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Innovative Solutions

The North American Association of Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) recently sponsored its trade show showcasing extraordinary new foodservice equipment solutions.  In conjunction with the show, Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI) sponsors a conference which, this year, addressed cutting-edge trends and solutions, reflecting today’s society and environmental awareness.    Lots of new equipment products and innovative ideas are shared by all!

My colleague and I attended the show and conference, immersing ourselves in the world of foodservice equipment.  We look forward to not only viewing the new equipment; but also trying it, handling it… in short, experiencing it.  After all, as independent foodservice consultants, we continually strive to educate ourselves and evaluate each piece of equipment based on the value it will provide to you, our client.

Here’s Our Take-Away

The big drivers of equipment innovation continue to be how to make new equipment…

  • within a smaller footprint
  • positively impact LEED principles (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
  • multi-use
  • easy to operate and with customer-facing technology
  • able to assist with creating better tasting foods

Oh, and did we mention… SPEED? Let’s see how to do all the above FASTER than ever before! Read between the lines – “lower labor cost,” which is the highest cost that operators face daily.

Many manufacturers came up with solutions to speed processes for cook times, prep times, and cleaning up times.

It Caught Our Eye

Hundreds of pieces of equipment later, we concluded that yes, innovation abounds in our industry.  We want to share with you (in no particular order) trends and types of equipment that caught our eye…Star Performers if you will, in that they bring something new or different to the industry.

Please note, neither this list nor the manufacturers cited, should be construed as a recommendation.  Rather we feel these items and ideas are worthy of consideration for many specific applications.

  • The race to robotics is in full force in foodservice equipment….

Imagine eating a freshly made salad from a vending machine.  Crazy idea?  Maybe a few years ago but not today.  Not with one piece of equipment that creates made-to-order salads inside a vending machine. Just a push of several buttons and your idea of a perfect salad is prepared for you. (Chowbotics)

Other robotic entrants are evident in ware washing and cooking tasks. A new robotic arm design is currently utilized to prep pizzas, prepare “bowls” and make your favorite espresso drink!

And another robot will take orders from the kitchen and deliver your food to your table.

  • The winner of niche product innovation goes to….

A piece of equipment that can infuse cold smoke into sauces within an enclosed environment. We overheard some chefs mention that this would be a good application for cannabis-driven recipes. (Fusionchef)

  • Fan favorite…or maybe just our favorite….

A beverage dispenser that dispenses healthy alkaline water, sparkling water, and hot water. The sparkling water is produced by a new carbonation technology that creates tiny stable bubbles reminding us of expensive champagne. This is a good example of one piece of equipment that can perform multiple tasks, all in a small footprint, producing a better beverage product. (Hoshizaki)

  • Urban farming technologies…

Shipping container farming and vertical indoor gardens support salad bar operations.  (FreightFarm)

  • Award for multi-use goes to….

One manufacturer offers a piece of equipment that can chill, blast chill, freeze, thaw, harden, proof, low temp cook, and retherm! (American Panel)

  • The race to zero waste continues…

With lots of equipment designed to minimize, reduce, and recycle foodservice waste.  One manufacturer has a closed loop system that grinds food waste and pumps waste to an external composter. The compost is in high demand by local farmers. (Insinkerator)

  • Customer-facing technology is prominent…

A new breed of self-serve espresso makers sport credit card swipes. All the espresso drinks taste like our favorite barista is right at our side! (Rancillio)

  • Web-based pre-ordering food is becoming all the rage…

One manufacturer has a hot and cold cubbie allowing you to access your pre-order lunch with a tap of your app. (RPI)

  • This year, more than ever, manufactured equipment is taking on more of a front-of-the-house look…

This goes with the trend of blurred lines between the kitchen and the dining areas. Lots of equipment have various color options and marketing options such as integral digital menu boards and messaging.

  • Winner for smallest cooking footprint….

A company that makes a double stack combi oven, ventless, that is just 22” wide. (Henny Penny)

  • With our ever-moving, mobile society…

So are examples of creative grab and go merchandisers. Merchandisers come in more sizes, configurations and style than ever before!

  • Energy reduction without sacrifice…

Induction technology hot food wells use less electricity and do not require drains or water. (Vollrath)

High-efficiency deep fat fryers continue to increase output and improve oil quality and ease of disposal. (Frymaster)

  • User-friendly and budget conscious….

One refrigeration manufacturer offers a very user/installation-friendly monitoring device, that is quite affordable, making it a great spec for any budget. (Coldzone Refrigeration)

  • Truly ventless….

One manufacturer has developed an undercounter dish machine to be truly ventless.  It’s designed to allow for steam to be captured internally before the door is open to reclaim the heat and keep the steam from a bar customer’s face. (Meiko’s MiClean)

Another manufacturer has designed almost all their dish machines, from door type, conveyor and flight type, to be ventless.  They seem to be leading the charge for ventless on every size machine exceptionally well.  (Champion)

Another mention that sticks out is a combi oven that can be double stacked under one ventless hood. In places like New York, this is a great spec for a small space looking for high firepower. (Rational)

  • As simple as it sounds…

One manufacturer offers a low-cost detergent entry point accessory which stops “detergent vendors” from randomly penetrating equipment. This is a common problem after installation and, many times, costs the customer their warranty. (Champion)

An Exciting Time

NAFEM demonstrates that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to foodservice equipment.  The integration of new ideas that supports smart technology with streamlined production means environmentally-friendly, innovative solutions for everyone involved.  It is an exciting time to be a part of the foodservice industry.

By:  Kip Serfozo, FCSI, LEED AP, WELL AP | Design Studio Manager | Atlanta

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