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“Operators feel a need to grow the square footage of their dining rooms as much as they possibly can in order to spread guests out more. As designers, we have to find a way to get them a more efficient kitchen into a smaller footprint.”


— Otto L. Abad, Jr. President Associated Food Equipment and Supply Company, Inc. New Orleans, LA


“Because demand shot up so high and so quickly, they’re taking a while to produce.” At Bizerba, Griesmer is seeing high demand for kitchen equipment that can accommodate social-distancing rules. Known for being a “close contact” workplace – where cooks, chefs, servers, and support staff work shoulder-to-shoulder to get orders out quickly – the kitchen is now being reimagined to ensure both worker and diner safety. To meet these demands, manufacturers and dealers are focusing on physical spacing issues and on the need for more “contactless” processes to minimize the number of human touches on food. Bizerba, for example, makes vertical, stand-based, high-speed slicers. Although the slicer wasn’t designed specifically for COVID, its size ensures a six-foot cushion of space for the operator. In addition, the programmable machine slices and stacks food without the need for human contact – a feature that promotes the touchless environment while also factoring in labor shortages that restaurants may be dealing with right now.


10 FEDA News & Views


The slicers are popular with pizza establishments, says Griesmer, who lowered the price by $12,000 to make the machines more affordable during the pandemic. The company also started two trade-in promotions (one $5,000 and the other $7,000) to help encourage operators to trade in their used equipment and invest in a new, COVID-friendly slicer.


The company is also making a slaw tray that helps decrease hand contact with food. The tray now comes standard on all of Bizerba’s fully automatic slicers. “The user can capture all of the food, juice, and moisture in a pan,” Griesmer says, “and then dump it right back into another pan without touching it.”


Smaller Footprints, Please Operating in an entirely different environment than it had been just one month earlier, Associated Food Equipment and Supply Company, Inc., of New Orleans saw its customers’ needs shift quickly in March. In response, the company started selling personal protective equipment (PPE), infrared thermometers, and hand sanitizer, the latter of which quickly turned into a debacle. “We got a few pallets of hand sanitizer that wound up being the worst-smelling thing I’ve ever smelled,” says Otto L. Abad, Jr., president. “Literally everyone who bought some wound up returning it.”


Missteps aside, Abad says he’s seeing a new focus on getting as much efficiency as possible out of current kitchen and dining room footprints, both of which are going through a major evolution due to COVID-19. Not only do dining room tables now have to be six feet apart in order to meet social- distancing requirements, but kitchen employees can’t work safely unless they have the space to do so.


“We offer design services and are working with customers to squeeze every inch out of their space,” says Abad. He expects the kitchen footprint to continue shrinking as dining room space expands: “Operators feel a need to grow the square footage of their dining rooms as much as they possibly can in order to spread guests out more. As designers, we have to find a way to get them a more efficient kitchen into a smaller footprint.”


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