New innovator: ProFlame
Greg Kelly of Proflame: “The catering industry is using technology that is 100 years old”
Chafing dishes are an essential part of any professional kitchen. They are heated from underneath and used for gentle cooking or to keep food warm.
However, burns are an occupational hazard for those using them and ensuring a consistent temperature is difficult.
Now Carlow-based engineer, Greg Kelly, has plans to disrupt this very traditional market with ProFlame, a new type of chafing burner. “It may look simple but it actually required a lot of engineering to get it working consistently and safely every time, and of course safety is a huge concern,” says Kelly who has been involved in the design and manufacture of gas products for more than 10 years.
Kelly set up Cato Manufacturing in 2012 to make the product, and ProFlame was launched six months ago. The company employs eight people. Kelly decided to make ProFlame himself rather than sub-contracting because of the very tight manufacturing tolerances required.
“The catering industry is using technology that is 100 years old, and it’s inefficient and potentially dangerous for staff,” Kelly says.
“To use our product, customers don’t have to change their chafing dishes, just how they heat them. Now dishes are mainly heated with wicks and gel that can be problematic. ProFlame doesn’t leak, it is always cool to the touch and it switches off automatically if it’s knocked over. There are no spills and no burns and it is easy to control. Where wicks and gels have no temperature control whatsoever, ProFlame allows the chef to choose the optimal heat for the food being served. The heat then remains constant (until adjusted), resulting in improved food quality.”
Kelly says the gas-powered ProFlame is also more efficient and lasts longer than existing burning methods. “There is about 25 per cent wastage with wicks and gels, and it can require a number of them to cook certain foods,” he says.
“In most cases, one ProFlame unit will do the same job. The potential market for this product is absolutely huge, around €1 billion, and when we get to pitch our product to the right person it’s always a sale. The biggest challenge is getting access to the ‘right’ people. Our burner, which is CE certified, is a huge leap forward. The technology is patented and we don’t currently have any direct competitors.”
ProFlame has been designated as a high-potential start-up by Enterprise Ireland, which has invested €250,000 in the venture.
Kelly’s investment was €350,000 which was self-funded from the sale of a leisure business. With a substantial order in the offing from an international hotel chain, Kelly is now keen to find an investor/partner with whom to accelerate growth. He is already working on adding to the product line-up and has the camping and leisure sectors in his sights.
– OLIVE KEOGH