Here at Miller & Associates we represent many different kitchen equipment manufacturers that offer a wide variety of foodservice products, whether that be equipment for cooking, preparing, displaying, seating or, most recently, vending [see our blog on Sally the Salad Robot]. In 2014 we started representing Grindmaster-Cecilware, adding beverage dispensing to that long list. Grindmaster-Cecilware is one of our finest lines that specializes in beverage machines and beverage dispensing systems: including coffee grinders, coffee and tea brewers, urns and many kinds of frozen and non-frozen beverage dispensers and Bubblers. They also offer a complementary foodservice equipment line with fryers, grills and griddles.
GMCW began as four separate companies: Grindmaster Corporation, Cecilware, Crathco LTD, and American Metal Ware. Grindmaster acquired Crathco in the 80s and American Metal Ware in the 90s, then finally in 2009 Cecilware and Grindmaster merged into GMCW and started selling their quality products all as a part of the same catalogue. Over the years all four companies made great strides in innovating hot and cold beverage machines, namely Cecilware’s introduction of the world’s first fully automatic coffee urn and Crathco’s creation of the Bubbler, both machines which are still largely used in the foodservice industry today.
GMCW is known for innovation, with products like their Simplicity Bubblers which is one of their highest selling pieces of equipment, and continues to innovate every year. Just within the past few years GMCW has introduced the Pony line of espresso machines and the Radiance line of powdered cappuccino dispensers. The Pony espresso machine uses K-Cup like pods to give a fast, super-automated cup of espresso that requires little training of the employee using the machine. The Radiance powdered cappuccino dispensers guarantee a consistent product and is equipped with Wi-Fi, which gives it the ability to report real-time usage data to the end user allowing them to adjust their inventory to the demand of the customer. Miller & Associates sales representative JT Thompson talks about the Radiance line and how it can help end users save money and please their customers.
“A lot of [GMCW’s] equipment aligns really well with C-Store accounts, and the Radiance line can track inventory and tell you exactly how many beverages have been dispensed and at what size. So that should tell the C-Store owner when he checks his receipts at the end of the day, he should know exactly how many large, small, medium drinks were sold and what flavors were utilized. He should have those receipts. So that helps them with their inventory purchasing and stuff like that.”
In selling so many products, GMCW has a lot of competition from many different companies. Manufacturers like Bunn, Stoelting, and Taylor are all strong competitors in the coffee, frozen, and refrigerated beverage equipment market. However, GMCW’s quality and price point put them just a step above the rest. Thompson also talks about the quality of GMCW’s tech services and how that also puts them at the top.
“The technical side of it, the tech service group there at Grindmaster, they do a very good job with after-the-sale service. Grindmaster offers a two-year parts & labor warranty and with a majority of the equipment they have there’s a five-year warranty on the compressor, and that’s far and above what the industry average is.”
GMCW continues to think of new products and new innovations to bring to the market. One of the newest items from GMCW is the PrecisionBrew combination coffee and tea brewer, which allows users to brew both tea and coffee in the same piece of equipment. From coffee brewers to fryers, super-automatic espresso machines to Simplicity Bubblers, GMCW does it and does it well.
Convection ovens have been used in restaurant kitchens, hospital kitchens and many other locations since the early 50s and traditional static ovens were being used even before that. Combis came about in the 60s to help end users with the convenience of having the capability to use steam heat and dry, convection heat in the same piece of equipment. Other types of ovens exist as well (microwaves, conveyors, etc.), but there hasn’t been a major innovation in the industry in about 50 years. Thanks to the Vector Multi-Cook Oven from Alto-Shaam, that is no longer the case.
The Vector oven, unveiled by Alto-Shaam in 2017, works differently than any other oven that’s been on the market before. First, the Vector can have up to four individually sealed cooking chambers which can all be set to different temps, fan speeds, and cook times, which gives users the ability to cook four different food items simultaneously without any waiting or flavor transfer between products. Users can cook salmon, chicken, biscuits, and cookies all at the same time and not have to worry about their cookies tasting “fishy.” Also, each chamber on the Vector can be set within a 100-degree difference of the adjacent chambers. The bottom chamber could cook at 350 and the next chamber up could cook at 450 with no problem. Second, the Vector uses new Structured Air Technology, which allows for a more efficient heat exchange during the cook resulting in a cleaner, more even cook of any product you put into it. To go into a little more detail, a fan at the back of each chamber splits the air between the top and bottom of the chamber, which is then pushed through a plenum (which is what is used in conveyor ovens to create the impinged air that cooks the food). Where the Vector differs from a conveyor oven is in the design of the plenum. While a conveyor oven’s air is pushed through holes that are randomly scattered across the plenum and it cooks the food while the food slowly moves through the oven, which sometimes results in the food having darker spots on its surfaces, the Vector’s air is pushed through a patterned series of dots and dashes so that the food gets evenly cooked throughout and spotting is avoided altogether.
The fan that is blowing this air through the chamber serves a dual purpose in the sense that it is also pulling the air back as well. This keeps the heat inside the oven and guarantees that not only is the oven’s door safe to touch from the outside, but also that the heat does not escape the oven when the door is opened to pull product out/put product in. If the door is open for a little longer than normal, the Vector will automatically add the time needed to compensate for the lost heat. Another perk of the Vector is that the half size model is ventless, meaning it does not need to be placed underneath a vent hood. If you’ve ever had to purchase a hood, then you’ll know why this is a plus.
