REPRESENTATIVES OF leading manufacturers and suppliers of catering equipment give their views on where we are in terms of sustainability in the modern commercial kitchen and offer advice on what to look for. Kathy Bowry reports
As a nation we love our familiar brands and caterers are no exception to the rule. However, those safe, comfortable names found on traditional cooking equipment are moving with the times and developing kit that chefs just a couple of decades ago would have thought came to earth in the Tardis.
Lee Norton, managing director of leading combi manufacturer Rational UK, says: Modern kitchens would be much more sustainable if specifiers were brave enough to bite the bullet and use modern technology. Arguably all todays chef needs is a modern, intelligent combi steamer and a hi-tech bratt pan: these two multi functional pieces of equipment can not only cook everything, they can also produce quality food in high volumes. Other than that the kitchen just needs refrigeration and warewashers.
With energy costs ever increasing, it is certain that energy efficiency will be ever more to the fore. However, with such a weak economy, purchase price is still very important to people. I expect to see demand for energy-efficient equipment take off as we emerge from the current economic gloom. That said, sales of our recently-launched IH21 induction hob are already exceeding expectation, says Nick Macdonald export and marketing manager for Lincat a familiar marque in commercial kitchens. I would also welcome a system whereby products are independently assessed for energy-efficiency against fixed operating parameters. At present, it is difficult for customers to make meaningful comparisons.
Geoff Snelgrove, director of Control Induction, has this to say: Compared to mainland Europe, the UK catering market has been relatively slow to embrace induction technology. In the main, its chefs have been trained on gas hobs and are reluctant to change to something that is unfamiliar to them. However, as the industry gains more insight into the role of induction equipment in the commercial kitchen, an increasing number of operators are tapping into its benefits.
The cost savings associated with induction technologys energy-efficient properties are a key driver in the decision to switch over. An induction hob, when compared to a standard gas or electric hob, significantly reduces energy usage and with todays high energy prices, making savings in running costs has never been more important.
Furthermore, induction technology has the distinct advantage of improving working conditions for employees, a key internal CSR initiative. By emitting less heat into the kitchen atmosphere than a traditional hob, induction is a significant contributing factor in maintaining a much cooler ambient temperature and creating more pleasant working conditions for staff.
He goes on to explain that actual figures comparing the efficiency of induction, gas and conventional electric hobs show that an induction hob has an efficiency of 90% compared to 50% for gas and 55% for conventional electric, with the amount of energy used to boil 2000ml of water (from 20°C) measured at approximately 745 kJ for induction, 1340 kJ for gas and 1220 kJ for conventional electric.
Glenn Roberts, managing director of Gram UK believes the catering industry is doing its best to embrace sustainability and, for some operators, there is an element of concern about their environmental impact that shapes how they run their business. Moreover, there is a general acceptance particularly by group operations - that the issue of rising energy costs wont go away and has to be dealt with. Either way, there is without doubt sufficient motivation for operators to reduce their energy usage.
In 2010, Gram carried out its own research into the UK foodservice industrys attitude to sustainability and reported the findings in the Gram Green Paper. It found that although the money-saving and environmental benefits of energy saving initiatives seem to be much better understood and more widely adopted than previously, with more than half of respondents recognised that purchasing and using low energy equipment is the best way to make savings long term, they still trail far behind recycling as a priority issue.
However, in the last couple of years more momentum has been generated by operators mounting concern over the cost of their utility bills and we have noticed that far more are now asking about the whole life cost of equipment.
Refrigeration is a key consideration for hospitality businesses seeking to cut their energy usage since it accounts for a large part of energy costs. Given that it is an essential piece of kit, working 24/7, any savvy operator will make purchasing energy efficient refrigeration equipment a priority.
With its low energy consuming products featuring high on the Energy Technology List (ETL), Grams use of revolutionary low carbon technology (producing up to 75 per cent energy savings) can not only enhance caterers green credentials, but also save hundreds of pounds in running costs.
Buyers are looking hard at both sustainability and lifetime costs luckily the two usually go hand in hand, says John Lilly, marketing director, True UK. Trues response to the need to maximise sustainability and reduce running costs is different from the industry standard. Weve developed heavy duty refrigeration systems that pull down to temperature more quickly. Despite being very powerful, the systems actually reduce running costs because run times are shorter. And because run times are shorter, the systems are working less hard, so they last longer. Thats why we offer a 5 year warranty on our compressors. These heavy duty systems are fitted as standard on all our mainstream refrigeration products.
