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The energy-efficient route to enhancing foodservice kitchens' productivity

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Contemporary kitchens are like culinary playgrounds for chefs providing them with a series of top-of-the-line peak experiences and performance-enhancing capabilities. A large part of the credit for this delightful state-of-affairs goes to improvements in the quality, productivity and efficiency wrought upon large commercial kitchens by the kind of equipment they have taken to using. The defining feature of these smart kitchen equipment is that they not only offer a smarter  way of cooking but also provide an effective means to save big time on energy consumption and wastage of resources such as water.
It is estimated that commercial facilities with commercial kitchens consume approximately twice as much energy as other commercial buildings. The kind of kitchen appliances in use is all the more important from the energy efficiency view point considering that their services account for a significant share of energy consumption in hotels (as much as 15% of energy consumptions).
Thankfully, there is a growing number of commercial foodservice equipment available today that is energy rated and labeled according to their power consumption efficiency. Several energy rating organisations offer benchmarks and performance ratings for a wide and varied list of electronic kitchen equipment. These organisations, along with the equipment manufacturers, are paving the way for mainstream efficiency standards in commercial kitchen equipment. Such efforts have nudged the food service industry towards greater adoption of commercial kitchen equipment, which are manufactured keeping in mind not only quality and value, but also energy and water efficiency.
This gathering trend is also responsible for cooking equipment belonging to the most diverse lists to opt for efficiency testing. The list includes combination ovens, convection ovens, rack ovens, fryers, large vat fryers, griddles, steam cookers, insulated holding cabinets, hot food holding cabinets, and an array of other products. The constant appraisals of products on energy efficiency benchmarks have thrown up interesting results. For instance, it has been found that steam cookers in particular offer huge savings for both energy and water. Similarly, convection ovens too offer great energy savings as do a host of other appliances.
These smaller products can be a good place to start with when switching equipment over to modern energy efficient units. Many of them, including larger-sized equipment such as refrigeration units now come with a growing selection of prices and options, making it fairly convenient to choose efficient equipment throughout the cooking line.
As food preparation makes up the largest percentage of a restaurant’s energy bill at about 30%, with refrigeration costs running somewhere around 13-18% depending on who you ask, hotels, restaurants and catering establishments that invest strategically in kitchen equipment can cut down on energy costs by between 10%-30%. Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI), the professional organisation for design and management consulting services, estimates that the resultant energy savings can be as high as 40%, equating to 3%-6% of operating costs.
The amount of energy consumed by commercial cooking equipment is dependent on the operating time of an appliance, the cooking surface or cavity temperature (based on a selected thermostat setpoint) and/or heat-input setting (e.g., “high”, “medium” or “low” input energy control), the quantity of food being cooked and, for some appliances, the mode of operation. The relative dependence of appliance energy consumption on each of these variables is a function of equipment type and design, as well as on the usage of an appliance within a specific food service operation.
The one major difference between high-efficiency and low-efficiency appliances is the effectiveness of their heat exchangers in transferring heat to the cooking surface, cavity or medium. It is especially pronounced in gas appliances that use indirect heating. Not surprising then that improved heat exchanger designs could account for up to a 25% increase in cooking-energy efficiency for gas appliances. An example of this is the use of recirculation baffles on a gas fryer. Recirculation tubes, or recycle baffles, route the flue gasses through or around the sides of the frypot to provide a greater effective heat transfer surface for the hot gasses.
Improvements in design and the technology used in food service equipment are thus bringing about dramatic reductions in energy consumption, resulting in carbon-footprint reductions and significant cost savings. By improving their energy efficiency through investments in cleaner and superior technology equipment, kitchens can bring down operating costs, achieve faster payback and gain from significant ongoing energy and water savings opportunities over the product’s life cycle.
For a complete analysis on trends and developments in the Indian foodservice equipment industry, read the May-June issue of FoodService magazine. Click here to subscribe

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