Ventless technology is on the rise
The “new normal” for foodservice businesses has forced operators to react and look at options outside of traditional restaurant setups. Chris Jeens, partner at Mississauga, Ont.-based W.D. Colledge says that focus has trained a closer eye on ventless equipment. “Energy saving comes in all shapes and forms, but the idea that you can cook, produce food either quickly or energy efficiently, without the use of a canopy and the energy associated with that component is a big piece of what the manufacturers are focusing on,” he says.
Joe Levesque, corporate chef for Alto-Shaam Canada expands on that. “What we see in today’s world is ventless technology. The hood is one of the biggest expenses of putting in a kitchen, which can range from $2,000 to $3,000 a square foot. Out-of-pocket expense to open a restaurant is a lot less when you’re not putting that hood in.”
Eliminating the need for a hood and all associated installation, maintenance and expense means restaurants can be more flexible with options available, as no actual building work is required. “In today’s world, people are starting to avoid [hoods] because they understand ventless technology has come up to a level it never has been before,” Levesque says. “If you were to choose one of our ventless pieces then you’re buying it, putting it in and getting a stamp of approval from the health inspector and the fire code. We have a department that works hand in hand with any inspector to help get that proper documentation that you require and you’re ready to go.”
Phil Irwin, director of Sales & Marketing at Celco Inc., notes that the growing trend in recent years for energy-saving equipment is induction cookers, sous-vide machines and exhaust-hood systems. “In the past year, this has shifted towards energy and labour savings —equipment that can save the operator on both their utility bills and growing labour costs. Because the COVID-19 pandemic supply chain has been greatly affected and goods are harder to get quickly, operators are starting to look at what equipment they can get that can make their operation a bit more profitable with the labour shortage. We see this with conveyor broilers, and other equipment that is multi-function, like combi- ovens, et cetera.”
Wish upon an Energy-Star rating
When it comes to what’s really making waves, Irwin says the top wish-list item for chefs and operators has been induction cookers, and that trend is continuing. “Now we’re seeing [demand for] equipment that can be used for multiple purposes,” he says. “High-speed ovens are getting more popular. [They’re] electric, but do not require any ventilation, and can cook anything from pizza to wings and panini sandwiches — even proteins from raw. By having a high-speed oven, you can replace a few pieces of standard kitchen equipment, like a fryer and convection oven. By doing this you can reduce the hood size, and have some energy savings and capital-expense savings.”
Levesque adds that with consistency as the goal, “I would have to say the vector oven is on top of everybody’s conversation. When it was first released, I was happy to say it was released more to a convenience market in Canada, and now we’re seeing a lot more for à-la-carte cuisine, because the bottom line is these units are programmable, and if you’re going to make nachos or chicken or salmon, you put it in, push the button and it doesn’t matter who’s pushing that button — the result is the same everywhere.”
Sweat the small stuff
An energy-efficient kitchen doesn’t mean replacing all equipment with brand-new technology. Often, making small changes and conserving on a smaller scale can have a huge impact without a great deal of financial overhead. “Restaurants can look at smaller ways of reducing energy consumption by looking at their faucets to make sure they’re not leaking; changing out a faucet cartridge could save hundreds of dollars a year. Also, changing the aerator on a faucet to a low-flow aerator can save them on their water bil,” Irwin says.
He also notes it’s about asking the right questions. “When looking at gas equipment, for example, a lot of people think the more BTUs the better. In most cases this is not true. Look at the build of the range/griddle/charbroiler. How is it constructed? Is it a single-wall construction, or double wall? The more air insulation the better. This keeps the heat in. How are the burners designed? Are they designed to keep the radiant heat in or just let the heat go up the hood? Is your operation a busy location? Look to alternative pieces of equipment that could save money in the long run.”
Jeens echoes this approach. Though it’s not always the first thing to come up, water usage is a top conservation topic. “Water is another area in which a lot of manufacturers are trying to minimize usage in order to create energy efficiency. For a restaurant, dishwashers don’t generate income, but if you can maximize that energy efficiency you can certainly save a lot. Low-flow or low water-consumption spray valves are an inexpensive way of saving on water and creating
efficiencies,” he says.
Irwin suggests looking for places to trim energy consumption. Equipment that’s not in use can be turned off or to a lower setting. On slow days, use one fryer instead of two. “Little things like this will help save energy and, most importantly, save money.”
BY ANDREA VICTORY