Gone are the days of the typical stainless-steel factory type bain-marie. Back then, employees were quite happy with a “canting” look and feel – rows of bulky chaffing dishes serving hot items such as sambar, sabzi, rasam, kootu, chapati, kheer etc. Traditional, yet nutritious and well balanced. But our Gen X and Y were bored, they wanted options. It is quite possible that with the lockdown, Gen Next must have got used to traditional home cooking, but the craving for options will surface once work resumes.

We have been working on smart food concepts and designs to make the café floor an interesting, innovative and lively space. We are focusing on keeping the health quotient intact, yet offering a stylish approach to beat food fatigue, which often sets in at cafes. With the current crisis, we are reinventing and tweaking our latest food designs- with an emphasis on health and safety. With these changes, we aim to dispel concerns and fear factor too.

Cafe designs are evolving at breakneck speed. From smart, copper-clad tandoors bringing in the joyous festive feel to an efficient Italian Pausa café ambience showcasing home meats and crunchy veggies. We take a look at some new designs:

Main meal counters
The neat serveries are designed with style and efficiency. The bain-marie look has been removed, instead counters are 850 mm in height, fitted with a combination of hot and cold plates. The serving bowls are colourful Le Cruesets to hold food in smaller measures of 3-4 litres; the frequent replenishments ensure freshness.
The under counters are fitted with stainless steel, temperature-controlled cabinets, holding additional food. Frequent trips to the kitchen is, thus, greatly reduced. There is a combo kitchen planned behind the servery which acts a supplement to prepare some more dishes in front of the employees.

Theatre Cooking

This is where a lot of the action takes place, bringing life to the café. Live-action stations are mostly independent and floating, with hip designs. The shape can be fancy – oval or the hexagonal, as they are the focal points of service – much like a theatre set-up.

We ensure that smart equipment such as combis, merry chefs, pasta cookers, lava stone grills, tandoors etc are plugged in to assist the chefs to dish out mouth-watering delicacies. The service side equipment is also carefully chosen, be it the induction warmers, frost tops or cold wells. These are fused into the counters to give a seamless effect.


Global interactive Live stations
Some of the unique cuisines are selected carefully, based on their palette and popularity. The choice of equipment is, thereafter, planned into these interactive stations. Here, fresh produce is displayed in small quantities, while the bulk of the MiseEn Place is stored in the refrigerated under-counters neatly designed below.

Here, spot cooking ensures that the ambience is lively with the help of this efficient equipment – it could be a fine pasta boiler, a fry master or simply a two-zone griddle plate. These live stations are perfect for fusion food experiments – far eastern noodles tossed with an expert hand, with Indian masala. For example, a pasta dish can be made differently say with a Thai curry, giving it a totally different flavour and look. Anecdotally, women in the technology sector are fond of fusion offerings – they maybe more experimental then men?


Healthy offerings
As the name suggests, our main emphasis is on healthy diet with some sensible immunity boosters – nutritious and wholesome. With Gen Z often tending to skip the main meal and selecting a healthy, lighter luncheon option, instead, you can toss a salad in front of them, well displayed in a cold well or a saladette.

Steaming cups of soup are served from the tureens placed right on the front counter. The chef expertly flings a bunch of micro herbs which he has just grabbed from the visi cooler type hydroponics urban cultivator, placed strategically behind him.
We ensure that the whole station is suitably designed within easy reach of the chef who is interacting with the guests. The support equipment is usually behind the low wall section with another chef to assist. The pieces of equipment behind are griddle plates, easy to boil induction cooktop plates, sandwich grillers etc.


The world in a bowl
Bowlful, soulful and stomach full. A chef can create a storm in a bowl. This concept is the latest craze – challenging, yet thrilling for the chef to punch in a whole lot of exciting ingredients. We design these concept counters, plugging waterless bain-maries with sleek GN pans. These are expertly placed on the counters, depending upon the number of dishes planned. The sub-garnishes and the few main components are spread along the line. The under counters are stain- steel cabinets, with temperature controls to aid the chefs.

The chef and the customer make their dish together – the chef suggests, while the customer nods in concurrence. When the bowl reaches the end of the counter, it is handed over to him and viola the meal is ready. The client swipes his smart card and moves away. There is no chance of touch, hence our Corona friend doesn’t get a chance to bite.

