The Food Trends that Drove Restaurant Equipment Sales in 2013

From the Cronut to craft beers, Sriracha to kale, there were some major trends in the food world in 2013. There’s evidence some of those drove purchases of restaurant equipment made through KaTom in the year past, though some of the items among our top sellers are long-time entries on this annual list. Read on to find some of our best-selling foodservice equipment of 2013 and the food trends that we think may have driven them.

No. 10: American Metalcraft Oval Wire Basket with Ramekin Holder

American Metalcraft Tableware

Potential food trend driver: Specialty burgers and reduced portions.

Over the past year, many fast casual eateries have opted to forego plates in favor of serving customers food in metalware tabletop items like these American Metalcraft 6×9-inch wire oval food baskets. They provide an interesting presentation reminiscent of the diners of yesteryear. They also shine a spotlight on specialty sandwiches like the Ramen Burger1 and anything on a pretzel bun that were one of the food trends of 2013.

The folks at American Metalcraft also tell us restaurant owners love these serving pieces because they help with portion control, with a smaller amount of food filling up these bowl-shaped baskets. They’re also easier to clean, which means you can operate with fewer of them and save employee hours. They also offer two spaces for carrying ramekins, which means servers won’t have to make extra trips to carry condiments from the kitchen.

No. 9: Beverage Air Five-keg, Two-tap Draft Beer Cooler

Beverage Air Dispenser

Potential food trend driver: The craft beer craze.

Craft beers exploded in popularity in 2013, building a following that appears ready to stick with them into the coming years. Traditionally not recognized for its beer offerings, the United States has led the way in craft brews and the majority of those ranked top by several groups this year are produced right here at home. That has prompted eateries across the country to enhance their beer service with specialized glasses, back bar refrigeration, and, naturally, beer taps.

This Beverage Air draft beer cooler can keep up to five kegs, with two insulated faucet columns that can be equipped with multiple taps. The forced air refrigeration, which even pushes cold air into the two columns, keeps beer cold all the way to the glass, which means you lose less product to warming and your customers get a better beer. These keg coolers have heavy-duty construction that can stand up to years of use and abuse in your bar or restaurant.

No. 8 (Tie): Restaurant Tea Service Tabletop Items

White Browne Teapot

Potential food trend driver: Consumption of hot tea in all American foodservice segments skyrocketed in 2013, as noted by QSR Magazine2.

Like our beers, American tea culture has been the butt of jokes among the international culinary community for many years. From iced tea to tea bags, we treated this humble leaf extract as a second-class beverage until recently. However, the world’s second-favorite beverage – after water – has now become one of ours in every daypart, with the Tea Association of the U.S.A. reporting total wholesale values increasing from less than $2 billion 20 years ago to more than $10 billion dollars in 2013.

To keep up with the growing demand, American eateries have invested heavily in tabletop pieces for tea service in recent years. Among KaTom’s top-selling restaurant equipment of 2013 are three tea-related products: a Browne 16-ounce teapot, a Winco 2-inch tea ball for loose-leaf teas, and a Carlisle creamer pitcher. With tea drinkers demanding an enhanced experience3, just as craft beer drinkers have, this is a trend that likely has legs for 2014 and beyond.

No. 7: Vitamix Quiet One 48-ounce Blending Station

Vitamix Blender

Potential food trend driver: While it wasn’t a specifically 2013 trend, frozen mixed drinks and healthful smoothies have been growing in popularity for quite a while.

While most bars already have a blender, the innovations Vitamix has introduced in recent years, including the design of this Quiet One model that significantly reduces the noise the unit makes, have attracted plenty of buyers. Drink blenders like this one are also great for making everything from sauces to gazpacho.

The remarkable design of this Vitamix Quiet One blending station earned it a 2011 Kitchen Innovation Award from the National Restaurant Association. It uses a polycarbonate enclosure to cover the 48-ounce container, producing a drink blender that is as much as 4 times quieter than the competition. The patented Advance container helps the blades create a vortex in your ingredients to provide a smooth and consistent product every time, while the 3 horsepower motor powers through even the thickest of mixes.

No. 6 (Tie): Black Check Folios

Black Check Folio

Potential food trend driver: This is where we cross over into mostly perennial top movers among our restaurant equipment and supplies.

Year after year, restaurants need an attractive way to present the bill when the meal is over, which is why check folders like these are near the top of KaTom’s list every year. They’re a simple tabletop item, but they’re a big part of meal service for most restaurants. Among the top sellers for 2013 are the Winco black check folio, Browne black check folio, and Update International black check folio. These stylish check presenters are emblazoned with the words “Thank You” in gold print on their covers.

No. 5: Dyson Airblade AB04 / AB14 Hand Dryer

Dyson Air Blade

Potential food trend dryer: This isn’t food driven, but new tech is always in high demand. The Dyson Airblade’s list of features keep it a perennial top seller.

