Manufacturers continue to invest millions of pounds to make their equipment more efficient than ever before. But where will the biggest gains be made in future and what is the next generation of ‘energy efficient’ catering equipment likely to look like?
The adoption and integration of technologies from other industries and sectors could well signal the future for the foodservice industry. The concept of the ‘connected kitchen’ and remote monitoring should certainly lead to better estate management by operators, allowing them to identify failing components or poor equipment use and optimise a product’s operations with automatic software upgrades.
Connected products will bring a whole new type of efficiency to kitchens. Operation managers will be able to monitor equipment like never before and gain efficiencies because of the power of the data at their fingertips.
Simon Lohse, managing director of Rational, agrees that the connected kitchen is the future, which is why Rational and Frima now offer a ‘ConnectedCooking’ solution.
“This allows users to link their Rational and Frima units to a network, and monitor operation over the internet,” he says. “Chefs can check on overnight cooking processes from home, managers can check on operational efficiency of multiple units, maintenance engineers can check a unit’s status. Connectivity will make commercial kitchens safer and more efficient, and make managing equipment simpler.”
He also predicts that energy monitoring will become increasingly important. “The latest SelfCookingCenter has a new function that displays the energy consumption,” he says. “This can be displayed according to individual cooking processes, or at the end of the day or week. It can be viewed via the control panel, and the data can be downloaded and analysed on a PC, using software such as MS Excel.”
There is, of course, room for improvement — for marginal gains — but for us key factors such as capacity, footprint and smarter integration with the human operator are the places where there is plenty of room for evolution”
In terms of areas such as warewashing, the level of progress has been so significant during the past decade that it can be difficult to see where manufacturers go from here. However, Tim Bender, sales director for warewashing at Hobart, expects the boundaries to continue being pushed.
“At the outset it’s important to say that the advance of technology has brought the modern warewasher to a state where it is almost as fast as it can be. There is, of course, room for improvement — for marginal gains — but for us key factors such as capacity, footprint and smarter integration with the human operator are the places where there is plenty of room for evolution,” he acknowledges.
“The sheer speed of R&D means that there will soon be machines on the market with ware-sensing systems that can detect the exact contents of a machine — be it cutlery, glassware or plates — and adjust the wash accordingly. More radically we could see developments in the kind of ware being employed.
“I can’t see the tradition of something like fine dining switching from crockery, china and glassware to disposable items, even 100 years from now. But who knows whether there’ll be a way of coating ware with a non-stick finish that will make the washing process drastically simpler. If the food doesn’t stick, the washing process would probably be a lot faster; ware could conceivably go through a machine in 10 seconds and come out clean, thus making a marked saving on utilities.”
Over in the ice machine market, Scotsman is investing in R&D to improve the energy efficiency of its ice makers. Its new flaker and nugget lines are moving to a newly-designed evaporator, which allows for an improved heat exchange.
“Before, the refrigerant gas was circulated into a serpentine that was in contact with the stainless steel cylinder where water is frozen into ice. With the new design, the gas is directly in contact with the cylinder, hence there is no dissipation of the cooling power,” explains Simon Aspin, commercial director of Hubbard Systems. The result of the improved cooling capacity is an increase in production, with more ice in less time from a smaller footprint.
Scotsman is also investigating more energy efficient alternatives for specific ice uses. For example, the use of cubelet and nugget ice is increasing rapidly in the QSR segment, which traditionally used standard dice ice cubes.
More customers are keen to switch to the lighter nugget and cubelet types of ice, says Aspin. “The two big advantages are firstly the savings — the technology behind those ice types is virtually 100% energy and water efficient, whereas the production methods of other ice types waste some water and energy. Secondly, nugget and cubelet machines can be supplied in countertop self-serve dispensers with closed systems where the risk of ice contamination is virtually zero.”