Equipment to Conserve Energy and Budgets

Operators are on the hunt for tools that save energy and provide a competitive edge

At this year’s NAFEM foodservice-equipment show in Orlando, Fla., some operators sought upgrades to their tried-and-true kitchen equipment. Others had radical ambitions. But both groups were focused on the same themes: advanced technology and energy-saving features.

The two themes go hand in hand. Saving energy is largely due in part to technology advancements and all the bells and whistles that come with it. Food preparation runs up the largest percentage of a sophisticated foodservice program’s energy bill, to the tune of about ­30%, with refrigeration costs running somewhere around 13% to 18%, according to Sustainablefoodservice.com. On top of that, 80% of the $10 billion spent annually on energy in the commercial foodservice sector is due to inefficient cooking, holding and storage equipment, according to Pacific Gas and Electric’s Food Service Technology Center, San Francisco. It’s no wonder equipment efficiency is top of mind.

Energy management is key for Jack Willingham, senior vice president of construction and architecture for CKE Restaurant Holdings, parent of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. “There’s a department in my division that works on energy full time, testing equipment, lighting fixtures, systems and add-ons,” he says. Recent advancements include a proprietary charbroiler that consumes 11% to 14% less fuel than prior models, and an energy management system (EMS) that does daily startup and shutdown, as well as controls lights, hood ventilation and electrical components. It has led to a 20% reduction in energy usage. The charbroiler is used in about 3,000 units, and the EMS is used throughout both chains.

While the Carpinteria, Calif.-based company’s current EMS supplier keeps it apprised of tech advancements, Willingham says he and his team attend the NAFEM Show primarily to find “anything new on the horizon in energy-management systems.”

Buyers with Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Wichita, Kan., are thinking along the same lines. “Energy consumption is a controllable expense,” says Pat Sardo, senior director of construction. “A fryer, flat grill, refrigeration and so on are necessities, but we’d like to reduce costs with efficiency.”

The chain is watching for energy-saving enhancements for new and existing equipment, as well as new and mature restaurants, Sardo says. “But we’d like to focus specifically on automation enhancements for systems like lighting controls and HVAC,” she says.

80%

Amount of the $10 billion spent annually on energy in the commercial foodservice sector due to inefficient cooking, holding and storage equipment

Source: Pacific Gas and Electric’s Food Service Technology Center