Refrigeration is on all day, every day of the year and as such has the potential to gobble fuel. Todays energy saving kit has cut costs exponentially but Malcolm Harling, sales director of Williams Refrigeration tells Footprint that lifetime costs are more important than ever operators have to review all costs constantly so its crucial that refrigeration equipment is looked after, from cleaning the condenser to checking the door gasket.
Its an old but true adage that the more its looked after, the more it will look after you. Larger catering operators used to work on seven-year obsolescence they would assume refrigeration would only last that long, then replace it. These days they are extending this to eight or nine years. In fact, though, better quality refrigeration like Williams should last in excess of this so long as it is maintained.
Chris Playford Foster Refrigerators Market and Development Director tells Footprint that the British manufacturers pioneering work with environmentally friendly hydrocarbon refrigerants and insulation materials means it is able to offer a comprehensive range of high performance low energy products to the market place.
Putting its money where its mouth is, Foster has invested £4million into its manufacturing facility at Kings Lynn for the production of its second generation EcoPro range. Foster believes that the whole life cost proposition offered by the new EcoPro G2 range will be outstanding. The range incorporates more than 50 innovations, many of which are designed to deliver world-beating efficiency and drive down running costs, while the strength of engineering and quality will undoubtedly result in exceptional reliability with minimal maintenance requirements, says Playfair.
Paul Crowley, marketing manager of warewasher manufacturer Winterhalter, says: You cant afford to ignore running costs when it comes to buying equipment. Obviously there may be a premium to pay for technology that uses less energy, water and other resources. But, increasingly, rising running costs mean payback on the extra investment can be achieved quickly, making the decision to buy well worth it. For example, our Energy+ pass through dishwashers cost about £2,000 more than the standard model. However, since they can save up to £1500 per year, payback on the extra can be achieved in under two years, with the savings mounting up for the life of the machine typically 10 years or more.
Forward thinking operators that engage the services of either a design or management consultant who is a professional member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI) will automatically get advice on the benefits of using sustainable foodservice equipment. If it costs less to the operator and improves their carbon footprint then it is a win-win situation. Catering Equipment Distributors Association (CEDA) members will also be able to give advice on the most sustainable pieces of catering equipment to suit an operator's needs, says fryer manufacturer Valentine Caterings national sales manager Steve Elliott.
Which leaves CEDAs Peter Kay, director of technical support, to have the last words here. Operators can easily improve their sustainability by making sure that staff are properly trained to use the equipment they employ everyday. Those operators who work with CEDA members will get training for their staff to use the equipment properly, cutting energy demands and the need for maintenance and repair visits. Suppliers have also introduced innovations like timers for kitchen ranges so that burners can only be switched on at specific times so the bad habit of switching on burners as soon as the first staff are in a kitchen is not possible. Some pub chains are now using these.
The operators perspective
Steve Jobson, buying director for Sodexo UK and Ireland looks at equipment from an operators perspective explaining that Sodexos approach to sustainable procurement is based on the Better Tomorrow Plan, its sustainability strategy to 2020, and combines economic, social and environmental considerations.
When it comes to sustainable catering equipment, Sodexo works closely with its suppliers to ensure it procures the best available equipment on the market. Its core equipment supplier operates an environmental management system that is certified to the ISO14001 standard. As a result, Sodexo sites have access to the latest energy efficient equipment that is safer, faster, purer and cleaner, and where consideration is given to the whole lifecycle cost, including energy consumption, maintenance, consumables and proper disposal.
"Examples of sustainable catering equipment used at Sodexo sites include dishwashers that reduce energy consumption by using waste steam to heat the incoming water and cut water consumption by converting the steam into clean water and re-using it. Fryers that can heat up faster, use less oil, and consume less energy are used by Sodexo,
as well as induction hobs that are significantly more energy efficient and cause fewer burns.
Other equipment includes fridges with advanced temperature monitoring technology to ensure constant temperature inside resulting in reduced overall energy consumption.