Tech Talk: Appliance Science
Updating your kitchen with equipment designed for efficiency
Sustainability is coming to the kitchen as operators outfit their restaurants with appliances that embrace the latest technology. While the initial costs can be higher than traditional equipment, these newfangled ovens, dishwashers, coolers and more pay for themselves over time through savings on utility and labor costs. We checked in with the experts for ideas on greening your kitchen for a sustainable—and profitable—future.
Plan your space
Before investing in equipment, determine how to best utilize your space, says Nahum Goldberg, product manager and design consultant at NGAssociates, which offers consulting and design services for the foodservice industry.
“You want to design the most operationally efficient space,” Goldberg says. “That ties to energy usage because for every square foot you don’t really need, you’re heating, cooling, lighting, taking extra steps and hiring more people to run it.”
Look for the label
Available for nine commercial food service equipment categories, the Energy Star label indicates that a product offers energy savings of up to 70 percent over standard models, along with other perks.
“In many parts of the country [restaurant owners] can benefit from rebates offered by utilities towards the purchase of Energy Star-certified equipment,” explains Maggie Sauerhage of the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the program. The innovative technology “often leads to other benefits, such as shorter cook times, improved recovery times, higher production rates and longer product lifetimes.”
Ditch the hood
Although not feasible for all restaurants, many operations can benefit from appliances that don’t require massive ventilation hoods.
“One of the biggest energy hogs is ventilation, because in the summertime it’s sucking air conditioning out, and in the winter, it’s sucking heat out,” says Robert Simmelink, senior corporate chef with foodservice equipment maker Alto-Shaam. “You shrink that hood, you start to save the environment, you start to save your costs.”
He cited his company’s Cook & Hold and Vector Multi-Cook ovens as examples of ventless technology being used across the country.
“Cook & Hold ovens don’t have any fans, so they don’t push grease-laden vapor out of them and can go under a counter,” he says. “The Vector is ventless too, due to each of its cooking chambers having its own catalytic converter to scrub the air.”
Choose your weapons
In a hypothetical walk around a modern restaurant kitchen, NGAssociates’ Goldberg describes several advancements in technology, starting with ventless dishwashers that recycle their own steam.
“You’re actually creating the hot water that needs to come in for the pre-rinse, which reduces the size of the booster heater in the dish machine dramatically,” he explains.
Today’s commercial fryers reuse their own heat as well.
“The new gas fryers have heat recycling systems, so the net energy you need to do the work is less,” Goldberg says. “Then there’s electric fryers where you put the electric element inside the oil itself, which is the most efficient use of energy.”
Even today’s commercial refrigerators are better than ever, he says, with models that use energy-efficient compressors that offer significant cost savings throughout their lifetime.