Foodservice Equipment Reports

Energy Efficiency, Conservation Strategies Top Takeaways at MUFES 2013

More than 80 attendees gathered for FER’s 2013 Multiunit Foodservice Equipment Symposium, held at Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Austin, Texas, June 10-12. The operator attendees, a mix of equipment specifiers from emerging commercial chains and directors from all of the noncommercial segments, were treated to two days of advanced content on foodservice trends, energy efficiency, LEED and foodservice synergies, the sobering rise in water costs, changes in refrigeration technology and regulations, and equipment innovation. Many attendees reported plans to share the information with their facilities planners and administrators.

Joe Pawlak, v.p.-Technomic Inc., reported the consumer outlook has brightened since the Great Recession, but growth will continue to be slow (2% GDP in 2013). Concerns about reduced government funding, political stalemates (and subsequent inaction), and the costs of the new healthcare regulations have consumers slightly less optimistic in ‘13 than the year prior.

Pawlak went on to discuss food and consumer trends and said operators would do well to pay attention to the Millennial Generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, who will represent 50% of the workforce by 2020 and will represent $40 of every $100 spent in restaurants over the next 10 years.

Dr. Jian Zhang, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Richland, Wash., one of 10 Department of Energy labs in the country, shared how QSRs can achieve up to 50% energy savings with changes to the building envelope, HVAC, equipment packages, refrigeration and more. FER reported on the PNNL’s study in our December 2012 issue.

Attendees received a LEED orientation from David Zabrowski, lead engineer for Pacific Gas & Electric’s Food Service Technology Center, San Ramon, Calif. In a real world example of the results of LEED on a Taco Bell/KFC co-brand unit, changes to equipment and building systems resulted in huge reductions in energy usage—the exhaust alone consumed 74% less energy than a standard unit, and yet realized 40% more transactions.

In a second presentation, “Specifying the Energy-Efficient Kitchen,” Zabrowski addressed the problem inherent in purchasing equipment for short-term “lowest price” vs. long-term ROI on energy efficiency and lifecycle. “Better engineering, better materials and better design make appliances more efficient,” Zabrowski said. “And efficient equipment produces more food more uniformly, works cooler and more quietly and lasts longer while consuming less energy over its lifespan.”

Since 1983, the cost of electricity has risen190%, the Consumer Price Index about 240%, and fuel (oil) close to 350%, but water has them all beat with a 410% cost increase. “Between 2007 and 2011 alone, water prices have gone up 27% in the U.S.,” said Bill Hoffman, sr. technical advisor with Austin-based Water Management. In “Water, the Oil of the 21st Century,” Hoffman shared strategies for dramatically reducing water usage in foodservices, both indoors—through better equipment selection, including toilets, steamers, warewashers—and outdoors with landscaping strategies.

Craig Raney, dir. of marketing for Emerson Climate Technologies, updated the audience on shifting technologies in refrigeration, including the latest compressor styles for roof-package and chiller air-conditioning equipment, ice and beverage machines, walk-in coolers and freezers and reach-in and display refrigeration. Raney discussed which refrigerants are available for new systems, as well, but said there is no clear path to a single replacement. Instead, he says, we’ll see a continuation of refrigerant changes with a movement, of course, to those with the lowest impact on global warming.

In the final session, FER welcomed three judges from the National Restaurant Association’s Kitchen Innovations Award program. Robert Forrester, principal- Restaurant Industry Solutions; Dan Bendall, FCSI, principal-FoodStrategy Inc.; and Aaron LaMotte, director-Sodexho Performance Interiors, shared highlights from nine years of award selections. Among the trends: equipment with significant reduction in energy and water use, operational simplicity, self-diagnostics and smaller footprints. FER asked the panel to name equipment changes it would recommend the audience make immediately: They suggested updating warewashers more than 10 years old, installing demand-control ventilation in exhaust systems and exploring induction, among others.

Expect more advanced content when FER hosts MUFES 2014 for commercial chains, also at Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Jan. 25-27. Contact Robin Ashton at to register and to inquire about sponsorship opportunities.

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