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issue: April 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine

Cover Story: Commercial Foodservice Equipment
Foodservice Efficiencies


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Yaling Lee

Commercial appliances help users economize by requiring less energy while maximizing kitchen productivity.

The GKv6460 model from Liebherr’s commercial Forced Air Refrigeration line features energy efficiency and a high load capacity of 60 kg per shelf. The inner liners are made with seam-free commercial-grade polystyrol, which makes it easy to clean. An accurate electronic controller, coupled with a digital external display and an alarm, controls temperatures from 34˚ to 59˚F and alerts users to temperature variances or open doors.

 When times are hard and economic prospects are gloomy, people skimp on entertainment and cut back on dining out. That makes foodservice one of the sectors most vulnerable to the recession. The foodservice consultancy Technomic Inc. has forecast 2009 to be “the worst year for foodservice since it began tracking performance in 1972,” setting its 2009 U.S. foodservice industry nominal growth forecast at –2.2%.

The dim view is shared by other industry experts. “We believe all signs point to lower customer demand across all foodservice industry segments,” says Christian Koether, vice president of Stratford, CT, U.S.–based SCK Direct Inc. (www.mysck.com), which provides networking technologies for managing foodservice equipment. “Those operators focused on home meal replacement within the quick-service restaurant segment may be best positioned, but the continued lack of franchisee financing will limit growth in the coming year.”

To brace themselves for the economic downturn, foodservice operators are relying more on commercial appliance makers for cost-cutting solutions that will help them streamline operations, increase throughput, and reduce both food and energy waste.

 

The Vinidor series features a pullout shelf on smooth telescopic rails that holds 24 open bottles upright. This allows restaurants and wine bars to display wines served by the glass.

Kitchens Become Smarter

“At a time when customer counts may be decreasing and commodity costs are increasing, restaurant operators must take advantage of innovations that enable them to improve their operations,” says Norm Raderer, director of strategic accounts at SCK. Many large independent multiunit operators are focusing on improving the efficiency of their existing business units, he adds. This is where SCK comes in. Working with its partner, Food Automation–Service Techniques Inc., SCK offers the Smart Commercial Kitchen, a line of software and hardware products that help restaurants tackle efficiency and food safety issues at the same time. The Food Safety and HACCP Module (FSM), for example, monitors safe cooking times and temperatures, ensuring that recipe standards are followed precisely. It eliminates manual data recording and paper reports with automatic data collection and real-time alerts. This will assure HACCP compliance and reduce costs involved in staff training and food spoilage caused by appliance failure.

SCK’s Kitchen Advisor information server provides operation-wide monitoring, collecting input from in-store timers and temperature devices, and appliances such as fryers, ovens, coolers, freezers, and hot holding equipment. The data are made available locally or wirelessly to back-of-house and point-of-sale systems. Managers can remotely view real-time regional or global operations, and then analyze the data accordingly for utmost efficiency.

More Than Just Green

The demand for energy-efficient appliances has not gone down like the stock market. On the contrary, many commercial appliance OEMs are striving to push the limits in energy efficiency, as well as increasing performance and durability.

“There is a renewed commitment to sustainability and low energy consumption,” says Nitai Friedman, chief technology officer at Montreal, QC, Canada–based Hardt Equipment (www.hardtequipment.com). “We have spent considerable effort rethinking our designs to minimize energy and water consumption and have achieved dramatic results on both counts.” The firm’s latest Inferno 3500 and Blaze open-flame rotisseries, both capable of roasting 40 chickens in 90 minutes or less, are said to be up to 50% more energy-efficient than comparable gas rotisseries. “The Blaze merely uses 62,500 Btu/hr,” he says. “This is achieved by developing heat sources that efficiently distribute a large percentage of the energy onto the product, thereby minimizing energy loss through cavity walls and existing openings.” The Inferno 3500 also uses less water than its predecessor, The Inferno 3000.

Citing increasing labor cost and high staff turnover as major concerns for foodservice owners, Hardt designs equipment to minimize training and reduce staff workload. “Our controls are fully automatic. Often, a single button is enough to execute an entire cooking sequence,” Friedman says. The Inferno 3500 can store up to 32 cooking programs, and is equipped with an auto-clean function, the first in the industry, according to Friedman. The Blaze also features a water-resistant cabinet that can be sprayed down for easy cleaning.

