Specialized cooking can help reduce expenses and improve speed of service.

Sponsored by Imperial Cooking Equipment.

It’s no secret that the restaurant market is tough. Not only are real estate costs rising, but so are labor and ingredient costs, leading to shrinking profits in an already low-margin business. As a result, restaurant leaders are looking for every advantage they can find, from improving staffing and inventory control to reducing square footage and equipment maintenance costs.

One big way leaders are shrinking the burden of these rising costs is by investing in the right equipment. While it may seem more economical at the start to go with standardized ranges and ovens—among other core pieces of equipment—the truth is what works for one restaurant won’t work for its competitor down the street. Each restaurant’s concept, menu, and location create unique demands on its team and cooking gear. Though standard kitchen gear can work for some restaurant locations, that doesn’t mean brands should settle when those standard pieces don’t make sense for the space. Doing so forces restaurants to adapt to less-than-ideal prep and cooking processes, and it can also slow down speed of service, damage guest satisfaction, and reduce employee morale.

“Everybody has individual needs,” says Matt Wise, vice president of Imperial Cooking Equipment. “Gas lines placement may need to be accomodated, for example. Restaurants need flexibility to make the space more efficient, especially with the rise of smaller or untraditional floor plans in emerging chains, where placement and efficiency are even more important.”

And it’s not just the placement of gas lines that can be customized. Wise says everything from the width and height of an appliance to the materials used for side splashes and number of burners can and should be customized for each specific operation.

It’s also important to go with high-quality equipment. Downtime for repairs not only leads to lost sales in the days—and sometimes weeks—it takes for vendors to repair equipment, but it can also lead to long-term reputation and sales losses because consumers stop going to restaurants that are often unable to serve core items.

“You want equipment to have a long service life, so it’s important that the highest quality materials are used,” Wise says. “We use American-made products, including steel, as much as possible.”

Though every restaurant brand ultimately wants to improve efficiency, some have been reluctant to invest in custom equipment. Wise says a lot of this stems from the misconception that customization has to be hard.

“We like to talk to restaurants and visit a site or two to see how each element is used,” Wise says. “Maybe they need different sized grease traps to accommodate different spatula sizes, or maybe they need equipment to be made of thicker material to accommodate for scraping gutters a lot. We can help restaurant leaders identify where changes need to be made and then make them.”

Another big misconception is that ordering customized equipment is time consuming. While it does take time to order a specially made piece of equipment, some vendors—like Imperial, which takes only two weeks to produce a fully customized piece while many other vendors take upwards of six weeks—are able to supply the right piece of equipment at the right time.

“Our customization process is very short,” Wise says. “We have the advantage of being flexible enough to make something quickly and give restaurants exactly what they want in the timeframe they are looking for.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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