At the recent NAFEM Show in Orlando, I was like a kid in a candy store along with about 20,000 fellow attendees and more than 500 exhibiting equipment manufacturers. A huge range of equipment and innovations were on display. Here is a sampling of what was new at this year's show and now available on the market.
Energy savings, sustainability, green operations and reclamation were the most common theme across the exhibit floor. Let's start with a big energy user, the dishwasher. Insinger, Meiko, Champion and Hobart all have slightly different features on at least a few of their models to reclaim some of the heat and steam that generally escape into the dish room from the dishwasher. This energy saver uses waste steam and heat to preheat water coming into the machine, thereby reducing hot water demand. In some units the need for a hood over the dishwasher is eliminated.
These and other dishwasher manufacturers including Stero and Champion have improved their efficiency to reduce the volume of water needed in the washing process to less than one-half gallon of water per rack of dishes. This small amount of water was unheard of just a few years ago when virtually every machine used well over a gallon of water per rack.
Meiko's new M-iQ flight conveyor features new filter technology that reduces detergent consumption by as much as 50 percent over previous models. Each tank uses a filtering process that collects food soil and flushes it out in high-pressure cycles. A self-cleaning mode makes quick work of cleanup. Only the wash arms and scrap screens need manual cleaning.
You may want to consider Somat's new EcoShred. It's a waste grinder that uses almost no water and less energy than a pulper to process food waste and disposables. The EcoShred can be used in conjunction with Somat's eCorrect composting equipment to reduce food waste volume and create compost material.
More energy savings can be had by reclaiming waste heat from cooking equipment. Halton has come up with a way to reclaim some of the heat lost from the flues of gas appliances. Halton's new Proximity Heat Reclaim Hood positions a bypass over the equipment flue to capture the combustion heat from a gas-fired item and directs the super-heated air through a heat exchanger that will preheat and supply hot water to reduce energy consumption. You can add this to other previously introduced Halton ventilation energy savers like their Marvel variable demand ventilation system and its Capture Jet hoods for even more energy savings.
Hatco introduced its Heated Zone Merchandiser Sandwich Display especially for quick-service operators. These hot food-merchandising units are available with slanted or flat shelves and come in several lengths from two to five feet. The merchandiser comes in seven colors or in standard black. The unique energy-saving elements don't turn on until a food product is placed on the shelf. Other heated merchandisers in comparison stay on full power all of the time. The base heat switches from energy-saving mode to thermostatically controlled as well. A display provides continuous zone monitoring. Sectional dividers are held in place by a new magnetic system to give the unit more heated surface area.
Cres Cor's HotCube3 is the perfect hot food cabinet for outdoor catering events. The unit can be heated either by plugging into a standard 120V electrical outlet for regular indoor use or run off of a propane fuel system for outdoor use. It can also be purchased with an optional solar panel, which charges its control battery for a truly green machine. The unit heats up to 200°F and accommodates a variety of pans with its nine universal angles. In the propane mode, the unit runs for about eight hours on a 1-pound propane canister and has an internal recessed well for a spare canister. This holding cabinet is made for outdoor use and is fitted with semipneumatic tires for rugged use.
Follett came out with a sleek-looking new ice and water dispenser, the 7 series. The units are great for a conference room, employee break area or anywhere where a small machine is needed to serve up to about 25 people. The units are available as countertop, freestanding or undercounter ice-only or ice and water dispenser. They can have an integral air-cooled icemaker that produces up to 125 pounds of compressed nugget ice daily. The unit is only 15 inches wide by 17 inches high and 22 inches deep.
Vitamix just came out with a countertop blender, The Quiet One, a patented unit designed specifically with coffeehouses and high-end bars in mind. Despite having a 3 HP motor, the unit operates at about 18 decibels below its quieter competitors.
Hupfer, a German manufacturer, displayed a mini sushi conveyor. It's made for restaurants where sushi plates are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant. The company also had a unique hydraulic table that adjusts the height of the work surface from about 33 to 45 inches, ideal for ADA needs.
The Vizion from AJ Antunes is a heat exchanger to prechill cold water to ice makers. The unit, a 6 × 18 × 30-inch cylinder, is connected to the wastewater outlet of an ice machine. Internal coils use the chilled wastewater to prechill the incoming water to improve ice-making efficiency in the ice maker. A similar unit prechills water for sodas.
Refcon introduced its EnergyPak, which can integrate a foodservice operation's refrigeration, air conditioning, space heating and hot water systems into one or more modular packages for energy savings and ease of maintenance. It can combine use of efficient refrigeration along with using waste heat to preheat hot water. The custom- designed unit uses high-efficiency compressors, heat exchangers, fans, pumps and a glycol cooling solution to replace traditional refrigerants and replaces expensive copper tubing with ABS plastic. The system reduces electrical demand and saves on initial installation.
Woodstone introduced two types of steamers using ohmic heating technology. The ohmic process is a method of heating a food product by passing electricity through it. Woodstone also has an integrated building energy system that can be designed and installed by connecting a package of proprietary components to existing appliances using off-the-shelf piping and parts.
Dan Bendall is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He can be reached at (email@example.com).