Features Range Survey Results
The Heat is On: 2009 StarChefs Range Survey

July 2009

Choosing a range can be like choosing a life partner. There are certain qualities you are looking for, features that would be nice to have, and standards that you just won’t compromise. Your range must also be reliable and durable because once you choose, it’s going to be a fixture in your home—the kitchen—for a long time to come.

With such a wide variety of options and features available, we sought to find what matters the most to chefs when it comes to selecting their most integral piece of kitchen equipment.

We asked our professional foodservice respondents to tell us just about everything when it comes to ranges: What sector of the industry they are in, what kind of range they currently own (and wish they owned), what they look for in a range, what they like least about it, how factors like sustainability come into play, and what their top features would be if they were able to design a custom range.

Nearly 550 people took our Range Survey. Of those who took the survey, 21% are in the independent fine dining sector, followed by 15% employed in independent upscale casual restaurants, 10% in independent casual restaurants, 10% working in catering operations, 10% working in private or country clubs, 8% working in hotels, 6% working as culinary school staff, and 4% employed as personal or private chefs. Other notable responses included restaurant consultants, resort and casino chefs, hospital chefs, bakers, cruise line chefs, and airline chefs.

Graphs: Type of Establishment
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The majority of survey respondents were executive chefs (34%) followed by chef/owners (22%). Sous chefs (10%), line cooks (5%), owners (3%), chef instructors (3%), and pastry chefs (2%) also took the survey.

Graphs: Position
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Purchasing a range is an investment to say the least, and undoubtedly a purchase of such caliber requires a lot of thought and planning before taking the plunge and selecting the right appliance for you. Accordingly, we asked our respondents what factors ranked the most important when considering their purchase. Of design/aesthetic, durability, top configurations, price, and warranty, durability proved to be the most significant factor. (Consistent with our findings, 70% of respondents reported using heavy duty ranges, which are known to be more durable than medium duty ranges.) Of the least importance was design/aesthetic.

Graphs: What type of range do you use?
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Graphs: When purchasing a range, please rank these factors in order of importance: (1 low, 5 high)
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However, as it turns out, only 42% of respondents were involved in the actual purchasing process, as many chefs inherited equipment that was previously installed in their kitchens. Nonetheless, even though many professionals didn’t have the option to pick their range, 40% responded that they were “satisfied” with their current range, and 24% claimed to be “very satisfied,” leaving 20% indifferent and only 15% dissatisfied.

Graphs: Were you involved in the purchase of this range?
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Graphs: How satisfied are you with your current range?
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To determine factors of satisfaction, we wanted to look at what functions their current kitchen range had, what they liked least about their current range, and what functions they wished they had. The most common function amongst ranges was a gas oven (83%), followed by 34% that had flat top griddles, and 30% equipped with salamanders. According to our survey, only 5% of respondents’ ranges have induction, and only 8% are equipped with a plancha.

Graphs: Does your current range have any of the following?
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What respondents liked least about their current range was its burner performance, followed by being difficult to clean, and its oven performance. The most common features on our professionals’ wish lists were salamanders, convection ovens, grill/charbroilers, broilers, fryers, and pasta cookers.

Graphs: What do you like least about your current range?
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Speaking of wish lists, if given the chance to custom design a range for their kitchen, with the options of a French top, electric oven, gas oven, induction, plancha, and immersion circulator, 73% reported a gas oven as the most indispensable feature, followed by a French top (36%). About 50% of professionals chose a French top, induction, plancha, and immersion circulator as options that “would be nice” to have, but not crucial. And the most expendable feature was overwhelmingly an electric oven at 66%.

Graphs: Which brand is your ideal or dream range?
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Of those in independent fine dining sector, 18% say that Jade is their ideal or dream range followed by Bonnet and Montague both at 16%, followed by Wolf at 13% and Vulcan at 12%.

Graphs: Independent Fine Dining Dream Range
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E. Chewy Cereceres, Executive Chef at Kobe Club in New York City, loves Wolf because it’s “always reliable,” and Jill Zimorski, Sommelier and Beverage Director of Cafe Atlantico and Minibar in Washington DC dreams of a Vulcan because, “They’re great…maybe not the fanciest, but had everything I needed.” As does Jason Goldsmith, the General Manager at Chicago’s Spiaggia for its “reliability and BTUs.”

Since BTU’s are clearly deciding factors when selecting a range, but aren’t necessarily eco-friendly, we asked our participants if they felt that sustainability was important, and what their thoughts were on the issue. Forty-eight percent of our environmentally conscious professionals recognized sustainability as being “very important,” while 32% felt it was “important.” Eighteen percent considered it as “somewhat important,” and only 2% responded with “not important.”

Graphs: Please rank how important sustainability issues related to energy consumption are when considering new commercial restaurant equipment?
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Although the majority of participants agree that sustainability is important, from their comments on sustainability it’s clear that they also agree that there’s a void in the kitchen equipment market for environmentally friendly products. Traci McIlwain, Chef and Owner of East Ocean Bistro in Stuart, FL, believes, “there should be some kind of incentive to do more about sustainability issues.” Bill Morris, Executive Chef of The Rainier Club in Seattle, WA offers a suggestion for making your kitchen and equipment more sustainable, saying “Self-cleaning/water jacketed ranges are ideal. Induction is also very important. Less heat, less waste, less overall maintenance the better.”  John Riebel, Chef at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis, MN echoes the sentiment, saying “It would be awesome to operate an all-induction kitchen, removing the heat and carbon emissions, and move to very efficient low radiant heat ovens.”

If presented with the chance to include additional features or improve functioning to aid in ease of cooking and increase satisfaction, our culinary professionals would. Overall, though, our respondents are satisfied with their current ranges, which is a good start to spending many more years together.