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From The Field - Brian Ward

Brian WardBrian Ward, co-founder and chief editor/associate publisher, has brought an enthusiasm for machinery to E&S publishing for nearly 20 years. That "gearhead" interest in how things work shows in FER's informal, candid style that "talks" to readers the way they talk with each other. He serves on the NAFEM Technical Liaison Committee as well as the advisory board of the Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, Calif.

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Signs Of New Life In Equipment & Supplies

April 01, 2011

Last month, in “What An Upbeat NAFEM Show,” Robin noted a very positive vibe on the Orlando, Fla., show floor. He mentioned the Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry’s latest quarterly Business Barometer was upbeat. Pre-show association meetings were well attended, and several manufacturers felt confident enough to host glitzy events. All happy indicators.

In early March, more good news came out. The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers announced show tallies, and the attendee count (not counting exhibitors) was up a substantial 8% over the 2009 show. Dealers accounted for 41%, consultants added up to 8%, and end-users were a full 31% this time around, which works out to a whopping 33% jump in the end-user share.

And when you stop and think about the kinds of big end-users that go to The NAFEM Show, that’s a positive sign if ever there was one.

But aside from the headcounts and the sales data, another positive sign is the continuing development of new products over the past couple years. Despite the economic belt tightening, a lot of innovative new items keep getting intro’d. In last month’s issue, we showcased many clever new products the National Restaurant Association’s 2010 Kitchen Innovations program as well as Foodservice Consultants Society Int’l.’s most recent Innovations Showcase winners.

Shortly after the deadline for that March issue, NRA released its list of 2011 KI honorees (see p. 39) including 22 notably innovative products. From prior experience we can aver that the judging panel for the program is extremely tough. When those judges declare something innovative, they’re taking it very seriously.

The products in the group this year are a great indicator of where the development trends are. Several are new-generation exhaust hoods and/or filter systems with features like advanced fire-suppression, remarkably sophisticated and highly efficient capture and containment, even waste-heat recovery systems that divert energy from the exhaust flow to heat water systems, makeup air, etc.

Other points of interest in the group: a space-age beverage dispenser that manages to offer web-based reporting and 100 flavors in a typical dispenser footprint, a couple of really slick new high-efficiency warewashers, and several other truly cool items.

And at The NAFEM Show, the What’s Hot! What’s Cool! area again was a fascinating place. This year there were more than 100 products showcased there. Ventilation again was a notable category in this group, as energy and environmental concerns are putting lots of pressure on kitchen exhaust systems. Self-cleaning and self-diagnostic systems, new high-efficiency/low-oil fryers, innovative heat-sink and heat-exchange applications, and all kinds of why-didn’t-I-think-of-that hand tools and gizmos were there to be seen, touched and bought. All really interesting new developments. For the full list click here.

For operators in the market for neat new products, these really are good times. We’ll have plenty to write about over the coming months.


Brian Ward

Chief Editor


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