February 01, 2011
As this column comes together, we’re just barely into a new year, and we’re gearing up for The NAFEM Show—two good reasons to think about what’s new.
If you fired up your crystal ball, what would you see in the kitchen of the future? And what would you see driving the changes?
A few things are obvious, even to a mouth breather with smudgy glasses. Energy and water efficiency will continue to propel development. Waste-heat recovery will become a bigger and bigger factor. Exhaust hoods will be as important as heat exchangers as they are as ventilation.
What else? Solar building panels. Energy storage will get interesting.
All these various shifts, already seen here and there, will gain steam, so to speak, because traditional utility generation and distribution faces its own challenges, and not just because of rising demand. Electric and gas infrastructures need updating, which costs money, which adds to rate charges. Populations keep shifting out from under the existing distribution system, forcing the creation of systems in new, under-populated areas. Not to mention population growth—and growth in per capita utility consumption. (It’ll be fun to see what happens when everyone starts plugging in their electric automobiles.)
And in some parts of the world, including this country, the symbiotic connection of energy and water will be a real dilemma. A shortage of water will actually cause a shortage of local energy, and vice versa. Water is used to cool generation plants. Energy is used to access water. Environmental limitations on one will restrict the other. It’s a major obstacle right now in some parts of the developing world.
And here in the developed areas, environmental regs in general will become more and more of a factor. Carbon footprints are a big deal right now, and other footprints will join the list. CO and CO2, and NOx are all very sensitive topics in some areas, getting a lot of attention in some big industries. Sooner or later kitchen emissions, too, will come under the microscope. What will regs mean for electric equipment, for gas burners, for how you source your energy, etc.?
And then there are the menus themselves. Ethnic and economic shifts will logically push more development in some types of equipment and less in others. The proliferation of Asian and Mexican concepts is the obvious tip of the menu iceberg. More volumes in produce, less in proteins. Less expensive ingredients. More semi-viscous food production.
And what if there’s no fixed facility at all? We now have a boom in food vendors working out of trucks. What’s this mean for regulatory efforts and equipment design and fuel delivery to the equipment?
It’s going to be a very, very interesting decade. What will the other driving forces be? Let us know what you think on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/FoodserviceEquipmentReports or on LinkedIn at http://tinyurl.com/FERonLinkedIn.