Hardt is increasing the use of 3-D modeling to enhance the durability of equipment during the development phase. “An example of this is the door hinge design. We simulate field stresses in our R&D labs to identify problem areas that arise during operation,” Friedman explains. “Rotisseries receive substantial abuse in the field during hours and hours of usage. Hardt’s 3-D modeling and stress analysis enable us to pinpoint and eliminate these issues before they happen.”

The drive for energy efficiency in commercial ice machines is stronger than ever, due in part to the Energy Star program for commercial appliances that went into effect in January 2008 and new U.S. federal standards scheduled to take effect in 2010.

“Energy Star–qualified ice machines are typically 10–15% more efficient than standard machines,” says John T. Sara, senior product manager, modular ice machines, at Manitowoc Ice (Manitowoc, WI, U.S.; www.manitowocice.com). The firm’s latest Quadzilla line tops all the other Manitowoc icemakers in terms of energy efficiency and throughput, capable of producing more than 1 ton of ice in a 24-hour period.

“The S-3300 water-cooled model consumes only 3.55 kWh per 100 lb of ice produced. The remote air-cooled version, S-3070C QuiteQube, is also very efficient and is Energy Star qualified. Both machines utilize our patented Air-Assist technology to speed the harvest cycle and save energy,” Sara says.

To break the 1-ton barrier, Manitowoc places four high-output evaporators into a single housing. “The evaporators share a common refrigeration system, water trough, and other components for space efficiency,” Sara explains. “Having four evaporators in a 48-in.-wide enclosure allows us to hit ‘stackable’ levels of ice production capacity with a single unit and still fit under an 8-ft ceiling height.” Manitowoc adopted a tubular Type 304 stainless-steel frame that is corrosion resistant, as well as a scroll compressor for long service life and high efficiency.

With the new design, cleaning and servicing are also made easier. The water pump and tray can be easily removed without the use of tools, while the control box and refrigerant lines, valves, and pumps are accessible from the front and side of the machine. In addition, the white-colored plastics within the food zone are treated with AlphaSan antimicrobial additive for extra protection.

Hardt’s Inferno 3500 is said to be up to 50% more energy-efficient than comparable gas rotisseries.

New Player in the Field

After its foray into the residential market in North America in 2004, Germany-based refrigeration manufacturer Liebherr (Burlington, ON, Canada; www.liebherr.com) recently expanded into the commercial realm, rolling out refrigerators, freezers, and wine storage products. Sustainability plays a big role in the design of its products. Its entire residential line exceeds the guidelines for Energy Star, and all its appliances are 100% RoHS compliant. The same standards apply to the commercial line. “We use high-quality compressors and insulation to achieve a high level of energy efficiency,” says Michael Koen, key account manager, Liebherr North America, commercial division. “Right now, we are in the process of having these commercial products Energy Star certified.”

A veteran maker of commercial wine units in Europe, Liebherr has modified its award-winning residential wine chillers, launched in the U.S. market in 2005, for restaurants and bars. “Restaurant environments can be so much more demanding than in a home, so we added features such as UV-protected double-pane glass, activated charcoal filters in each temperature zone, and energy-efficient LED lighting that provides an attractive ambient light source,” says Koen.

The Vinidor wine chiller series has three different temperature zones set from 41˚ to 68˚F and humidity levels between 50 and 80%. The electronic controllers precisely maintain the temperatures, while cabinet zones are sealed with a gasket that eliminates airflow between zones. Each zone has a separate refrigeration system, which runs on an individual, low-rpm compressor mounted on vibration-dampening footings. “Low vibration is important to store wines short and long term, as vibrations disturb sediment, affecting the maturation process of wines,” explains Koen. “Because each zone is maintained independently, there is less of a single compressor constantly starting and stopping.” Koen says wine producers and industry professionals in France and Germany were consulted during the design process. “Paying attention to the details that are important to the experts had helped us improve the designs.”

 

 

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