The Dyson Airblade AB04 model that can be found in restaurants around the world went through a change in 2013, as Dyson’s engineers found a way to improve on their wildly popular automatic hand dryers. They redesigned the unit to provide a 50 percent reduction in perceived noise, which makes a huge difference when you’re talking about a hand dryer that’s used in an enclosed space like a restroom. To mark their achievement, they created the dB series and renamed the AB04 the Dyson Airblade AB14.

Despite the transition, this automatic hand dryer remained near the top of the restaurant equipment list as customers sought out the well-known Dyson Airblade regardless of the product number. The AB14’s completely touch-free operation and HEPA filter have earned it HACCP International approval for use in the food and beverage industry, making it popular with restaurant owners. Its unique design and roughly 12-second drying time have also won it plenty of fans among the wider public.

No. 4: Manitowoc Cube Style Undercounter Ice Maker

Manitowoc Undercounter Ice Machine

Potential food trend driver: At least one ice maker can be found near the top of our restaurant equipment lists each year. They’re a critical part of meal service in America and are becoming more so as consumers become more discerning about ice.

There is a growing contingent of American diner that is choosy about the ice in the beverages it’s served. In multiple recent years, that has meant a spot near the top for a nugget ice maker. However, cube style ice also got a surge of popularity that unseated nugget ice in 2013, a move that may well be connected to increased demand for quality ice in premium drinks. Those who are willing to pay for top-shelf liquors increasingly expect substantial cubes in their glasses, which may have helped push the cube style commercial ice maker to dominance this year.

The Manitowoc UD0140A undercounter ice maker replaced the QD0132A in 2013, bringing stats the old model can’t match. This member of the Neo family can produce up to 129 pounds of ice per day, holding it in a 90-pound bin. It offers a long list of features meant to make it easier to use, from allowing scheduling of ice production to a self-cleaning function, this Manitowoc undercounter commercial ice machine can meet the demands of your kitchen and your guests.

No. 3: Lodge 3.5-inch Cast Iron Mini Skillet

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Potential food trend driver: While Lodge cast iron cookware is perennially popular, these pieces have become even more so as the farm-to-table and rustic food movements have taken hold.

Perhaps the most attractive thing about these Lodge 3.5-inch cast iron mini skillets is that they’re great for both preparation and serving. In prep, they have the same amazing even cooking and fast heating properties you’re likely used to with residential cast iron cookware. For service, they offer rustic appeal and variety that many diners look for.

While Lodge cast iron cookware can be passed on from generation to generation at home, in commercial settings, it doesn’t always get the proper treatment to make it last that long. To address that, give your employees proper training on handling these pre-seasoned mini skillets and they should provide years of low-maintenance service.

No. 2: Arctic Air 49-cubic-foot Reach-in Commercial Freezer

Arctic Air Reach In

Potential food trend driver: This is a perennial returnee, since Arctic Air provides reliable, long-lasting commercial refrigeration at economy prices.

Food trend or no, keeping foods in safe temperature ranges is always in style. The Arctic Air AF49 two-section reach in commercial freezer maintains temperatures of -10 to 10 degrees F, which means it meets all NSF Standard 7 requirements for open food storage. Plus, it’s backed by a full 1-year parts and labor warranty for the entire unit, plus a 5-year compressor warranty.

The AF49 shares a spot near the top of the list with its commercial refrigerator counterpart, the Arctic Air AR49. Both have a stainless steel exterior and an external digital LED display.

No. 1: True T-49 Two-section Commercial Refrigerator

True Reach In Refrigerator

Potential food trend driver: The king of perennial performers, you’d have to turn the calendar back a long way to find a time when the True T-49 didn’t rule KaTom’s annual restaurant equipment list.

With True Refrigeration the most well-known name in commercial refrigerators the world over, it’s no surprise the True T-49 is always a top performer. This unit offers long-lasting durability and quality construction at an economy price, with a stainless steel front and doors.

The oversized and balanced refrigeration system in these units provides a faster pull-down time to achieve holding temperatures of 33-38 degrees F. Their 40-pass condenser is 25 percent larger than competing models, while the 1/2-inch diameter capillary tubes are 33 percent larger than the competition’s, allowing for quicker cooling. That means your food is out of the danger zone faster and is held at levels that will preserve its freshness for longer. It also means shorter running times and more efficient operation, which can save you on your electric bills.

1. Ramen Burger news story

2. QSR Magazine report on tea trends

3. Writer asks for better tea service

Derek Hodges
Derek Hodges

Derek Hodges is a proud North Carolinian who moved to Tennessee in 2006 to preach the gospel of Cheerwine and mix some Tar Heel blue in with all the orange. He has made wonderful friends who tolerate occasional remarks like those above. He and his wife Amanda enjoy spending weekends at Dollywood and trying to convince their dog Shiloh to get over his fear of swimming.

Connect with Derek Hodges on Google+