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This One Kitchen Tool Boosts Productivity and Profits

Dan Kish is an independent chef who previously served as senior vice president of food at Panera Bread. He studied Culinary Institute of America. image used with permission.

Sponsored by Vitamix.

In an industry that requires restaurants to constantly evolve without breaking the budget, kitchen tools are a vital component of success. Finding the right equipment can help brands be more productive while giving them chances to be more creative. Yet with so much equipment on the market, choosing which tools to invest in can be challenging. With versatility being a top concern, a good blender may one of the smartest investments.

Chef Dan Kish, an industry veteran who formerly served as senior vice president of food for Panera Bread, explains how a good blender can be one of the most versatile tools in a kitchen and how they can help make restaurants more efficient.

1. Why does investing in a good blender make a difference in quick service?

If I look at the overall equipment package and the versatility I get out of a good blender, it does a lot of things for me. A deep fryer is going to do one thing—it’s going to deep fry food in fat. It’s a very singularly purposed piece of equipment. The average person may look at a blender and think, “That’s where I make a smoothie,” so they might pigeon hole it as a blender that does one job, but I think of all sorts of possibilities.

A blender is also a vertical version of a food processor. It’s capable of doing things that would normally require knife skills or something that maybe my work force doesn’t have. It can chop things up quickly and efficiently, which is hard to do by hand, so I’m automating a process that would normally take longer.

2. What are the other benefits of a good blender?

The blender works well at mixing things together that don’t normally stay together, like things that are oil and water based. In order to do mayonnaise by hand, for example, it takes longer, and you can’t break things up with a hand whisk like you can in a blender. With a blender, you can get a smooth, fine emulsion that lasts a lot longer.

Teaching someone how to make an emulsified sauce by hand is really tricky. When you’ve got the speed of a Vitamix at your fingertips, it’s a very simple thing to teach, and [the product] is very consistent.

3. How does this help with restaurant productivity?

It’s safe to say that the culinary horsepower that’s in your average fast-casual restaurant is very different than in full service or fine dining. You have people with less training, and that doesn’t mean good or bad; it just means they haven’t gone through the educational process. With a blender, I can take a complicated process and simplify because we’re employing it to do the physical work. Somebody has to push the buttons and turn it on and off, but it’s enabling someone who has a low level of skill to execute a high skill process and do it quickly. You’re going to free up more time for them to do things that can’t be done by anyone but a human, and the workforce can be more productive. If I’m getting more out of [staff] because I’ve enabled them with a tool, that’s a win for both of us.

Most people in food want to actually do something and not just be choiceless assemblers and robots. Having them open cases and jars and dump out premade sauces is boring. … When you have someone making something, even if it’s three ingredients made by someone else and combining them for the freshness or for the effect, it engages them in it, and they actually made something and didn’t just apply it with a ladle or a spoon.

4. How does a good blender help restaurants differentiate from competition?

In foodservice, and particularly in multi-unit foodservice, what we serve in our food is important. If I look at a label on a premade sauce, there are things I can’t pronounce or understand, and one of my first questions is why is that in there? A lot of things of a chemical nature are in dressings, for example, and are not necessarily bad to eat. That emulsifier, for example, is in there to hold it in suspension, and if we took it out, it would separate. When I have the high-quality blender, I can use fresh ingredients I can pronounce and create something that doesn’t have to come in premade and suspended, and I’ve already taken a huge step toward having a cleaner more presentable menu.

Sauces and dressings are an easy go-to place, and even marinades. It depends on the context, but when you’re combining simple fresh ingredients to be used in small batches and poured over the body of a salad or brushed on proteins when grilling, you still get the benefit of fresh flavors. If I already have access to fresh herbs, I can make any pesto I want. I’ve opened the door for possibility and creativity.

There are ways to take the fundamentals of a good pantry in your restaurant and combine them in ways you get credit for. I can take fresh ingredients that maybe don’t have a long shelf life, but I can bring all of that together in smaller sauce batches that are going to be good for a day or two. If I can make 65 servings out of one batch and sell that for $8 or $9 apiece, I can distinguish myself and make a ton of money for the restaurant.