Caplain Group

Fading crafts: what role can machines play?

Artisans in the gastronomy sector are facing an increasing decline in interest in their craft, even as they increasingly turn to mechanization to alleviate this problem. A paradoxical solution, since it raises the question of product authenticity once automation has been integrated into the design process. Is it possible to use machines to save craftsmanship? How can we maintain the integrity of craftsmanship while adapting to new production methods? Focus on the role of machines in the loss of food craftsmanship.

Catering: a delicate situation

The "métiers de bouche" or "métiers de l'alimentaire" or "food professions" represent a group of professions that include the preparation of products for human consumption. They include cooks, butchers, bakers, pastry chefs, pizza makers and confectioners.

These trades are categorized as "crafts" when they produce their products using traditional techniques, i.e. mostly by hand. In an increasingly automated and mechanized world, this notion is the subject of much debate, with craftsmanship linked to the notion of art, as the ethymology of the word suggests.

In 2018, the culinary trades sector represented, among others:

  • 33,341 artisan bakers;
  • 4,968 artisan pastry chefs;
  • 3,501 charcutiers.

But of the total number of businesses in this sector, 47% are craft-related, the rest having adopted industrial production methods. Sandwiched between the notions of "tradition" and "modernity", food artisans are struggling to cope with production methods that are flooding the market with industrial products sold at low prices.

pétrissage à la main

Mechanization at the service of food artisans

The challenge is to integrate the technological revolution to facilitate production, without compromising product quality. The idea is to integrate the technological revolution to facilitate production, without compromising product quality, through :

  • Reducing production time and physical effort;
  • Standardizing product quality;
  • Adaptation to end-product standards.

Mechanization, yes. But to what extent?
To draw the line between craft and industry, it's important that certain processes remain in line with traditional production techniques. In France, artisans can be distinguished by controlled designations such as "pain maison" or "pain de tradition française" in the bakery sector. These designations correspond to a very specific production method for the products concerned. The number of employees and the quantity of raw materials consumed over a given period of time also play a part in categorizing an establishment as artisanal.

For example, the partial use of machines in the food manufacturing process is by no means a brake on craftsmanship. On the contrary, it encourages small businesses to develop while maintaining their artisanal character.

Jolie photo de pain

Tomorrow's challenges: mechanization for better growth?

Today, new consumer behaviours have emerged, particularly in relation to food. The growing need to preserve the environment and to consume ethical products also play a major role in the evolution of these behaviours, with the result that consumers increasingly appreciate the artisanal know-how behind the food products they buy. In this particular case, the use of machines can help craftsmen to :

Meet rising demand by reducing production times;

Adopt an ecological approach, with machines that respect the French manufacturers' charter, comply with the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) recovery scheme and are members of Ecologic.

In this way, the machines support food artisans to help them develop in terms of growth, quality and productivity.


The integration of machines into the processes of the catering trades is proceeding slowly. However, it is essential in view of the new challenges facing these craftsmen. Caplain Goup and its brands, Caplain Machines and Panirecord, are among the suppliers of professional equipment designed to support the growth of this sector. Find out more about our products.