I’m still trying to figure out if one of the most intriguing product news items I got wind of at the recent International Foodservice Technology Exposition, or FS/TEC, is as intriguing as I believe it to be.
Technology product and account-win announcements tied to restaurant operators — the information we crave at Nation’s Restaurant News — typically spring forth at FS/TEC. This year’s edition, held earlier this month at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., saw more of the same.
Fitting the bill was news about 39-unit Arby’s franchisee Beavers Inc. of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and Restaurant Technologies Inc.; International Dairy Queen of Edina, Minn., and HyperActive Technologies Inc.; 46-unit Pizza Hut franchisee Michigan Pizza Hut of Saint Joseph, Mich. and PAR’s ParTech Inc. division; 135-unit Skyline Chili of Cincinnati and PCMS; and 65-unit, London-based Wagamama Limited and MICROS Systems Inc.
Check out the briefs of those developments elsewhere in this newsletter.
The mystery I alluded to higher up involves KFC (Great Britain) Ltd., based in London. It has deployed SCK Direct Inc.’s technology in the kitchens of all of the quick-service chain’s company-owned restaurants in the United Kingdom, according to SCK.
SCK of Stratford, Conn., did not include many details in its announcement about the deployment of its technology overseas in a release issued shortly after FS/TEC. I knew to ask for the release later because I was at the SCK booth when word arrived that KFC leadership had approved a release about the deployment.
AFeb. 20 profile of KFC UK chief executive Martin Shuker at the Telegraph.co.uk website indicated that about 38 percent, or 288, of the 760 KFC units now open in the United Kingdom are “directly owned” by that division of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc.
The SCK press release is two pronged: Before touching on KFC UK, it announces the promotion of Christian D. Koether to vice president by the company’s board of directors. Koether, the holder of an MBA from Dartmouth College and a former national accounts manager at Nestle, among other past posts, is the son of company president and chief executive Bernard G. Koether.
In announcing the promotion to the company and its followers, the board of directors wrote: “Christian has taken a pilot program of SCK, installed in the United Kingdom, and accelerated it into a truly successful customer deployment. Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Ltd. has adopted SCK’s wireless technology and restaurant management software applications and has deployed the industry’s first truly networked Smart Commercial Kitchen in all of its company-owned stores.”
Smart Commercial Kitchen is SCK’s trademarked product name.
Though it was not clear if the board announcement was making reference to the capabilities of the system in place in KFC’s U.K. stores, it went on to say, “More importantly, Christian has helped to facilitate the creation of a breakthrough bi-directional wireless network that links ovens, fryers, smart sensors and other related kitchen equipment to a suite of SaaS software applications.”
Wording included in the announcement, but not directly attributed to the board, said SCK now has implemented successful SCK systems on two continents, seamlessly integrating with back-of-house software environments and several different point-of-sale hardware and software providers.
KFC has been at the heart of many discussions about information-technology-enhanced kitchen equipment almost as long as such discussions have taken place. Indeed, I believe one of the first references I ever heard to “smart” kitchens came during a NAFEM Show or COEX presentation involving KFC in the ’90s.
It was five and a half years ago that SCK and Yum! Brands announced that they were in agreement that SCK’s Smart Commercial Kitchen platform would be the exclusive technology for network-ready cooking appliances at all KFC company restaurants.
Additional information about KFC’s operation of hundreds of smart kitchens would be of interest to many. I’ll let you know what I find out.