Foodservice equipment innovations come in all shapes and sizes.
As a “foodservice equipment guy” I just experienced what I had been eagerly awaiting for two years — a trip to NAFEM, the nation's biggest foodservice equipment show. I was like a kid in a candy store — along with about 20,000 fellow attendees and over 500 exhibiting equipment manufacturers.
As you might guess, energy savings, sustainability, going green and reclamation were collectively an overreaching and popular theme, and for good reason. When you look at the life cycle cost of a piece of equipment, the savings can be substantial. And no equipment category has more opportunity in this area than warewashing.
Several manufacturers demonstrated new models that capture heat generated by steam in the washing process. Insinger, Meiko, Champion, and Hobart all have slightly different approaches on at least a few of their models that perform such heat reclamation from a dishwasher's heat and steam that generally escapes into the dishroom. Using it to preheat water coming into the machine can reduce the energy required to meet hot water demand and, in some models, can eliminate or reduce the need for a hood over the dishwasher.
These manufacturers and others, like Stero, have also reduced the amount of water needed for washing to in some cases less than one-half gallon of water per rack of dishes. This small amount was unheard of just a few years ago, when virtually every machine used over a gallon of water per rack.
In addition, Meiko's new M-iQ flight conveyor features new filter technology that reduces detergent consumption by as much as 50 percent over previous models. Each tank employs a filtering process that collects food soil and flushes it out in high-pressure cycles. Its self-cleaning mode makes quick work of cleanup at the end of the day. Once the automated cleaning cycle is complete, only the wash arms and scrap screens need manual cleaning.
In the clean-up area of your kitchen you may also want to consider Somat's new EcoShred. It's a waste grinder that uses almost no water and less energy than a pulper to process food waste and disposables. The EcoShred can be used in conjunction with Somat's eCorrect composting equipment to reduce food waste volume and create soil amenity material.
Many restaurants can also reclaim heat generated by and exhausted as waste heat from cooking equipment. Halton is offering a way to do this from the waste heat exhausted via the flues of gas appliances. The temperature of gas flues on fryers, for example, can easily reach 1,000 degrees F.
Halton's new Proximity Heat Reclaim Hood positions a bypass over the equipment flue to reclaim much of this combustion heat, directing super heated air through a heat exchanger that preheats supply hot water and reduces the amount of energy needed to bring it up to temperature. You can add this to other previously introduced Halton ventilation energy savers, like their Marvel variable demand ventilation system and its Capture Jet hoods, for even more energy savings by reducing the amount of air exhausted from cooking equipment.
Especially for those with quickservice applications, Hatco introduced its Heated Zone Merchandiser Sandwich Display. These hot food merchandising units are available with slanted or flat shelves and come in several lengths from two to five feet. The merchandiser comes in seven colors or in standard black. The unique energy saving features are elements that don't come on until a food product is placed on the shelf.
Most other heated merchandisers stay on full power all of the time. The units permit overhead heat to go on only when product is placed on the shelf. The base heat switches from energy-saving mode to thermostatic control, too, with a display providing continuous zone monitoring. Sectional dividers are held in place by a new magnetic system that gives the unit more heated surface area.
From Cres Cor came the HotCube3, a perfect hot food cabinet for outdoor catering events. It can be heated either by from a standard 120V electrical outlet for regular indoor use or run off of a propane fuel system for outdoor use. It can also be purchased with an optional solar panel which charges its control battery(for those looking for a truly green machine).
The unit heats up to 200°F and accommodates a variety of pans with nine universal angles. In the propane mode, the unit runs for about eight hours on a 1-lb. propane canister and has an internal, recessed well for a spare canister. This holding cabinet is made for outdoor use and is fitted with semi-pneumatic tires.
Follett came out with a sleek new ice and water dispenser, the 7 series, designed for use in areas like conference and employee break rooms, locations where a small machine is needed to serve up to about 25 people.
The units are available as countertop, freestanding, or undercounter ice-only or with an ice and water dispenser. They can be outfitted with an integral, air-cooled icemaker that produces up to 125 lbs. of compressed nugget ice daily.
At only 15 inches wide, 17 inches high and 22 inches in depth, one of these units can fit on any counter and still have room for cabinets above.
If you offer smoothies and have ever wished for a blender that doesn't startle customers every time you turn it on — consider “The Quiet One,” a countertop blender demonstrated by Vitamix. Its designed specifically with coffeehouses and high-end bars in mind and operates at about 18 decibels below the level of even its quieter competitors. It's not lacking in power either, coming with a three horsepower motor.
Hupfer, a well-known German manufacturer, has introduced a line of tray delivery carts, food counters, and conveyors to this country.
The brand is known in the healthcare market but has expanded into other foodservice segments. Its booth sported a mini sushi conveyor — the Kaiten — made specifically for sushi restaurants, where plates are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant. It also showed a unique hydraulic table that adjusts the height of the work surface from about 33 to 45 inches, ideal for ADA needs.
The Vizion from AJ Antunes is a neat little device with no moving parts and requiring no electricity. It's a heat exchanger to pre-chill cold water supplied to ice makers.
The unit, a six inch diameter by 18-30 inch long cylinder is connected to the waste water outlet of an ice machine. Internal coils use the chilled waste water to pre-chill the incoming water and improve ice making efficiency. The company has a similar unit that uses waste water from a beverage dispenser cold plate to pre-chill water for sodas.
Refcon introduced its EnergyPak system, which can integrate an operation's refrigeration, A/C, space heating, and hot water systems for energy savings and ease of maintenance.
The systems are custom-designed for an operation's needs, using high efficiency compressors, heat exchangers, fans, and pumps to increase the efficiency of refrigeration while using waste heat to preheat hot water.
They employ a glycol cooling solution to replace traditional refrigerants, permitting expensive copper tubing to be replaced with tubing made of ABS plastic. The system boasts reduced electrical demand as well as first cost installation savings and gets a lot of refrigeration components — and their waste heat — out of your kitchen and prep areas.
Woodstone, well known for its brick pizza ovens and always one to innovate, had several new items to show. If you ever need a Chinese duck oven or a plancha, they have them, expanding the line that includes tandoori ovens, robata grills, and a heavy duty charcoal broiler oven used in Europe for a number of years.
Woodstone's Ideas group introduced two types of steamers using ohmic heating technology. The ohmic process is a method of heating a food product with a base that acts as an electrical resistor as electricity passes through it.
It sounds complex, but the equipment seems to operate quite simply. Woodstone also has a new, integrated building energy system. It can be designed and installed by connecting a package of proprietary components to existing appliances using off-the-shelf piping and parts. We're sure to hear more about this system in the future.
Dan Bendall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He is a member of Foodservice Consultants Society International.