A recurring theme among suppliers at this year's National Assocation of Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers is that operator needs are driving innovation in the equipment and technology segments.
Commercial refrigeration supplier Traulsen, for example, rolled out a new line of custom equipment stands. The line features small tweaks–movable top and bottom casters, handle guards, and an interior cooling system–after one of its top clients, Applebee's came looking for help.
"They needed a solution that would do a better job keeping stored foods cool," says Mike Kauffman, refrigeration marketing manager for Traulsen. "They told us what they needed, and we made it happen."
Thanks to Applebee's Traulsen equipment stands can now be customized to include several evaporation coils and fans based on the operators needs. Together the coils and fans do a better job of keeping foods cool while being held in the equipment stands' storage drawers.
Engineering executives at Applebee's also had concerns about uneven flooring making for wobbly equipment stands–a potential safety hazard in a busy kitchen. Traulsen tackled that problem by developing moveable casters, giving operators the flexibility to position their stands so that weight is distributed evenly.
And in a move a bit less revolutionary but no less important to safety, Traulsen introduced handle guards that protect the insulation just inside drawers. "People often grab the insulation when opening the drawers," Kauffman says. "Over time the insulation begins to get dirty, food gets dropped in there, and they eventually tear away from the drawer. The guards prevent that."