The central space of the counter is designed in a such a way that the smart equipment is laid out ergonomically. Some sleek ones like space team combis are a part of the list.
However, the main component is the chef’s smile and the creativity with his dish building technique. The client is happy with some sinfully large bowls – but then, its healthy food. The crispy, crunchy salads on top add on to the look and feel.













We are all aware that our bodies are made up of 70% water. But, did you know that this is the same as the amount of water present on mother Earth? The MNCs have fully understood this and hence hydrate their employees adequately.

We have also planned a well thought out hydration policy. We offer a multitude of design considerations. On the offer is some very sleek aqua hydro taps, which are fitted with hot, cold, ambient and sparkling options. These are touchless too, with sensors; Corona, no chance here again for you!

We also design an interesting hydration programme named Elixir, an array of infused waters, with popular flavours such as lemongrass, mint, exotic fruits, ciders etc. the dispensers are attractive large jars or creatively shaped fancy acrylic dispensers. Again touchless.

There is also space designed for aerated drinks, but these are generally displayed discreetly, in an under-counter fridge or left behind frosted doors of cooling cabinets. Yes, some millennials do require their daily dose of Coca Cola.

Some MNCs even bring on the Thank God it’s Friday evening feel, with beer flowing, but like the responsible Biryani concept. We have also designed the beer carts and some exciting on-spot snack counters for a Bangalore-based company. Hic hic hooray apps and google maps to the rescue, thereafter!

Smart cart cuisine












The street cart cuisine is slowly making inroads in posh cafes, serving some delectable yummies. Chaat carts, for instance, are a real hit. There are many types of carts that can be placed in select clusters of seating, catering to a particular taste option. We have the momo cart, the dosa cart, fried chicken, Mexican tortillas, and what have you. For the sweet tooth, a doughnut or Banaras jalebi one would be the ultimate heaven. These carts are custom designed by architects or simply bought out from well-established vendors.






























Innovative Markets

This new trend is another emerging favourite. Here, visual merchandising comes to play as products are displayed to catch the eye, with their MRP concept, in a convenience-store kind of atmosphere. Employees can just grab, scan and go. The touchless POS (point of sale systems) helps. In a newer, innovative system, each time an employee picks an item, the systems add and if he leaves it back in its place, it removes the same from his shopping cart. Finally, when he walks out, the system debits his smart card!
Some MNCs are using this market concept quite innovatively, the space is stocked with in-house delicacies such as cakes, bread, croissants, puffs, etc. These goodies are extended as takeaway services at very attractive subsidised prices. Staff is happy, and their family, happier!

Kitchen design is of paramount importance
The proof of the pudding is in eating – this old parable is never out of flavour. Needless to say, the kitchen is the heart of the F&B spectrum. The cook can’t make a great pudding if he is not given a damn good oven, right? Use of technology coupled with seamless flow of people and material is the key to successful kitchen design. Ingenuity and common sense helps.
With the current crisis, the need of the hour is to introduce precautions and safety measures within the design element: Ample spaces and synergies are the need of the hour. Right from the quarantine hold area, loading/unloading, receiving, passages, prep areas, chiller rooms, main cooking block areas, food staging etc. as these are the critical flow paths. Hygiene and safety aspects considered in Toto.

The use of smart equipment makes the difference between success and failure, we ensure that this aspect reaps benefit in the long time. Technologically advanced equipment definitely helps towards this goal, rather than just plain Jane equipment. Here are some advantages of smart equipment:

  1. Reduces power requirements as most of the smart equipment like combis, flexi chefs, Varios and boilers/kettles etc are self-steam generating and are quick performers.
  2. Pot wash problems are far fewer, as many of these are self-cleansing, thereby, saving space.
  3. The final product is always consistent and tasty, despite larger and multiple volumes. This is so since most of the equipment is programmable.
  4. Most kitchen hoods (Indian make too) are of makeup air variants, keeping the kitchens and chefs cool and composed. Here, the food, and not the chef, gets cooked!
  5. Most of the smart equipment is BMS compatible, assisting the MNCs to keep a track. Indian fire suppression makers too are now adding this facility.

The list of advantages goes with new developments springing up rapidly. Connected kitchens concept is the new next wave which is currently in an advance stage of research. Soon all the kitchen equipment will be ‘talking amongst themselves.’ Probably hatching a plan to make a new yum pudding.

Venu Rao

Peacock Hospitality

6th June 2020

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