaritas, daiquiris and even smoothies. Potential locations for the machine are convenience stores, car dealerships, break rooms, colleges and health care facilities. There is no special installation; just plug it in. The initial cost of the machine will be around $1,000, and the individual recyclable aluminum pods in the $2.99 to $4.99 neighborhood. The machine produces the single servings in around two minutes. I offered to be a test site and am waiting for their reply. Their claim is that the ColdSnap will make “frozen confections with smaller ice crystals than store-bought products, and the final product will be creamier than traditional ice cream that undertakes a deep freeze. Watch their video or for more information, visit their site at https://coldsnap.com/.
And, as my Monty Python loving son would say, “Now for something completely different.” If you are reading my article on your computer or are near a computer, I suggest you go to https://www.hellopicnic.com/ and click on “Watch Video.” Make sure your volume is set (calming music is played) and set picture at full screen. You will watch the future of pizza making. First introduced in 2019, the Picnic Pizza System is more than just a machine. It is a modular automated pizza system that works with your own dough with precise amounts of sauce, cheese, meats and veggies. It is designed to reduce labor (one person can operate), ensure consistency, reduce food waste and is very hygienic. The System is individually customized for each pizza with an iPad and even tracks ingredients and predicts inventory needs. It was designed for large pizzerias, convenience stores, schools, hotels, sports venues and healthcare facilities. I asked company Vice President Clayton Devaney if they were planning a home model and his response was, “A very avid pizza eater might enjoy having it in their home but at 100 pizzas an hour they would have to be very hungry. “
My thanks to Desi, Greg and Brandi at BUNN, Jerry at Hobart, Rob at ColdSnap, and Clayton and Amanda at Picnic Pizza for all their assistance. My closing thought: NEXT YEAR IN CHICAGO!