A headstand that sealed the deal? The year was 1977 and Convotherm’s founder Dipl. Kfm. Frank Dittmann accepted the challenge of performing a headstand on a bar. He successfully sealed Convotherm’s first large customer, known as “Apetito,” who agreed to only ever purchase from Convotherm; and today still remains steadfast to its promise.
This event would become the platform for Convotherm’s combi steamer to go far and wide. In 1982, it launched the world’s first electronic combi steamer for large- scale catering establishments. Dittmann and Dipl. Ing. Werner Schwarzbäcker’s fully electronically controlled convection steamer struck a chord and Convotherm took it from there.
But, what good would a combi steamer do for a kitchen? It combines the functions of a convection oven and steam cooker to get down to classic cooking, cook & chill, overnight cooking, cook & hold, baking, sous vide, system- cooking and helps in plated banqueting. In short, uniform preparation is ensured even if two different dishes have to reach a table at the same time with their individual flavours, vitamins and nutritional value being preserved.
It was a technology that resonated well with restaurateurs and spurred by that, the company moved into its headquarters in Eglfing, Germany to bring more structure and efficiency in its production line. Within six years, Convotherm ran out of production space; thus expanding to Huglfing and Weilheim. Realising that it made more sense to be operating from one location, production was consolidated back to Eglfing and since October 2001, appliances were produced in the 6,000 m2 size facility incorporating state-of-the-art bending and laser cutting technology. Today, the company’s bright, red ‘C’ is spotted at hotels, top restaurants, canteens, supermarkets, catering providers’ kitchens all the way to luxury cruise liners.
The brand’s consistent growth captured the attention of the industry’s major players and in 2008; Convotherm became a par t of Manitowoc Foodser vice. Well-recognised in the professional food equipment field, Manitowoc’s array of leading brands enables it to provide top-notch operator and patron insights, collaborating on kitchen solutions, culinary expertise and a global standard of support and service. Its global network spanning the Americas, Europe, Asia and South Asia have been instrumental in opening new opportunities for Convotherm to build market share.
THE 3 TENETS:
INNOVATION, FLEXIBILITY & SPEED
The history of Convotherm. Birthed from the idea of making defrosting and regenerating appliances, Dittmann and Schwarzbäcker applied their knowledge and enthusiasm, working in a dairy located in Wolfratshausen (southern Bavaria), that resulted in the introduction of its electronic combi steamer. When some instances look like technological roadblocks, the duo saw them as opportunities to create something new, such as their patented, energy-saving system known as “Closed System,” followed by the “Disappearing Door” design. The latter was awarded the German Industry Award for its brilliance in simplicity – the door is pushed into the appliance after being opened; a great idea to allow more freedom of movement and space in smaller kitchens as well as reducing risk of getting burnt by the door’s hot interior. As for versatility, it was the very thought of performance across all sections that brought combi steamers to reality, opening up the possibilities for anyone to be equipped to operate one. As for speed, the need for it does not seem to be subsiding, while consumers are demanding for healthy, reasonably-priced and quick meals outside the home. An all-in-one solution like the combi-oven is helpful for these nutritious snacks to be prepared quickly.
Healthy living is not only what goes inside us, but involves the external environment. By “living” this philosophy on all levels, it creates economically justifiable possibilities that not only fulfils statutory requirements, but enables the company to contribute more to our living space through its own initiatives. For combi steamers that perform various functions, energy is a big part to consider, while not compromising on efficiency. Putting in practice the Advanced Closed System (ACS), combi steamers will eventually use up to 30% less energy and water, cut temperatures up to 15% and reduce cooking time up to 10%. While conventional cooking machines release supplied energy externally
via the flue, the ACS system in Convotherm keeps the energy inside the cooking chamber throughout the cooking process, thereby eliminating the need for continuous reheating. As more customers seek greater environmental conservation by using Convotherm’s combi steamers, this value inspired Convotherm to convert its plant from gas heating to natural and renewable resources, with heat generation provided by wood chips and biogas. These changes allow the biomass heating station to save up to 650,000 kgs of CO2 annually. A pickling paste without hydrofluoric acid also results in nickel and chrome contamination being significantly reduced.
MAKING GLOBAL HEADWAY
The ease of use and work flow efficiency provided by Convotherm’s combi steamers has taken the brands into kitchens of commercial institutions around the world. At the Parkhotel, Stuttgart fitted with 18 halls, each able to accommodate up to 320 people, the combi steamer is one of its core pieces of equipment, particularly in plated banqueting. The kitchen is always serving and supplying several restaurants, breakfast, conference and banquet halls. Its executive chef praises the disappearing door, the friendly Tray Timer of easyToUCH for helping the crew with the a la carte orders for they only need to insert plate, set the time and food is immaculately prepared! In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon restaurant, with 7-meter high glass walls and great view over the lagoon, attracts grand events, seats 300 people and accommodates 450 standing guests. The kitchen team is fully equipped to manage large groups of guests with their Convotherm OES 20.10 and OEB 10.10 that enable them to prepare up to 300 meals a day. Even the world of sports welcomes Convotherm at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit. For an event that draws a great crowd, the kitchen is prepared with 48 OES 6.10 combi steamers used for rethermalisation of food, necessary because the kitchen’s space is confined (Disappearing Door is a favourite feature), while freshly cooked meals work with 16 OGS 6.10 models. Adding to that, the kitchen hires employees at the take- away section that may not be fully trained, but Convotherm’s user-friendly features enable them to operate the combi-steamer quickly and efficiently. Quick-serve restaurant operators (QSR) have also noted Convotherm, examplified through its relationship with Jollibee, Philippines’ most popular QSR for burgers, chicken, local dishes and pasta. It is amongst the top 10 restaurants within the Asian region with over 680 branches in the country alone and 50 others throughout Asia. Jollibee gave Convotherm its largest ever order in the company’s history with 665 mini’s back in 2009 and continues to expand its operations in the Middle East, Europe and North America.
If past performance is an indication of future opportunity, it is clear that Convotherm will continue to succeed, backed by the abovementioned tenets. Equally important, innovation will continue to play a key role in this equipment category as quieter machines and contemporary designs are gaining popularity in front-of-the-house cooking applications. As hundreds of satisfied customers will attest, customer focus and product innovation has been a hallmark of Convotherm for 37 years. And, they will continue to build on that foundation of success going forward.