How might kitchens change, or not, after lockdown?
Operators have always looked to minimise product purchases and get maximum efficiency from a cookline set up, that’s why we are seeing more and more operators choose multi-functional equipment, something that I believe will only happen more as a result of Covd-19. Let’s face it, kitchens have got smaller for a reason, i.e. to create more front of house space to sell more covers, and in the current climate I cannot see any operator investing cash in making their kitchen bigger and their front of house smaller in order to accommodate social distancing measures! The reality is that they will have to find a way of operating with what they have. And, whilst we accept that those who are looking to change their offer might require additional equipment that allows them to do this I would suggest that anybody who is looking to change their layout or their equipment without fundamentally changing their offering probably had the wrong equipment/layout in the first place!
In the short term I cannot see any major changes to the way that operators ‘work’. Fewer staff, and potentially fewer customers, is likely to mean that equipment doesn’t get used as much, especially if the operator is running a reduced menu, but I cannot see many choosing to spend money removing equipment at present as this may well be a ‘short-term’ issue. The nature of the services required for prime cooking – gas, 3ph electrical power, water, etc – means that moving equipment is both expensive and impractical. However, it is possible that some operators might look at moving, or even re-locating, certain items of mobile or tabletop plug in equipment in order to ensure that certain operations, such as food prep, can be carried out with due regard to social distancing.
If COVID restrictions stay in place for a prolonged period after re-opening, and we are talking 12 months plus here, then it is highly likely that there will be changes to how a kitchen is set up. But this has a wider impact on the extent of the menu offer and the number of staff on the premises rather than how big the cookline is. Going forward it is possible that any long-term implementation of social distancing within the kitchen may influence how a cookline is designed. But this was already happening pre-Covid – for example, on more than one occasion we have designed an Athanor cook suite for a hotel so that all the equipment required to cook breakfast items – such as a plancha, induction hob and grill – are in close proximity so that they can be operated by a single chef.