One of the biggest advantages of the Vector is that it cuts total cook time down exponentially. Miller & Associates’ Culinary Training Chef Tug Toler sheds some light on this.
“We call [the Vector] a speed oven, but it’s not a speed oven in a sense of microwave-assistance like some others. This is really a throughput speed. If you’re cooking just biscuits and it’s all the same temperature…cooking four pans of biscuits will still be 16 and a half minutes whether it’s one pan or four pans. In a convection oven, you put in one pan for 16 and a half minutes or so, but by that fourth pan it’s not 16 and a half minutes anymore, it’s more like 21 and they’re having to open the oven and rotate and touch the product. They’re having to put way more attention to it. With the Vector, you put it all in and wait until it beeps.”
While other factories make ovens that could be considered competitors to the Vector, such as TurboChef’s Double Batch or Ovention’s MiLO, they are not necessarily comparable to the Vector. Toler explains why the Vector is a preferable alternative to other speed-type ovens.
“There are competitors out there, but they’re kind of their own thing,” Toler said. “There’s fewer moving parts in the Vector [compared to it’s competitors]. There’s a fan and a heat exchanger for each chamber…and really that’s it. There’s also one control panel for the whole oven and it is easy to use. If you have a smartphone you can use this.”
Dealers and end users who purchase the Vector also have the bonus of Alto-Shaam’s large network of training chefs and culinary support specialists. Each territory has at least one Alto-Shaam certified chef that is available to help in training and setting up the Vector (as well as Alto-Shaam’s many other products).
No stranger to culinary innovation, Alto-Shaam started from humble beginnings in the early 50s. Founder Jerry Maahs was running a fried chicken business in Wisconsin that did home delivery. After a mishap with a warmer that led to a car fire during a delivery, Maahs decided that there needed to be a safer way to transport the food. This idea led to the creation of Alto-Shaam’s patented Halo Heat technology which hurled them into the food equipment industry. Over 50 years later Alto-Shaam continues to innovate and be a top contender in the food service world. And with rumors of even more ground-breaking equipment on the way, the Vector will be far from the last new-and-improved product Alto-Shaam has to offer. Until said products grace the market, the Vector will continue to be the latest and greatest in cooking innovation.
Imagine never having to worry if the sneeze guard on the salad bar stopped the germs from reaching your ingredients. Imagine never having to wonder how long a salad has been sitting on the shelf in a convenience store. Sally the Salad-Making Robot, Miller & Associates’ newest product line from Chowbotics, takes all those worries away. She’s not just the newest development in food service technology, she’s revolutionizing the way people look at the food service industry.
Soon to start appearing in many airports, office break rooms, convenience stores and more, Sally fixes many of the problems with your average self-serve salad bar station. She dispenses over 100 of the freshest salad ingredients and over 20 of the most popular salad dressings, giving users more options and customization and variety than the alternative. Sally can even do grain-based bowls with ingredients like quinoa and wild rice, so customers looking for something outside of the regular garden-green salad have an option as well. All these options may seem overwhelming, but not to fear, operators can preset recipes so that customers can quickly find the salad they’re looking for and tell Sally to make it with the touch of a button. Sally also has refrigerated chambers for each ingredient and dispenses ingredients by weight, allowing for a more efficient storage system that guarantees fresher ingredients and to cut down on food waste and food cost. Sally doesn’t limit herself to the self-serve market, either. Jeff Griffiths, President and co-owner of Miller & Associates, explains how Sally could also help the restaurant industry by cutting down the interaction between human hands and the food before it reaches the customer.
“[If you] preprogram your menu salads…Sally will make those salads instead of a human. So you can have your server go back into the kitchen to drop an order, and when that server walks by Sally, she or he hits ‘chicken Caesar salad,’ Sally makes the salad, the server delivers it with the food and the kitchen has never touched it.”
Sally also helps businesses cut down on labor costs and helps save on food purchasing. Due to the nature of how Sally works, businesses spend a lot less time and man-hours on keeping up their salad stations. The only labor that goes into Sally is prepping the ingredients and keeping her stocked, which won’t be a problem because Sally can dispense 50 entrée sized salads before needing to be refilled. Food cost will always be the same with Sally since she allows operators to set how much of each ingredient she dispenses at one time.
“Let’s say all of a sudden there’s a huge run on carrots and carrots become three times as expensive as they are now,” Griffiths said giving an example. “You could go in and adjust that to be a third of the amount of carrots. It’s a great tool for managing your food costs with extreme accuracy.”
Sally and the technology that exists within her is all made possible thanks to Chowbotics and their founder/CEO, Deepak Sekar. Sekar, who has a doctorate in electronics and computer engineering, decided to create Chowbotics in September 2014 after realizing that food-service technology could help people save time in their weekday; during a time when things are already busy and rushed, Sekar didn’t want himself or others to have to worry about spending even more time worrying about their food. In the time since Chowbotics’ inception, Sekar and his team have worked on the tech of Sally, making sure she would be ready for market when they decided to put her on sale this year.
Chowbotics isn’t just going to stop at Sally, though. Coming sometime soon Chowbotics also plans to unveil a breakfast making robot that will be able to make custom breakfast bowls with ingredients like quinoa, fruit, yogurt and many more. This is just the beginning of the food-service technology revolution that Chowbotics has kicked into gear. In the meantime, until the unnamed breakfast-bot is revealed, Sally is here to make your salad and make your day.
Preview Sally the Salad Robot with Chef Charlie Ayers.